Many people ask themselves “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?”
To answer “Who am I?”, they might begin by looking into their own personality.
To answer “Why am I here?”, they might turn to a spiritual teaching or philosophy.
But ultimately, both searches end up in the same place — who we are is why we are here.
In other words, your personality — with all its quirks and limitations — is no accident. It is a kind of vehicle for your higher self (or soul) to operate in the world.
And while many psychologists, philosophers and other thinkers regard spirituality as meaningless or irrational, I cannot deny my own experiences nor can I dismiss the experiences of others so lightly.
The purpose of this website is to be a hub of information, inspiration and occasionally entertainment about who and what we really are — beyond (but including) the personality.
- For my occasional blog posts about the latest research in psychology and neuroscience, including positive psychology and transpersonal psychology, see Research.
- For occasional journal accounts of my own experiences, including meditation, manifestation, self-discovery, spiritual awakening and past life regression, see Journal.
- My perspective is informed by various spiritual teachings, particularly those which focus on consciousness evolution and enlightenment. See Teachings.
- You could also take a look at my various Articles, or check out my list of recommended reading under Books.
My Health and My Purpose
(Updated 5 April 2014): I just thought it worth mentioning this bit of back-story. I have two fairly serious medical conditions that have had a dramatic impact on my life, affecting my time and energy. And yet they also have a special relationship to this website.
The first is called Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis (RRP), a rare disease caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Ugly but benign tumors, rather like pink raspberries, constantly grow inside my trachea and voice box, gradually affecting my ability to breathe and talk.
I’ve had this since before turning 40 (c. late 2000). I wasn’t properly diagnosed for about two years, in which time I spent several months on the very edge of choking to death, fearing sleep every night, not sure if I would actually wake up the next day. And I had no voice at all, just a whisper. Plus a constant (like 10 times a minute) dry cough that drove everyone around me insane.
Eventually, thanks to the determination and skills of my fantastic wife, I was seen by an international expert. properly diagnosed, rushed straight into hospital for an emergency operation, and saved.
A troublesome feature of this disease, however, is that it doesn’t just stop. These airway growths have to be pruned on a regular basis, either by clipping or by burning with a laser, regularly enough to prevent choking. In my case, I have to undergo a 1-hour surgical operation under general anaesthetic every 3-4 months.
I have lost count of the number of operations I’ve had, but I’d guess it must be between 40 and 50 by now. Not surprisingly, perhaps, all those anaesthetics have taken a toll on my body’s general resilience. It now takes me at least a couple of weeks to return to normal functioning, and I am highly susceptible to infection.
Then in May 2008, after months of feeling increasingly “unwell” in some way, I suddenly experienced what felt like a possible heart attack. I was in my boss’s office at the time, so he called for an ambulance.
Well, the good news was that it wasn’t a heart attack; in fact it was a case of acute pericarditis, which is where a bug causes the pericardium (the membrane that envelops the heart) to inflame. This is rather painful in the heart itself, though for the record it feels more like a bullet wound, rather than the crushing weight that accompanies a heart attack. The sore, swollen membrane also affects the heart itself, resulting in weakness, as well as the anxiety that goes with constantly feeling your heart “struggling” with each beat.
The pericarditis cleared up in a couple of months, but my general condition didn’t; in fact it plummeted from bad to worse to terrible. I found myself in a constant state of utter fatigue and depletion, barely able to walk a few yards and certainly not able hold a book to read. On top of this I had all-over aches and pains, and feeble-mindedness. I felt like I had become a 90-year-old overnight. A 90-year-old with Alzheimer’s and the flu.
Again, a few false and misleading diagnoses had to be dealt with, until I was eventually diagnosed as having post-viral fatigue. This is the label for having constant fatigue for at least 6 months following a viral episode. If it still persists beyond 18 months, as mine did, then the label changes to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as M.E. It was once derided as “yuppie flu” – a sort of middle-class excuse for feeling tired. Despite the growing evidence now showing that the body’s ability to make and use chemical energy has been damaged in CFS patients, there are still many — even doctors! — who dismiss it as “all in the head”, or just malingering.
Fortunately, my doctors have been on the ball and there is a government-funded CFS/M.E. support clinic near where I live.
The upshot of all this digression into my medical history is to point out the following:
(a) Sometimes, whole days, weeks or even months go by in which I lack the energy to concentrate or communicate. Needless to say, that includes my responding to personal issues that people write to me about. (I seem to have become a sort of psycho-spiritual agony aunt.) As you can probably see in the comments sections around the website, I do try to respond to each individual as best I can, but sometimes I simply cannot focus at all. If I have ever failed to respond to you, please accept my apologies.
On the other hand…
(b) This website and its continued expansion, including my responses to readers’ questions, appears to be my life’s mission, or at least a platform for it.
One day, at a time when I felt I was not so much close to death but as good as already dead, I actually locked myself in a quiet room with a pen and notepad and decided not to come out until I had a clear, conscious knowing of my life’s purpose. If I only had, say, a year’s worth of activity left in me, what should I do with it? How could I die feeling satisfied that I had done what I came here to do? Was I missing anything?
It took about 45 minutes of introspection and self-enquiry, which took me through a series of insights.
First, I realised that whatever it is I might be here to do would be something I naturally find fulfilling and rewarding, as it will be an opportunity to let the essence of my soul (or the quality of my life force, if you will) flow at its best. In other words, to fulfil my life I must be authentic and express my true nature and the way I truly see things, even if that feels self-indulgent, as any falsity will lead to frustration and dissatisfaction.
Second, I realised that whatever it is that I would find most fulfilling would inevitably be of service or value to others. This just seems to be like a law of Nature: do what truly expresses your gifts and interests, and satisfies your heart, and others will automatically benefit. If service to others (or life in general, or society, God, whatever) doesn’t feature in your sense of purpose, you’re probably not seeing your true purpose.
Third, I realised that living with purpose, or being true to my purpose, did not necessarily mean giving up my day job or my lowering my standard of living if I was unwilling to do so. So long as my heart is set on self-fulfilment and service, and my mind is open to new possibilities coming from nowhere, the universe will find a way.
Finally, I got my purpose. I had to turn different words and phrases over in my mind a few times, but I could feel that I was on the right tack — it was just a matter of getting that “chime” feeling of resonance, that “tuning fork moment” in which the words describing my purpose match the feelings I seek (the joyous, uplifting and freeing sense of doing one’s true work, that which I came here to do).
Here it is:
To find something I feel is really worth saying, and then to say it to all who are ready to hear it, and say it with exquisite beauty and clarity, such that their soul feels uplifted as a result.
The next day, I started this website.
And with hindsight I can also see how my illnesses have been a huge gift.
˜ barry ˜