Q: I've spent a lot of time in men's communities, and I always hear how important it is for a masculine man to know his purpose. But what if my job isn’t my life’s purpose? Am I supposed to quit my job?
JPP: Your job does not have to be an expression of your life’s deepest purpose. You can have any job and still live a profoundly purposeful life.
If our life’s purpose was exclusively defined by what we did for money, then most of us would feel the constant ache of failure every time we clocked in at work. This is no way to live. And is only a superficial understanding of the word purpose.
Purpose is something much deeper than what we do for money.
Purpose is the way in which we live. It isn’t merely what we do, it’s how we do it. It is the place within us that guides the actions we take.
Purpose is our philosophy for life. It is the small commitments we make and keep on a daily basis. It is the way we show up in the face of adversity. It is the way we love. It is the way we die.
My purpose is to prioritize presence over distraction, truth over lies, quality over quantity. My purpose is to feel fully rather than numb. My purpose is to know who I am beyond body and mind. My purpose is to love fearlessly and live courageously, whether rich or poor, happy or sad, healthy or ill. By this I know my purpose, and it is inseparable from everything that I do.
Do not wait for a career opportunity or new job before you’re willing to see the purpose of your life. Purpose must be something that is here and now, always with you. Realize what yours is, and regardless of what you do for money, you will live a purposeful life.
Q: The more I learn about the masculine, the more I hear words like: presence, stillness, awareness, consciousness, etc. Words that seem to describe a state of being rather than an action. And yet, purpose, as far as I understand it, requires action. But it's also always associated with the masculine as well. I'm not sure how to reconcile these two things. I was wondering if purpose is fundamentally more a state of being rather than an act of doing?
JPP: You point out an obvious paradox.
There are many ways we can think about this. But here is one of my favorites...
There are two fundamental aspects of the masculine psyche, and both exist within us simultaneously.
There is the man who is constantly fighting for his freedom, and there is the man who is already free.
The man who is constantly fighting for his freedom—financial freedom, social freedom, professional freedom, sexual freedom, mental freedom, spiritual freedom, freedom from death itself—believes he is not free. He is absolutely certain he is not free. And every thought he has and action he takes is an expression of that belief. He spends his entire life fighting, aching, longing for more and more freedom.
All of his time is spent achieving, doing and becoming everything he believes will make him feel freer (whether that means working hard or not working at all). But, sooner or later, he will discover that nothing that he achieves, does or becomes makes him feel any freer at all. At least, not for very long.
This is where all men hit a crisis point, and they go searching for answers.
Most men never make it this far. But men, like yourself, will arrive in this place: completely disillusioned by what the karmic world has to offer. You awaken to the fact that freedom cannot be found in achieving, doing or becoming. In other words, you realize you’re fucked and there is no way out.
This is when man’s focus is shifted from karmic purpose to spiritual purpose, in search of true freedom. A freedom that cannot be bought, earned, or handed to him.
When this man realizes the error in his ways, that no doing in the world is going to get him any closer to feeling absolutely free, then his only choice becomes surrender. This is where words like faith, submission, and devotion commonly come into play.
While this man may fully understand that his karmic purposes will not ultimately set him free, still, he fights for freedom. But this time, in a completely different way. His efforts stop looking outwards and start looking inwards. But nevertheless, his efforts still remain.
He still suffers. He still feels the absence of true freedom. In fact, he suffers even more than the man who still believes he can achieve his freedom with a rotating platter of super models and a mansion. Because the man who still believes he can achieve his freedom in these superficial ways is pacified by his own delusion, numb to reality, whereas the man walking the path of spiritual purpose sees his delusion clearly, feels the ache fully, and yet, can’t do much about it except for meditate, chant, pray, do good deeds, be compassionate, and give.
Stuck between a rock and a hard place, there is nowhere else for him to go. The man on the path of spiritual purpose must ultimately come to realize something...
That he is already free. That he is already That which is absolutely free. He has always been free. He has never not been free.
But these are just words he has heard thousands of times before, and no amount of saying them or chanting them will set him free.
Until the single moment that freedom becomes his truth. (This moment is called “satori” in the Zen tradition.) And it is here that everything comes to rest. This is the place of absolute stillness. This is the seat of absolute purposefulness mixed, like salt in water, with the supreme bliss of purposelessness.
In men’s work, we typically mimic this state through embodiment. Breathing techniques, meditation techniques, etc., are mimicry of this state. It isn’t actually the real thing. But it isn’t not the real thing either. We essentially fake it til we make it. As if to pretend we were already There. But the paradox is: all we have to do is stop pretending we’re not.
Until we realize there is no “there” to get to, we remain the man fighting for freedom rather than living as the man who is already free.
Both are expressions of purpose. Karmic purpose and spiritual purpose.