Martha Beck's 5-Day Journey to a More Meaningful Life
Today we move on from peace to purpose. Deep purpose, a life's purpose, requires peace in order to thrive. And there's no better metaphor for finding it than animal tracking.
Most safari-goers never leave their cars, much less track rhinoceroses, but that's what we're doing today. First Boyd locates a perfect, crisp footprint in fine sand. Then each guest takes a turn following the trail. Wherever the rhino crossed grass or rock, the track suddenly disappears. Everyone loses it sooner or later. When the trail runs cold, we go back to the last hot track.
"Think of your purpose as the rhino," says Boyd. "The 'ground' where you track it is your body. A clear track is any sensation of joy or liberation in the body. Now, if you're far from your purpose, you can't expect to pick up the trail right there. You have to go back to the last hot track—to the last time you felt really joyful. Then you keep going from there. Don't worry about losing the track. It's the rediscovery that makes the whole process so fascinating."
The STARlets look more frustrated than fascinated. I just wait.
Wed 4:30 p.m.
As predicted, something amazing is happening to our STARlets: The rhino track is beginning to "pop." This is like when you "get" an optical illusion and what was inscrutable suddenly becomes obvious. It feels as magical yet as natural as learning to read.
Something else is happening, too. Some-thing strange. It happens on every STAR, on Purpose Day afternoon. Though we set out with the goal of tracking rhinos, we've ended up attracting them. These rare, endangered animals keep showing up everyplace we go. We literally can't find a rhinoceros-free location where we can safely follow their tracks.
I call this the Jiminy Cricket effect. ("When you wish upon a STAR...anything your heart desires will come to you.") You may know it as "the secret" or "the law of attraction": the belief that just imagining what you want will bring it into being. You may also know that this usually doesn't work. The problem is, most folks try to "manifest" things from an anxious, grasping mind-set. But the magic clicks only if we let our desires originate from a place of peace, then sustain them without attachment. Which is exactly what happens when the STARlets pursue rhinoceroses without much wanting to find one—they turn into frigging rhinoceros magnets.
Due to the rhino convention, we give up on literal tracking and start sleuthing around the STARlets' lives. We ask about moments when they felt hot on the track of their deepest purpose, and when they lost the track. Back at Tree Camp, as we feast on salads and cheesecake, Alexandra the doctor is up for coaching.
"Find a hot track in your past," I say. "A moment of pure joy."
Alexandra remembers her drive to learn in medical school, the joy of seeing a patient heal. But she loses the track—the feeling of joy—when she thinks about the dehumanizing aspects of the medical system. When I ask her for another hot track, she recalls the adventurous travel of her youth. And suddenly she's toying with the idea of joining a medical-aid mission to developing nations.
"How does that track feel?" I ask.
"Definitely warmer," Alexandra says.
Other STARlets find "hot tracks" in neglected areas of their own lives: art, entrepreneurialism, hospice service, forgotten friendships, languages they haven't spoken for years. They begin spotting trends and patterns. The track is beginning to "pop." In one short day—well, one long day—they've become the purpose-hunters all humans were born to be. I just hope the rhinoceroses don't follow them to bed.
Thurs. 7:00 a.m.
It's Power Day, when STARlets learn to follow their purpose at maximum intensity. This day used to include a forced march in heavy backpacks, but we've dropped that idea. All four of us coaches have found that when we ground ourselves in peace and track our purpose, good things happen with less effort and more fun. It's the Jiminy Cricket effect—damn if it doesn't actually work!
"We need to change 'Power Day' to 'Play Day,'" says Bridgette. "Truth in advertising."
We all agree, then spontaneously break into the chorus of a song Boyd made up yesterday: "Be Kind to Your Inner Rhino." It's a terrible song. We sing it lustily.
Of course, by "play" we don't mean lying around drinking. We mean following your purpose the way a musician plays the piano, or an athlete plays football. The objective of this morning's game drive (key word: game) is to have as much intensely purposeful fun as possible. It turns into a kind of antelope-heavy roller-coaster ride, Boyd driving like a maniac, STARlets laughing like little kids. The animals catch our mood; some of them dash around us in circles, kicking and bucking in what looks like pure joy.
Instead of heading back to camp, we drive to a small forest of fig trees, where a circle of shrubs has made a lovely glade dappled with leaf-filtered light, and Bronwyn has organized a surprise picnic breakfast.
Ellen is stunned as she walks into the grove. "I've had this exact scene on my vision board for a year!" she whispers. She has stumbled into a three-dimensional version of her playful fantasy. As we eat, everyone begins recalling similar instances when their dreams materialized magically, effortlessly, or through fun. We need force only when we start from someplace other than peace, and serve purposes based on external judgments rather than internal joy. (Think of three times something came easily to you—a relationship, a subject in school, a skill. Remember how much fun it was? That's what I mean.) I want all the STARlets to remember how creation through play feels, because if they can remember this feeling, they can replicate it, and if they replicate it, nothing can stop them.
Next: The final days of the trip