"Discovering your unique gift to bring to your community is your greatest opportunity and challenge. The offering of that gift—your true self—is the most you can do to love and serve the world. And it is all the world needs."
- Bill Plotkin
The Gift We Bring to the World
There is a seed story from the Mayan culture, told by mythologist and author, Michael Meade, about a child named Poder. Like all children, the infant was born bearing gifts from the other world. Poder’s gifts included a green cloak (which he wore on his back) and a small clay bowl filled with water (which he held in his little hands). In the intensity of the birthing, however, no one recognized the child’s gifts except the midwife. So, when she gathered her things, she took the infant’s two gifts with her and carried them far way to the distant mountains to be protected by hill people.
Now it was custom in the village where the child was born to welcome each newborn into their company with certain rituals. So it was that after seven days, the villagers gathered to cleanse the infant, preparing him to receive his name. Gratitude was expressed for the new child, for his safe entrance into this world, and for the strength and well-being of his mother. Then, at the appropriate moment, the name Poder was bestowed upon him.
“Poder” was as much title as name, for Poder means gift (as every child is a gift), but it also means power and ability, as well as fate and fortune. As the name was announced, everyone made sure to repeat it, thereby instilling good fortune on the child.
As time passed, Poder grew strong, and eventually reached childhood’s end, when something new must begin. And as happens in youth, Poder’s curiosity about his purpose—his gift to the world—grew so great that he needed to leave the comfort and familiarity of his home to seek answers to his life questions.
But where was he to begin? Knowing the midwife’s wisdom, Poder sought her out. When he found her, she proved wise, telling Poder that he must journey far away to the holy mountains to seek knowledge of the nature of life and an understanding of the gifts that were his to give the world. Hearing this, Poder set off. He walked and walked for days, and when his food and drink eventually ran out, he possessed only his questions to sustain him.
Wandering further amid the hills, he came at last upon a people who welcomed him, providing hospitality. They were curious about his journey and as they listened, they realized that this was the young man whose gifts they had received from the midwife and had been protecting all these years. Eager to contribute to Poder’s quest, they fetched the gifts Poder had brought with him from the other world—the green cloak and the small earthen bowl full with water. Then, to guide Poder in learning about the nature and use of his gifts, the hill people directed him to a person who possessed similar gifts. This individual was adept in their use, wise in when and how to employ them, and so Poder learned well.
This story isn’t literally true, but its messages, like those in any significant myth, raise questions that are worth pondering. So, consider taking time to journal in response to the following queries:
1-What might shift for you if you chose to believe that, like Poder, each of us has been born seeded with a special gift?
2-And what if the restlessness that we experience, growing up, is the result of an inborn impulse to discover and make manifest our calling in life?
3-Finally, what if we each chose to frame our lives as a living myth, rich with symbol, depth, and meaning? How would this change our relationship with ourselves and with the world?
In childhood we are conditioned by our culture to believe that we become adults by manifesting qualities like responsibility, decisiveness, productivity and competence. But, at birth, we are also seeded with potentialities that extend far beyond these status quo adult attributes. Take wildness for example: If you are an adult, your WILDNESS is an essential part of what makes you human; but, to the extent that many of us have been domesticated by our culture, our ability to express and delight in our innate wildness has been diminished. You can assess where you stand on wildness by asking yourself:
After noting your initial reactions to these six prompts, investigate one of the six that you find particularly intriguing. For example, suppose you are strongly attracted to the last prompt (How earthy am I?). Then, as a way of exploring earthiness you come up with a list of earthy activities—e.g., hug a tree… swim naked in a rushing stream… take a mud bath… sleep under the stars… yodel from a mountaintop—and you proceed to cultivate your innate wildness by engaging in each of these activities.
Beyond wildness, we are each seeded with spirit. Yes, as human beings, we are inspirited—i.e., energetically linked to all that lives and breathes on Earth. This, of course, is not what many of us have been taught to believe. Our culture has generally conditioned us to see ourselves as separate, skin-encapsulated egos—with our primary purpose in life being to look out for ourselves. But this self-serving orientation denies the larger truth of our deep interconnection with all other living beings on this planet.
In addition to the seeds of wildness and spirit, we each possess a deep soulful aspect that insistently calls on us, like an Underworld Muse, to discover our destiny so that, like Poder, we might come to give the world the gift that is uniquely ours to give. It is this itch from our souls that calls on us to seek out our life’s true meaning and purpose.
Many young people, caught in the grips of existential angst, and its accompanying uncertainties, have been captivated by Joseph Campbell’s pithy advice to: “Follow your bliss”. If you bound out of bed in the morning, delighted to be spending your days in the service of life, then you are, very likely, “following your bliss”. Likewise, if you receive your paycheck and think to yourself, “I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do something that I love,” you are in touch with your bliss. On the other hand, if you don’t want to get out of bed, chances are, you are still in search of your life’s meaning and purpose. Likewise, if you find that what you bring to the world through your work is trivial and meaningless, you are surely separated from your bliss.
Articulating an enlivening vision for our lives is not a one-time act, but an ongoing process. For example, at age fifty-three, my friend, Richard, realized that he was no longer energized by his work in Real Estate and construction. He responded to his Breakdown by spending hundreds of hours, over a period of several months, calling to mind, and then filling a journal with all the things that had made him feel alive and engaged during his life up to that point. He left no stone unturned as he explored all aspects of his life history—e.g., childhood, adolescence, college years, jobs, relationships, home-life, spirituality, trauma, dreams, failures, fears…
Later, in reviewing his journal, Richard was especially attentive to entries that generated energetic spikes within his body, believing that these quickenings were connected to seeds of longing, lying deep within him.
When he had taken his investigation as far as he could, he hosted a gathering of friends. He began by sharing what he had learned about himself through his life-review process; and then he invited those gathered to ask questions and/or to share thoughts that might point him toward a renewed sense of meaning and purpose in the next phase of his life.
Now, twenty years later, what I mostly remember from that evening was being a witness to a remarkably open process of personal discernment. Like an attentive and patient gardener, Richard was giving water and light to seeds of potential, lying dormant within him. Today, working as a Life Coach, Richard is deeply engaged with helping others in the lifelong process of awakening.
Mason Wartman abandoned a soul-crushing desk job on Wall Street in search of something more meaningful…What happened next? Watch this video and find out…
"The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are."
- Joseph Campbell
"As a mental health counselor working with college-age students, I have always felt connected to the idea of helping others find their purpose."