Payam Ghassemlou MFT, Ph.D.
Many gay men who do not find meaning in a “work & play” lifestyle are seeking connection to something more meaningful. Those of us who have gone through the emotional labor of tearing down the closet door and working through painful issues that were inflicted on us as a result of growing up gay in a homophobic world are now facing the question of life purpose. We ask ourselves, “What is the true purpose of my life?” In this short article I will explore this issue with the hope of inspiring others to live a more meaningful life.
Acknowledging your need for a deeper existence is not only an invitation to reflect on your life and question its meaning but also avoid a purposeless existence. Arriving at this place in life where you reflect and show curiosity about the meaning of your existence can be a profound experience. This arrival does not need to be an existential crisis. It can feel like a crisis if you examine your life with the judgmental attitude of regret and resentment. It is important to reflect on all aspects of your life with the attitude of empathy and compassion which can protect you from becoming self critical.
Gay men who are growing older but not deeper can face feelings of emptiness and boredom. The reality of aging and not having enough tools to cope with the physical and emotional changes that often accompany aging has left these men vulnerable to depression, anxiety, and acting out behaviors. Some have turned to unhealthy coping styles such as addictions, isolation, overspending, expensive plastic surgeries, and in the worst case scenario to suicide as a desperate attempt to escape the painful feeling of emptiness. Other gay men let life happen to them in a more disconnected way. They go through life as if asleep without participating in it. There are also vibrant gay men who live life to the fullest. These men have gone through the deep work of inner transformation to get to such a meaningful place in life.
Life purpose, like the ocean, has different depths. Parts of the ocean are deeper than others. It all depends how deep you are willing to descend into the ocean of your life. There are different approaches to this decent, and everyone needs to find his or her approach. It takes courage to immerse oneself in the ocean of life rather than just standing by the shore. As Persian poet, Hafiz stated, “How can they know of our state, those who go lightly along the shore?” Or as Rumi put it, “You have been walking on the ocean’s edge holding up your robes trying to stay dry, you must dive deeper, 1000 times deeper”.
There are purposeful and meaningful activities such as political activism, artistic expression, parenting, traveling, embracing hobbies, or attending school that can improve the quality of your life. Many people have found these activities enriching. You can immerse yourself deeper into the ocean of your life by aiming for a life purpose that not only embraces such productive activities but also goes beyond such personal development. You can work on reaching a state of being that goes beyond your limited ego self and focuses on the love in your heart. A state of being that embraces personal development for the good of all people. Living life according to your loving state of being encourages you to take the welfare of people and the planet in consideration. You can experience not only inner personal changes and contentment as result of operating from this state of being but also meaningful changes in your external life. For example, slowing down and living in the moment versus worrying about future is one of the changes you might notice.
Experiencing a state of being that comes from connection with the sacred place in your heart can be facilitated through meditation. Meditation is about concentration, and it requires consistency in order to be effective. On a daily basis spend time on meditating with love as your focus. Deep in everyone’s heart there is a place of love and tranquility. Gently close your eyes and silently embrace that sacred place in your heart. You might not be able to find connection to it right away. Having a guide or teacher in this process can be helpful. I have found many writings on Sufi meditation very helpful in this process. I have also found beauty as my guide to embrace love.
Generally, as gays and lesbians we have deep appreciation for beauty. Beauty as our guide can help us to embrace love. For example, looking deeply into eyes of a beautiful person that you desire for the sake of embracing love in your own heart can ignite a powerful flame of love. That energy of love can be directed toward the soul of the world and be shared for the good of all. Or the breathtaking view of beautiful sunset is another scene that you can’t help but to appreciate and love. Focusing on beautiful experiences for the sake of awakening the love feeling in your heart and meditating on it is a powerful practice. Such practice can help you to bring forward a loving state of being.
You might think meditation with love as focus is too simple to be considered a life purpose. That is understandable given we live in a consumerism society where people are conditioned to seek fulfillment through over achieving and materialism. In reality, meditating on love, on a regular basis, and for the sake of love itself, is not that simple. Slowing down for few minutes and embracing love in silence can be very difficult when you have to be on 24/7.
Living in a society dominated by corporate greed and extreme inequality where individuals are expected to work long hours with less time for personal time, meditation for the sake of love can be a challenge. Each time you make time for such practice you also saying “no” to all the situations that are trying to enslave you for their own profit and gain. As people we can turn to love as life purpose and pour that energy into our troubled world. Each love filled breath of your meditation can connect you more deeply to your loving Self. You have the potential to be a purifier by the quality of your meditation. With every breath, you strengthen the love in your heart and you can send loving energy into everyone’s heart. From this zone, your loving state of being can impact the universe. Just like an alchemist, you can transform your life to a more meaningful existence. What deep and lasting contentment you can find in your life as you enter nourishing meditation.
© Dr. Payam Ghassemlou MFT, Ph.D. is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (Psychotherapist), in private practice in West Hollywood, California. www.DrPayam.com
He is the author of Fruit Basket: A Gay Man’s Journey. In his book, Dr. Payam Ghassemlou writes about the psycho-spiritual journey of a gay man named Javid, in which he struggles with homophobia and having a life purpose. Available on Amazon