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As we head into 2011, this is the perfect time to check in with our purpose for living. Particularly if a goal for the New Year is to feel better than ever; we must spend time contemplating our purpose. According to an energetic interpretation of Chinese medicine, a lack of purpose often leads to internal chaos, deficiency, and stagnation. And when we are weak or stagnant, illness happens.

In health, we have the seed of a purpose, the vision to see it, and the will power to carry it out. This creates a state of unified creativity where our Qi, or life force, is said to flow more easily. Where there is free and abundant flow of energy, there is optimum health.

Often times, symptoms are a reflection of our relationship to our purpose in life. Sometimes knee pain is an inability to move forward. Sometimes the fatigue is from behavior that extinguishes our passion. When we are sick, simply treating the symptoms is like cleaning the mirror to change the picture—it may help, but not much. To change the picture, to create sustainable change, we have to modify the deepest levels of our energy. For those of us interested in feeling better in the New Year, we can start by asking ourselves some questions: Do I have a purpose in life that I am ignoring? Do I want to live in accordance with my purpose or do I just want my symptoms to go away?

Most people try to heal by beginning with the choice not to be sick anymore. We feel sick, we don’t like how it feels and we just want to be more comfortable. Being consumed with the quest to be more comfortable may not actually be consistent with our purpose. While sometimes our symptoms can give us good feedback, the quest to vitality is one that is rooted in our fire for life. In Chinese medicine, and in many other complementary modalities, we recognize we cannot truly treat symptoms without also tending to the fire.

When a person has a purpose—a conscious reason to get out of bed everyday, they have access to more sources of energy in order to heal. That purpose fire warms the heart and appears as that spark in someone’s eyes. A person living without a conscious purpose is easily distracted, unable to create a unified momentum towards healing.

A purpose does not have to be grandiose—we don’t have to be inspired to build an orphanage or stop climate change. For some, it may be simply to be grateful for this life. For others, it may be to reflect back the human condition through art. For me, the purpose of living is to be as alert as possible to experience as much freedom as possible. Living really well means to be living alertly, relaxed in the power of one moment after another. Living alertly means becoming conscious of every moment, awakening to our created world, and to our potential to change it.

Committing to the mantra to live, to live alertly, and to live with purpose, triggers more questions: What does living with purpose mean for me? How am I not living well? Does this job really reflect how I want to be living? Is this relationship nurturing to my authentic expression? These answers can be daunting, humbling, and scary. But, the clarity they bring opens us up to greater potential energy.

The choice to live often means looking at how we might be unconsciously choosing to die (albeit sometimes slowly). Substance addictions are obvious manifestations of that choice to destroy oneself. But, mental and emotional turmoil can have the same energetic impact as substance abuse. With a choice to live and live consciously, we often gain insight into various aspects of our lives, which aren’t congruent with living in a state of unified creativity where the mind/body/spirit are working harmoniously together. For many, it is humbling to realize that most of the choices we’ve made didn’t feel like our own. We had been living and acting according to how someone told us it should be. We are working harder and longer, our food supply is getting worse, we are laughing less and stressing more. Thoughts about others and ourselves are often angry and aggressive. Few people feel comfortable enough to talk about what is important to them. The time to change is now. And it starts with a choice to live. And continues with the choice to live alertly.

The changes that might need to be made can seem to be enormous. That is okay. A purpose-filled life means embarking on a pathway where we will stop attacking our own success so we can thrive. I’ve had patients get divorced or married, others decide to have children or to retire, others feel the need to move across the country to try something different. Slight shifts in perception and action, such as changing one or two harmful things you eat, or saying a few more nice things to you, can also have profound impacts. This can look like stopping smoking, spending more time in meditation, monitoring blood sugar levels for diabetics, or simply drinking more water.

A mission statement to live and to live alertly means we can take any aspect of our lives and put it through the sorting machine by asking questions like the following.

  1. Does this experience help me achieve a state of unified creativity?

  2. If not, what is it specifically about this experience that doesn’t work for me and how can I do it, or perceive it, differently?

  3. How does dwelling on the negative help me to live well?

  4. Is arguing with my spouse consistent with my state of unified creativity?

  5. Does being in pain help me achieve my purpose? If so, how?

  6. Is there another way I can create that feeling without unnecessary conflict?

Our mission statement can be used to cut through the fog of delusions that paralyze many of us from action.

To live in a conscious state means we assume a place of personal power and unlearn cultural programming about how we should live. We are aligning ourselves with a purpose, and as we eliminate obstacles to that purpose, we unleash more Qi for healing possibilities. We are centered and focused, eliminating much of the internal chaos that leads to illness. The body is brimming with potential, and the choice to live, to live alertly and with purpose, is a choice that begins to allow us to become truly actualized.

James Rohr, AP

James Rohr, AP is an acupuncture physician in Miami Beach, Florida. He is the owner and founder of Rohr Acupuncture and is board-certified in acupuncture and Chinese herbology.

His specialties include the use of acupuncture and Chinese herbs for the treatment of pain, women’s health, and stress-related diseases such as fatigue, insomnia, and irritable bowel.