A quote came to my attention recently that gave me one of those "ah-ha" moments:
"Destiny is not a destination. It is to be present to all life's adventures and to discover your truest potential."*
Destiny can be a loaded word; at least it was for me until the day I read this quote. I used to think of its meaning as something beyond my reach, maybe even beyond my control. Phrases like, "She was destined for the stage," or "We are destined to be together," sounded either like someone's hindsight explanation of why something turned out as it did or someone's magical hope that it would. Either way, destiny sounded a bit magical, a bit false, maybe even a bit unrealistic. I decided I would only use the word destiny if I wanted to write a children's book or maybe a cheesy romance novel (neither high on my to-do list).
But over the past few years, this word kept finding its way into my awareness. While learning about Epigenetics, the science of gene expression (yes, I'm exposing my geekiness), the term "genetic destiny" kept appearing. Or I'd hear my students ask, "I'm I destined to find my purpose?" And, more times than not, I'd watch documentaries or read books that expounded upon the "destiny of the human race."
I started thinking, maybe there is more to this word destiny. Maybe my limited perception isn't allowing the fullness of meaning to shine through. I wasn't raised by parents encouraging me to fulfill my destiny or live my purpose. But, now, as a parent and a teacher, I find it fascinating to hold space for my kids and students as they question and seek something bigger than what seems familiar. And while I think I have a descent grasp on the word "purpose," maybe destiny is somehow interwoven with it.
"Destiny is not a destination." Have I been living as if there was a destination? Maybe not in my every day moments like knowing what is going to happen next. But maybe I do think that I am going to arrive at some grandiose purpose someday. As if, some time in the future, I'll wake up knowing what my purpose is and how to get there. Get "there"; because I feel somehow, it isn't "here" right now.
"Destiny is to be present to all life's adventures..." Being present is my every day practice. It's challenging at times, simplistic at others, but always expansive. I didn't fully understand just how expansive feeling this act of being present is until I started noticing when I wasn't. Times like when my teenage son wants to share a random funny story and I'm watching the clock because I'm late for a meeting. I find my eyes darting from his as I intermittently check the time, wondering if I can dodge the traffic if I take a different route. At the same time I interject a smile or a laugh to let him know I'm listening. But am I? I tell him I have to go only to reflect on what just happened in that short moment. My chest feels constricted as my heart speeds up. My head feels too small for the amount of thoughts vying for attention at the same time. In contrast, if I fully engage with my son's story, keeping eye contact, and staying present, my heart feels light. My head feels clear. My breath is easy and effortless.
Making time to listen to a teenager might not sound like the definition of adventure. However, it is a rare moment for my 16 year old to seek me out because he really wants to share something that humored him. For me, that's just one part in the adventures of parenting. And I want to be fully present when that moment arises. I'm creating my destiny when I show up in my interactions with him. And, maybe, just maybe, I've cultivated a connection that will make him want to share again. In turn, I widen my perception about destiny when I see that I can create it just by being present.
"Destiny is to discover your truest potential." It's this line that puts the exclamation to my ah-ha moment. What is my potential? Is it one thing or many? My potentials are equal to or greater than my innate skills and capacities. I have the capacity to: be a good listener, an effective communicator, a loyal friend, a dedicated teacher, a compassionate individual, and so much more. But my truest potential is the common denominator in all of these. And that is my ability to love. Every day, I can choose to discover and express my ability to love. Even in stressful or chaotic times, I can decide to act from my truest potential and see what transpires. That doesn't mean I become passive and allow my boundaries to be crossed. These past 6 months have helped me to see how establishing boundaries and holding my ground truly are the strongest acts of love for myself and those involved. My destiny is shaped by my ability to love and express that love for the highest good of everyone involved.
But, what about the idea of some grandiose purpose? Does destiny have something to do with that? Sometime back, due to a vivid dream (which I'll have to write about later), I defined my overall purpose in life as being love. There are times when I wish my dreams would be a bit more clear with concrete steps spelling out my purpose - like, outlining my career path and relationship steps. However, when I know my life's purpose as being love, it frees me up from thinking I took a wrong path or have missed my mark somehow. Is there a grand purpose for me in this life? Yes, but it doesn't follow some strict agenda or come with an impressive work title. It is the over-arching invitation to be love every day. If discovering moments of my truest potential (being love) and staying present is my destiny then living my purpose of being love shapes my destiny.
Destiny is now commonplace in my vocabulary as well as my thoughts and actions. I know I can shape it, create it, and change it whenever I remain present to life's adventures and open up to my truest potential. Today, my destiny includes communicating with others through my blog. I show up and express as I know how. From that, a new destiny is set into motion; one that continually develops with no end-goal in sight. Tomorrow is yet to be created. So, what is your destiny?
*Wisdom of the Hidden Realms by Collette Baron-Reid