The Promise of Fulfillment
The Travelers Within
By Val Jon Farris
“Life is a promise; fulfill it.”-Mother Teresa
Fulfillment, that elusive promise of attaining unbounded happiness, contentment, and peace in our lives. Our yearning for fulfillment, however, doesn’t stop there; it reaches more deeply into our desire for freedom, in the sense of living as we choose rather than as we are obliged.
Many travelers along life’s path aspire to the freedom of fulfillment, so much so that they work themselves into exhaustion in the hope of one day attaining it. But many never do attain it. Instead we find ourselves caught in the grips of the “Sisyphus effect,” the eternal return of forever pushing the stone of our aspiration uphill, only to watch it roll down again and again into the valley of despair.
There is, however, a more ominous fate I call the “abyss of apathy” in which we allow our stone of aspiration to roll into a deeper pit of mediocrity. We do this by giving up on the promise of fulfillment and settling for the mercy of relief in the form of temporary gratification. The reality is that this lowering of aspirations sends us deeper into the abyss. By giving up on the promise of fulfillment, we set into motion a deterioration of two vital aspects of our well-being, both of which our fulfillment relies upon in order to flourish: our sense of wholeness as a human being and our deep appreciation for life.
Mother Theresa’s quote, “Life is a promise; fulfill it,” offers a powerful insight into the reality of fulfillment and how to live a meaningful life. Her message can be confusing in that the direction of effort isn’t toward striving for fulfillment, it’s toward fulfilling “life’s promise.” What is the promise we ought to be working on fulfilling? To answer, we must first clarify what a “promise” actually is.
From Middle English, promis and Latin, promittere, (pro-forth + mittere-to send), to “promise” means “to send forth.” From this definition it’s clear life makes promises, in the sense that its undying devotion to sustaining itself into the future is the greatest demonstration of “sending forth” I have ever known.
And just what does life send forth? We are the embodiment of life’s greatest promise, and it is our privilege to go forth and live in a way that matters, in a way that fulfills, not only us, individually, but also, as Mother Teresa so devoutly demonstrated in her lifetime, in a way that fulfills all of us collectively.
A key reason why so many of us live unfulfilled lives is that we are too self-centered and more invested in changing our outer circumstances than in changing ourselves. Until we place value on understanding our inner nature, on the practices of self and other acceptance, and on the wisdom of accepting our lives just as they are, we will not fulfill life’s greatest promise.
Accepting our lives just as they are” isn’t about giving up on what we want; it’s about accepting what we have, or do not have, and then from a place of acceptance rather than resistance focusing on what we want. For the more we resist what we don’t want, the more of what we don’t want we usually end up getting. Allow me to explain.
I think Mother Teresa’s message about our fulfilling life’s promise is right-on, for when we take our attention off of ourselves, off our wants, needs, complaints, and ailments and place it on acts of service, kindness and selflessness, our quest for fulfillment resolves into the realization that we are here not to take, but to give. For in our giving we fulfill life’s greatest promise, and in so doing, also fulfill ourselves.
Val Jon Farris is an award-winning author and Huffington Post columnist. He is also a spiritual anthropologist and professor of Mayan philosophy. Val Jon hosts expeditions to sacred sites and conducts retreats for those interested in exploring the wonders of the outer world and the mysteries of the inner self. For more information, community blogs, and articles visit www.travelerswithin.com.