There’s a wonderful Turkish proverb that succinctly relates a message underlying both the movie version of The Shift and the book of the same name. It says, “No matter how far you have gone on a wrong road, turn back.” It doesn’t matter how long we’ve allowed ourselves to travel the road of our false self. We know when it isn’t leading us to a sense of purpose and significance, and we can admit we’re on the wrong path. The awareness that our life lacks Meaning is more than enough evidence that it’s time to make a U-turn.
In The Shift movie, I relate how I found the road that resonated with the calling of my soul. I did so by listening to what I was feeling deep within me, rather than what my ego was saying to me about how to capitalize on my fame by writing books to make more money. By trusting my inner excitement, I was able to make a big shift in my life, a real U-turn, away from writing about psychology to writing about living life from a spiritual orientation. That shift away from the Ambition of ego, which tried to control my writing and speaking career, put me on the path of Meaning.
When you turn away from ego control, what is it that you trust to guide you? There are three markers to look for on this road—trust in yourself, trust in others, and trust in the Source of being. When you trust in yourself, you listen to your soul speak and hear what your intuition or the “voice within” is saying. When you trust in others, you practice noninterference and free yourself from trying to control others who have their own inner voice to follow. When you trust in the Source of being, you trust the mystery of creation. The universal Source of all creation, invisible though it may be, guides you just as it guided your development in the womb. When you trust in Divine intelligence, you cooperate and invite the shift to Meaning.
One of my personal heroes is Mother Teresa, who spent her later years teaching and serving others. She once remarked, “Love cannot remain by itself—it has no meaning. Love must be put into action, and that action is service.” These words have inspired me and have helped me make the shift away from my ego’s Ambitions for serving myself toward a life dominated by service to others. Today my life is almost 100 percent devoted to service in one way or another. Each day begins with a prayer of “Thank you,” which are the first words out of my mouth as I awaken. This is to keep me in a state of gratitude for all that I receive, as well as for the opportunity to live my days in service to others.
Before beginning my day, I make every effort to do something for someone else. Since I receive volumes of mail, I often send off a book or a DVD of The Shift, a set of CDs, or a DVD of a PBS special—something that I feel will brighten the day of a total stranger somewhere in the world. As I affix the postage, I take great joy in knowing that a surprise package of love in action will send a message to someone that there are people out there who care, and I am one of them.
Often I call someone I’ve been told is grieving the loss of a loved one or is ill in a hospital setting. Other times some money in an envelope goes to one of the many people who serve in my community. If I’m on the road in a hotel, I seek out the maids who serve me so anonymously and surprise them with a gift of some unexpected cash. The things I’m doing aren’t reported here for recognition, but to provide real-life examples of how shifting from Ambition to Meaning affects daily life. The ego seeks recognition, but in a life of Meaning, loving action is its own reward. I’m reminded of Ram Dass, who told me that his years of putting his ego aside and being of service to his mother, father, and stepmother; as well as to people with AIDS and cancer, were the most fulfilling and meaningful times in his life. There are a multitude of ways in which we can give. It doesn’t really matter what we do—the point is to get in the habit of replacing our attention on ourselves with attention toward others and take loving action.
I’ve been engaged for many years in helping people (including myself) make the shift towards their highest potential. I have now made almost 70 trips around our sun, and the one thing that stands out very clearly is that all of us want our lives to have purpose and meaning. What does it take to reach a state of consciousness that nurtures a life of purpose and meaning? First, in my movie The Shift, and now in the companion book of the same name, I’ve tried to map things out.
The Shift—illustrates how and why to make the move from ambition to meaning. Such a shift eliminates our feelings of separateness, illuminates our spiritual connectedness, and involves moving from the ego-directed morning into the afternoon of life where everything is primarily influenced by purpose.
As we contemplate leaving the morning of our life, where ego has played a commanding role, and entering the afternoon (and evening), where meaning and purpose replace ambition and struggle, we may encounter unexpected occurrences that accompany this new direction.
It’s almost a universal law that we’ll experience a fall of some kind. Yet these falls or low points provide the energy we need to move away from ego and into a life of meaning and purpose.
The Shift doesn’t mean that we lose our drive and ambition; it signifies that we become ambitious about something new. We make a commitment to living a life based on experiencing meaning and feeling purposeful, rather than never-ending demands and false promises that are the trademark of the ego’s agenda.
What is The Shift?
The first shift that we all make takes us from nonbeing to being; from Spirit to form; from the invisible to our corporeal world of things.
The next shift is the phase I call Ambition where we take on an ego self that is the opposite of the place of Spirit from which we came. Ego in this context is our false self.
These first two shifts are mandatory in the human journey.
Unfortunately, for many people, Ambition is often the end of their life story, but there are two more shifts open to us!
We can all choose to make the leap past the second shift of ego-driven ambition. We arrive at the third shift when we realize that we have an option to make a U-turn away from the false self. We can do an about-face and head back to the place of Spirit in a third shift.
And then, in the fourth shift, we achieve a life of Meaning and purpose by rededicating our Ambition to the fulfillment of our authentic self. We discover that the laws of the material world do not necessarily apply in the presence of the Meaning that is encouraged by our shift to Source. Manifestations of miracles begin to populate the landscape of life.
Meaning is now what defines all the moments of our existence. We can fulfill our greatest calling when we consciously undertake the journey from Ambition to Meaning. We can transform our individual lives and influence the destiny of our sacred planet as well.