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Prem Chopra

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Life: What's in it for me?
By Prem Chopra
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

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What's in it for me?

This question arises in the minds of many, though few ask it. One student did.

Seeing the teacher in the cafeteria, she waked over. As he nodded in response to her request to join him, she sat across the table setting her backpack beside her and posed the question.

"What is your purpose?" The teacher asked in response.

"What do you mean?" The student replied, puzzled.

"What is the purpose of your life? Why do you do what you do?"

"I do some things because I have to and others because I want to." She responded after some thought, appearing quite pleased with her answer.

"What do you want?" The teacher asked.

"I want to have a good time. I want to be rich, have a lot of money to buy nice things. I want a neat car a nice big home and a happy family. I don't want to worry about having to work for a living or doing what I don't want to do. I want to be and feel safe and secure. I want people to like me..."

"That's a long list of wants." The teacher observed, unable to hold back a smile. He resisted the urge to point out the self-centeredness in these honest statements.


"So, if you get a lot of money, and nice home and family and everything else you now want, will you promise to stop wanting? Will you have no further purpose in life?" The teacher asked.

"No. I will see how I feel when I get all that. Then I will decide?" The student answered defensively.

"So what are you doing about it?" The teacher asked.

"I don't know...I'm going to school. I have a part-time job. I just broke up with my boyfriend. I'm a bit confused right now. So what should I do?" She offered her attention for the first time.

"Does that mean you do not know what you really want?" The teacher asked.

"I didn't say that. It's just that my wants change. I want to keep my options open about what I want." She responded--her mind in disarray.

"Everything changes and flows--all the time. That is, if you consider the material aspects of your life. But what about the Timeless and Changeless aspects?" The teacher asked, taking the discussion deeper.

"You mean, my spiritual life? Church? God?" The student asked, wondering what that had to do with her wants in everyday life.

"Not necessarily." Replied the teacher. "I mean love, friendship, caring and happiness--these are all gifts of the Timeless?"

She appeared ready to listen--at least for a moment. Here was the chance to tell her what to do, or even what to think. The teacher decided to let her do the thinking--for herself.

"Of course I want to be happy, have friends, love and good times in life." She said, wondering why she had not emphasized these earlier.

"So, if that is your purpose, what are you doing about it?" The teacher asked once more.

"What do you mean? I'm building my life by getting an education, a good job, friends and everything else that others want." She responded, unsure about the question and her answer.

"Close. But I mean, have you reflected on what really makes you happy? What do you really, really, really want?"

"I told you what I want," she replied quickly. Her stiffening body flashed the frustration creeping into her voice. "My problem is I don't know how to get it. That's why I am asking you"

"Have you tried meditation?"

"Do you mean the yoga stuff, or introspection?" She asked, trying to impress the teacher as she recovered her composure.

"Your problem is that you don't know what you really want." The words had hardly left the teacher's lips when he realized how harsh they sounded.

There was a flash of anger. Her body stiffened further as she straightened her back. The breath halted. Within a split second, he observed the anger dissolving into the fear and anxiety from which it had arisen.

"So, how can I find out what I really want? What should I want?" She burst out, fighting back tears and controlling the waves surging in her mind. The struggle was evident from her heavy breathing. Her back softened.

The teacher was impressed by her self-control. This time she was really ready to listen.

"Life is a journey that offers many paths. We can choose wisely only if we know where we are headed.
One should have purpose beyond immediate needs or wants--such as attaining happiness and freedom from wants, which are unfulfilled desires. Such purpose is, or should be, independent of the stage of life."

"So how can I discover what I really want?" She asked again, growing impatient.

"For this, the mind must be clear--as a tranquil stream. Clear your mind of all wants and of all thoughts associated with your wants. Try this for a few moments each day before you going to bed, while walking or driving, or while sitting in a comfortable position. Do this alone."

"It's impossible to get these thoughts out of my mind. I have so many things to do and worry about." She burst out.

"I know. That is why you should start now. It will take practice and time, but it will happen."

"So, you really believe that if I do introspection, I'll discover what I really want?" She asked in anticipation.

"Yes. It will align your thoughts and actions along the path that will take you where you want to go." The teacher said, with a sigh of relief.

"How?" She pressed, eager to absorb whatever the teacher would say.

"Form a purpose with an objective that is meaningful and within your reach. Then pursue it purposefully."

"And, that is purposeful action. That is going with the flow!" She said with a knowing smile.

The teacher smiled in silence.

"That's what's in it for me!" She added, slinging the backpack over her shoulder as she merged into the sea of students with a bounce that only the teacher could see.

Try transforming stress into flow! Following the resonance from within is going with the flow.

Copyright . 2002 Prem Chopra, all rights reserved.

This short story first appeared in the September 10, 2002 issue of Brook of Life News, a free e-newsletter dedicated to improving our understanding of life and the quality of life. You may review other issues at If you like what you read, you may subscribe by sending an e-mail to

       Web Site: Brook of Life

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Reviewed by Leslie 11/30/2002
Many people aren't able to get past the superficial wnats- ie. the nice car, great paying job. For those who've experirenced great trauma and continue to experience it I think it's enough just to hang on. Why does a person have to "want something to do." How about just living. For some living alone is a great feat!
Reviewed by Masarat Daud 9/11/2002
Brilliant write - very deep.
Reviewed by Theresa Koch 9/10/2002
This article was quite an excellent piece and brought about much thought for me...WONDERFUL!
Reviewed by m j hollingshead 9/10/2002
waiting for more articles! glad to see you posted this. you said, '"Form a purpose with an objective that is meaningful and within your reach. Then pursue it purposefully."' .... what sensible advice!


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