Living with purpose, on purpose

Published 3:17 pm Wednesday, July 5, 2017

By Erin Smith

Yogic lore holds that the first yoga teacher was a fish. Shiva, the God of Destruction, was sitting on the banks of the Ganges River telling his wife Parvati the secrets of the cosmos and how turning inward was the path to understanding life’s purpose.

A beautiful golden fish happened to be swimming by and stopped to listen. The truth of Shiva’s words filled him with wonder and his heart expanded in his chest, growing so large it pulled him up and out of the water, where he flipped his tail and danced for joy, before splashing back into the Ganges and swimming downstream to share his newfound knowledge with every creature he met.

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But no one believed him. The other animals ridiculed him and rolled their eyes. Who did he think he was? What hubris to anoint himself the messenger of the gods! He was just a fish. Just a common fish.

But his heart knew better, knew that he was special, destined for bigger and better things. And he was right. Though no one listened to him during his life, Shiva rewarded his persistence after death, reincarnating him as The Lord of the Fishes, a merman with demigod powers.

Do you ever feel like that poor fish? Like you were destined for something bigger than your current existence? I think we all can relate to that. I just finished the book “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” by Neal DeGrasse Tyson. It’s currently on the New York Times bestseller list, and explains the nature of time and how humans were created from stars. The popularity of this book speaks to our insatiable need to find meaning and connection, to touch that place inside that’s bigger than our ego.

My take-away from the book? Never apologize for shining too brightly or collapsing into dust. It is, after all, how galaxies are made. It was the original impetus of the cosmos and resides within our hearts even now.

We know this, yet we resist its truth. Why are we content to live a life too dull, too colorless? A life full of regrets and missed opportunities? We allow the expectations of others to set our parameters and then are too frightened to step outside those drawn lines. We live in a too-small container based on beliefs that no longer resonate with the whispers of our growing heart.

Living large means risking judgment, ridicule, failure. It leaves us feeling vulnerable and unsure. It’s easier to downplay our abilities, truths, and destiny, settling for a life that is, if not extraordinary, at least familiar. Easy. Standard. Small. This cookie-cutter mentality keeps us safe. But just like that fish, we know that we were designed for an amplified existence.

How do we break the bonds of comfortable, too-low expectations to start living our real life? Firstl surround yourself with other people who are crushing it; a rising tide lifts all boats. I find that when I spend time with people who are fully awake in their own lives, it wakes me up to my life as well.

Mark Twain reminds us to, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that. The really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” I like to be surrounded by artists, musicians, writers, thinkers, scientists, and other people who think outside of the box. People living their true lives don’t care what others think; lions don’t bother themselves with the opinions of sheep. Listen to TED talks, podcasts, and audiobooks about inspiring people who attained the impossible. Read, as characters in the novels we devour are just as much our friends or foes as living, breathing people and have much to teach us.

Say yes more often. Attempt something that scares you, or try something new to shake things up. We expose the depth of our mind and soul when we draw outside the lines of our current reality. Have you always longed to bake the perfect cake? Learn French? Visit Bali? For decades, I longed to play the guitar. But since I am a failed pianist and violinist, the narrative I told myself was that I couldn’t, shouldn’t. I’ve read that fear stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. This was so true in my case. I stated taking guitar lessons when I turned forty and it has given me countless hours of joy. Being bad at something, but proving that you can improve, is an incredible life gift.

Finally, embrace imperfection. Perfection is an illusion, and an unreachable bar. Social media has advanced the idea that our bodies, businesses, homes, children, and skills should be picture-perfect and Instagram-ready at all times. That’s unrealistic and, frankly, boring. Messy and ugly are real, and real things allow us to have a deeper, happier existence.

Swim on, little fish. Tell your tale and live your life based upon your heart truths. The alternative isn’t enough. We all deserve more.

Erin Smith is the owner of the OM place in Winchester, the author of “Sensible Wellness for Women” and the online host of a yoga and mindfulness channel for Eppic Films. She wants everyone to make friends with meditation, eat real food, move their bodies and hit the pillow a little earlier. When she’s not standing on her head, she enjoys being a wife, mother, dancer, reader, flower sniffer, guitar player and wine drinker. Send her a shout out at or play along at