Sir Laurens spent a great deal of time with the Kalahari Bushmen, collecting their stories. For me, his extraordinary insights sum up in a few short paragraphs the essential wish that virtually all human beings harbor:
The Bushman in the Kalahari Desert talk about two “hungers.” There is the Great Hunger and there is the Little Hunger. The Little Hunger wants food for the belly; but the Great Hunger, the greatest hunger of all, is the hunger for meaning. There’s ultimately only one thing that makes human beings deeply and profoundly bitter, and that is to have thrust upon them a life without meaning.
There is nothing wrong in searching for happiness. But of far more comfort to the soul is something greater than happiness or unhappiness, and that is meaning. Because meaning transfigures all. Once what you are doing has for you meaning, it is irrelevant whether you’re happy or unhappy. You are content – you are not alone in your Spirit – you belong.
(Sir Laurens van der Post from Hasten Slowly, a film by Mickey Lemle)
As is related so eloquently, “the Great Hunger, the greatest hunger of all, is the hunger for meaning.” The Shift is an invitation—both in this book and in the film of the same name—to explore the process of moving away from an aimless life to one filled with meaning and purpose. I’ve been engaged for many years in helping people (including myself) reach 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. In this book, I elucidate what seems to be required to reach a state of conscious, enlightened awareness that nurtures a life of purpose and meaning.
When the movie that this book is derived from was first released, it was titled Ambition to Meaning, yet many people were unclear about what those words meant or what the film was about. It seems that the title was a bit misleading, perhaps indicating that I’d made a documentary or just captured one of my lectures on film.
During the inaugural national tour when the movie was introduced to select audiences, I expressed my view about the title’s confusion to the director and the executive producer. I said, “I love this movie; however, if I were doing it over, I’d give it a different title. I’d call it The Shift, because this term is referred to throughout the picture and is what has to take place for a person to move From Ambition To Meaning.” To my delight – and to the credit of the director and producer – within a week the film had a new title. Even so, this notion of From Ambition To Meaning wouldn’t go away.
As I contemplated how to present this essential message in a companion book to the movie, a deep meditation led me to use these four words as the book’s organizational format. This is precisely what you now hold in your hands (or have on your book reader).
All of us on this glorious human voyage into adulthood have to make some shifts, or transitions, during the trip. Hopefully, we will go beyond the first two mandatory ones and move on to those shifts in consciousness that lead to a life filled with purpose. Now what do I mean by this?
The first shift that we all make takes us from non-being to being; from Spirit to form; from the invisible to our corporeal world of things, boundaries, and stuff. So, the first chapter of this book is titled “From. . . .” In my own humble (and, I’m certain, imperfect) fashion, I attempt to define the undefinable using words and phrases that are mere symbols of that which defies description.
Nevertheless, it’s what I’ve come to view as what that world of invisible Spirit, from which all things originate and to which they all return, looks like. The next shift I portray is the shift from From to Ambition – thus, “Ambition . . .” is the title of Chapter 2. Ambition is the phase 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 are two major and mandatory shifts that we undertake in this voyage of our humanness. Many of us reach the end of our life journey having only made those two transitions. Ambition, sadly, is often the end of the life story. In my film and in this book, I propose that there are two additional shifts available to all of us. When we proceed with them, the “life without meaning” that Sir Laurens referred to isn’t the end of the story. We can all choose to make the leap past the second shift of the ego-driven ambition.
The third chapter is titled “To . . . ,” signifying arriving at a place in our minds where we realize that we have an option to make a U-turn away from the false self and begin heading back in the direction of our origination – or what I’m calling our “Fromness.”
This new phase of our life journey is a return to Spirit and an invitation to the invisible Divine realm to replace ego’s dominance. We learn how to tame ego as we head To a life of meaning and purpose, nurtured by our Source of being.
The shift described in Chapter 4 is “Meaning.” As we abandon that false self and begin our return trip back to Source while we’re still alive, we live by a new set of guidelines. 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. Manifestation of miracles and newly discovered synchronicity begin to populate the landscape of life. Indeed, Meaning is what now defines all of the moments of our existence.
In my experience, unfortunately, ego’s Ambition is the final purpose of so many lives – yet there are signs we can notice that signal those two additional shifts that release us from our illusion of ego comforts. 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 can fulfill our greatest calling when we consciously undertake the journey From Ambition To Meaning. We can transform our individual lives and, as an additional bonus, influence the destiny of our sacred planet as well.
For more information: The Shift – by Dr. Wayne Dyer
It will look like this: Meaning Is What Now Defines All Of Our Existence