Living with Purpose: A Conversation with Mary Hayes Grieco on her October Workshop

Not everyone has found that inspiring purpose that drives them to live life to the fullest. And not everyone has found the keys to live with purpose, regardless of where their life has taken them. Mary Hayes Grieco — philosopher, healer, author, teacher, lover of God and ordinary things — will present a four-hour workshop on “Living with Purpose” on Saturday, Oct. 8, in The Church of St. Francis, 3201 Pleasant Ave. S., Minneapolis.

Mary Hayes Grieco
The interactive workshop will focus on finding your life purpose, loving yourself, serving others, and healing our world. “The challenge of our times,” Grieco said, “calls for us to live our hope for ourselves and our world and to powerfully step up to the tasks that are uniquely ours to do. No one can sit on the sidelines.”

Grieco is the author of several books, including Unconditional Forgiveness and The New Kitchen Mystic. She is director of the Midwest Institute for Forgiveness Training and co-creator of the “Life Gets Better Now” podcast. She works in private practice at the Well Healing Arts Center and has served as a respected spiritual teacher and leader in the Twin Cities for more than 30 years. She worked on the faculty of the Hazeldon Renewal Center from 1996-2008 as a spiritual retreat leader for people in recovery from addiction. She taught courses in the spirituality of the workplace at the Management Center at the University of St. Thomas. She was a featured speaker at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum in 2005. She has trained a network of therapists who work with military families, and she has taught forgiveness around the world.

She described her October 8 workshop as a special day with others who are committed to bringing love and light to our planet and a time to find encouragement and new focus about our special life purpose. “Be a light — a steady light,” she advised. “Live with faith in our human community.”

The workshop is sponsored by the Minneapolis Theosophical Society as part of its Ancient Wisdom / Ancient Mysteries series of workshops and lectures. The cost is $45 for adults, $40 for students and seniors, $70 for couples or families, and $10 discount for Theosophical Society members. Credit cards accepted. Registration at the door on the day of the events. There will be free refreshments.

She spoke with The Edge about living with purpose.

There are two notions here, one of helping people identify their life purpose, and another of how to live with purpose. Can we live with purpose without identifying what that purpose is?
Mary Hayes Grieco: Yes. I think that we can because I think that we are actually already living our purpose, but maybe we haven’t recognized it or claimed it or seen that it is, indeed, a worthy purpose that we’re living. So, I think our purpose is in us and all around us right now, all of the time, in the people and work and situations that we find ourselves in, and yet we can also quest to discover another level of purpose, another expression of purpose, maybe to really focus our understanding of what we are already doing and then opening up with our willingness and our intuition to discover what else we are made for.

I hear so often from people who are searching for their purpose, thinking perhaps that their purpose needs to be something grander or bigger — but maybe it doesn’t.
MHG: Right, I agree with you. I think we in America have all sorts of ideas about how big and amazing and glamorous and rich and effective and famous a person has to be in order to be significant, and it is really not the case. I think the world is being improved upon and created and developed by millions of ordinary people who are bringing their best to whatever is theirs to do right now. There are people all around us who are really seeking to be of good will, of service in some way, and to make a difference in some way.

Sometimes, our purpose is kind of grand and majestic, like a Beethoven symphony. Those are the ones that we are impressed with, but a lot of us are playing a quiet little piano sonata and kind of living a simpler level of purpose, but it’s still ours. It’s still a beautiful, human song that is ours to sing, and I think we have to start where we are by validating our worthiness, our gifts, our love, our good hearts, and our ability to do what is right in front of us to make the world around us a better place.

Perhaps those who are at a spot in their lives where they feel like they don’t know where they’re headed or what they’re supposed to do can just spend time acknowledging the gifts that they already are?
MHG: Right. It’s like the old slogan of looking at the glass half full instead of half empty — looking at ourselves and saying, “Oh, you know? I’m a good person. I’m doing this work the best I can. I am with this family being the best mom or dad or friend or sister or brother that I can be to the people who are mine around us.”

I’ve come to think that purpose has different levels and that you are probably already living several levels of purpose, but they don’t translate in terms of being a really impressive career or a really amazing visible impact — but it’s impact, nonetheless. Any one of us who is really living our integrity the best that we know how and offering what we can offer is living purposefully.

And then a lot of us have dreams that we dream that are not here yet and we wish we could be expressing our artistic self or we wish we could be helping in the justice system, or homeless people, or inventing something really useful. It’s always a good day to start fresh, so there is nothing wrong with just saying, “Well, okay! Here I am and this is what I have been about. This is what I am about, and I also have this kind of restlessness, this hunger, this desire to express something else. Maybe I don’t know what it is, but….”

We start the conversation with our soul, with our higher self and its connection to Spirit, and we start asking into the question and opening up to seeing and discovering what has a lot of life that is right in front of us. Where do we feel drawn? Where do we care a lot? Where are we leaning towards? Sometimes it’s just pure discovery, like, “Wow! I didn’t know that I could do this or that I would get into this next in my life.” When you’ve really been sincerely seeking at a spiritual level, it starts speaking to you and offering you a place to start something new.

And when you’re on a journey you need to be aware and pay attention to the little things that are leading you in one direction or another.
MHG: That’s right. I call it God’s Yellow Highlighter. I feel like you can look around the landscape of your life and you see certain people or situations or projects or ideas have God’s Yellow Highlighter on them — these people or situations are standing out and asking you to come over here some more and enter in and discover what is here for you.

We experience that with relationships when we meet a person who might be an awesome friend if we were brave enough to pursue a new friendship, or when we are dating somebody and we are feeling like, “Oh, boy, I’d like to go deeper here and I’d like to invest a little more.” These doorways are always there — and sometimes the door is waiting for us to reach out and open it up, and other times it is half ajar and it is waiting for us to just nudge the door open a little more and step inside and see what is in that room and see how it can enrich us and how we can enrich it.

What inspired you to create a workshop on living with purpose?
MGH: I’ve always thought about purpose. It’s something I really care about. I can actually remember being a child and thinking big questions all the time and wishing that I could get my friends to sit down, stop playing jump rope for a few minutes and sit down in a circle and discuss this. Let’s discuss this! What is all this about? What is God and where do I fit? What am I going to be when I grow up and why?

So, even as a child I thought deeply on things and I was hungry to be of use in the world. Specifically, I felt like I really cared about why people suffer so much. Why are people looking so hurt and sad and mad and stuck? I asked that question out loud to the universe when I was in my thirties and said, “You know, show me how I can be a healing influence in this world. How can I be a healer?”

It has to start with me, because I have my own sorrows and my own losses, and my own fears, and my own blocks. I know it starts with me getting braver and clearer and cleaner and happier in my own space, in my own little life, and then from growing wholeness I have some strength to share, I have some skills to teach, and that’s what led me into my main purpose, teaching a method of forgiveness for 30 years now.

But it started with a question and a prayer, “What am I able to do? What can I do? I think it has to do with healing, and what does that mean? Am I going to be a therapist? Am I going to take Reiki hands-on healing and have people on a table? What am I going to do?” I asked the question so solidly that within six months, the answer came to me and I met my teacher and my method of forgiveness that I began using it with great passion and discipline for myself and then teaching others, and it is still going. It is still a real fresh and interesting pathway for me, even 30 years on. The biggest key was that I cared — cared that there was too much suffering in people. I wanted to know how to address that. How does one alleviate that? How do you help? And, so, that was the answer I was led to and the pathway I was led to.

Our world is in such an amazing time of transition with so much exploding out onto the landscape that people are concerned about or wish to bring some peace to, and I just think there is probably a job out there for everybody who wants to help humanity in a larger way to grow up and settle down and settle into being healthy and working with each other and with the planet, to be proud of ourselves. I think part of this is that we want to just feel a little proud of ourselves, in terms of what we have done with ourselves and what we’re offering — and that’s something that is there for everyone to discover.

We’re in a state now where a lot of our institutions are being restructured, so we see a lot of things breaking down and there is a lot of opportunity to help make them work better.
MHG: It’s almost like we’re living in two worlds: we’re living in the old paradigm, the world that came before now, and we’re living in the new one that is being born, and we’re feeling the tension of that. Institutions that have worked for a certain period of time are breaking down and shifting and morphing and fading out and decaying and becoming obsolete, and at the same time there are all these new systems and possibilities and movements and visions that are being born.

A long time ago I got the idea that we’ll do more to transform society and the human world by participating with the new paradigm that’s trying to be born, by participating with the vision of who we would like to be and to not bang our heads against the wall or spend a lot of time on anger and rage and frustration against what’s not working. Let’s just let it fade out, like a ghost, and put energy into the new ways.

I know a lot of us are concerned about our jobs. My job is becoming obsolete. What do I do? What’s going to happen next? I’m sure there is something new waiting for everybody who is feeling the death of the old order in their life. There are the seeds and the elements of the new right in front of us. It all starts with the personal self by healing leftover negativity and woundedness and resentments about what we perceive has worked and not worked in our life, and tuning ourselves up, finding the spiritual practices that help us to feel some self-love and to feel clear, and to feel useful, and to move into that each day, even though it’s a mystery.

How does living with purpose change how we view the fear and chaos and stress in these changing times?
MHG: It gives us something to do. It gives us a focus that is not based on fear. It gives us a feeling of accomplishment, even if it’s just a tiny one. Perhaps you helped your child solve a problem that they have been wrestling with, or you were kind to somebody who sorely needed kindness in their life, or you were practical and helped somebody with something simple and you could show them how to do it. When we give that way, when we give from our own native heart and talent and the person receives it, there is this beautiful circle of energy that happens. You feel rewarded, you feel like you received something in return. You feel like, “Oh, wow! I guess I know even more about who I am right now because I stayed present and I stayed mindful and in service to the world as a whole.”

That doesn’t mean that we all become missionaries and try and save other people; that doesn’t work. We all have our own sphere of influence, our own boundaries, our own knowledge of who are my people and who are not and what is my job and what is not and what can I do and what can I not do. We do the things that we seem to be made to do and let go of the rest of it, because that’s for others to do, and we have to kind of trust each other.

We have to trust that for all the bad stories we see and all of the dysfunctional and cranky and nasty people that we see on television on the news, we have to trust our own eyes when we look around and see so much goodness. We see so many good people who are being kind and brave and fun and positive and we have to say, “Well, that’s my world. That’s the world, too. I don’t have to look through the lens of the dysfunction that the media is showing me. I can be aware of it, but really there is a lot of stuff that I have no power to change, but there is a lot of stuff I do have power to change, and I have to keep my focus there.”

If you think about the media, overall, and what we see in it, it only reflects such a small spectrum and it’s almost all dysfunctional.
MHG: It’s pain. I think the media is like the nervous system for the human body, and it is transmitting signals of pain and non-functioning to the brain and saying, “Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! This is not good! Do something!” You know? You can’t just meditate on pain 24/7. You note it and you say, “Oh, okay.” For instance, I cannot help every last homeless person in my city, but I can be kind to the one homeless woman I found behind my garage who was trying to put a bandage on her arm by herself. I can help that one person and bless her on her way. We all have the power to bless — to bless ourselves, our situations, our families, and each other. I think we should use that power.

For whom is your workshop intended, and what can participants expect to experience?
MHG: The workshop is intended for thoughtful people of goodwill who really wish to be more powerful and loving in who they are, and it is for those who wish to see more clearly the kind of purposes that they are living and open up together with companions, with a group, to new levels of purpose. This workshop is about groups of people who come together with an intention for a higher good. How can I be part of the upward trend in the world? How can I be part of all of us doing better and making society reflect what we could be?

The workshop also is just like a really good church service, when you come together with other people who are having that intention and are willing to discover new things — and your insights are amplified in that space. You might just have an idea pop into your brain that you hadn’t had before because you are in that space of possibility, where everybody’s questing about new ideas.

One thing that people can expect from any of my workshops is the chance to come together and lighten up and get some hope and do some laughing and do some affirming of the really solid, simple truths that we all need to live more and more. In this workshop, we’ll have an exercise in a small group where people can bring out a question about their purpose, and I’ll guide people into opening up to their intuition for themselves and for each other and maybe getting a new insight.

Maybe exploring the question within the question that they’re not thinking about.
MHG: Right! Usually when I do an event like this, the end result is that we all feel like we’re now standing on higher ground and we feel like, “Oh! Wow! I have a really new way of looking at this!” and “Oh! I suddenly understood something that has been staring me in the face for a while, but suddenly because I was here at this lecture, in this meditation, in these discussions, I suddenly see it and I can suddenly make it real.” It’s really meant to be encouraging and empowering for people to come to this workshop and to go away with like some little golden nugget, some golden seed, that they can plant in their lives and start watering and taking care of to grow something new.

Is there a final message you would like to leave with our readers about living with purpose?
MHG: Every single one of us needs to have faith in ourselves, in our essential goodness and our essential worthiness, and also in our unseen potential that we have to claim — that it’s very good right now, and from this goodness I want to open up to discover and create more goodness. Have faith in yourself, have faith in other people, and have faith in humanity as a whole. Admit that we’re good, we’re worthy, we’re lovable. We’re in a hard period of teenagehood as human beings and we’re learning fast and hard a lot of things, but we have to have faith in the basic character of human beings and humanity and really put that faith into action.

For more information on Mary Hayes Grieco, visit For more details on her “Living with Purpose” workshop, call 651.235.6645.



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