Yeah, Work Is Work, But What Else Might It Be?

img_0784I have written many times about the tension between having a day job and wanting to pursue my writing and healing live full time.

Green as a Granny Smith apple, I look to the bloggers and friends who can dedicate all of their time to their creative pursuits. I wish constantly for the financial freedom or the artistic warriors’ courage that allows them to refuse the constraints of the nine to five.

I shadowbox with guilt that my work ethic isn’t strong enough, that I should knuckle down and realize I wasn’t born independently wealthy and that I love this new house and have to earn the salary to pay for my piece of it.

At the same time I try to sort out the root my aversion to my job. Is going to a temple of knowledge every day and being paid for my pains actually painful or is it just an amplified version of the drama everyone experiences on Monday mornings? What if my soul is trying to tell me that I must do something else? What if I just don’t realize how good my job could actually be?

These are all still rhetorical questions, because I sure as heck don’t have any of the answers to them. Yet.

One thing I have sorted out, however, is helping me find new peace with my job as I continue to show up there each day. It sprang from a great deal of soul searching I did over my vacation when I started to realize how worried I was about returning to work.

I have been afraid to either like my job or give it my best effort because it might lead to contentment.

Huh?

You see, I worried that if I was content in my work, the Universe might start to think that all I could do was take care of the logistics of a college library and design a few publications and manage a few budgets. The Universe (or God or my boss or myself) might start getting the idea that this life was ok for me and I could quit striving for that elusive something better. Even worse, I feared that that “something better” might stop trying to find me.

And so, I offered about 42% of my energy and attention to 40+ hours of my week. Somehow, I still expected to come home and switch into being able to give 110% of myself to writing and healing and loving my husband.

img_0788But, there is this thing called inertia. It the law that says that an object (or a redhead woman) is most likely to persist in a given state once she is already hanging out there. I am not sure what sort of magic I thought might happen during the commute home, but I guess I was hoping All Things Considered offered the alchemical secret of turning disaffected, scattered working girl into inspired, focused epiphany girl in the span of a thirty minute drive.

And so, I still have absolutely no idea if I am supposed to work toward escaping the relatively safe and predictable world of a salaried, benefit laden job in higher education (not that anything is all that stable these days) or if I am supposed to take all those risks and step into a “career” of my own creation. But, at least I am coming to understand the law of physics in my professional and creative lives and have stopped believing that I can make gold from the ashes of an unlived day.

I am dedicating myself to my job anew, and daring myself to look at every task and every person with fresh eyes. I am willing to risk offering all of myself to my position for the hours that I am paid to do so. Heck, if I do that maybe I can stop blogging about work on my own time!

What are your strategies for getting through the workday? Do you have this sense of tension too?

Those of you freed souls that we office-dwellers envy – what is it like on the other side? Any secrets you’d like to share with the class?

And First I Promise to Look Within: Healing the Self to Heal Others

Lugano, Switzerland

“Physician, heal thyself.”

I never actually understood what that meant, and until just now I did not even realize it was a proverb from the Gospel of Luke.

What sort of medicine people was Jesus addressing? How did the middle eastern doctors of 2000 years ago approach their craft? Would I recognize the roots of my own energy healing work or were they the precursors of the conventional western practitioners of today? Was it about getting deep into the causes of dis-ease or were they offering pills to treat the symptoms?

Undoubtedly, there are countless excellent, compassionate MDs out there, dedicated professionals who look at their patients as entire beings and not just a chest cold or an infection or a bout of depression. At the same time, the grueling nature of medical school and a health care system that is focused on quantity and expediency rather than quality and attention must make it impossible for most modern physicians to really focus on their own well being.

This is not intended to be a rant about the state of modern medicine or any claim that what I am learning and practicing is any better than anyone else’s path. Instead, I play with this quotation because I am considering how I must heal myself before I will ever effectively heal anyone else.

If I ever make any claims to have arrived as a healer or as a conscious individual, I am deeply sunk in a damaging illusion. This is not the self deprecating cry of a person lacking confidence. It is simply the awareness that I am new here in the world of healing and wisdom and faith and have more to learn during every moment of every day. I can only pray for an open heart and an open mind and the love of patient people who will help foster this new rush of passion I find growing within me.

Today I found myself growing frustrated by some whom I love and respect .  She just can’t seem to quit sweating the small stuff. I just wanted to ask her to evaluate the steady stream of complaint and reaction that kept flowing from her lips and help her realize how unhelpful it all is – both to herself and her audience.

Even as this urge welled up inside me and my look of disbelief began to play across my face as she continued to speak, I knew that I was listening with ears of judgment, not of compassion. I climbed up on my spiritual high horse and began to pity her for the ways she squandered her energy and let every setback shake her to the core.

Later, worried about my own reaction to the situation, I described it all to a kind and generous friend who helped me talk through it all until I realized that I was not really upset with this woman’s behavior, but by the shadows of myself that I saw in her. The moment I allowed myself to sit behind my eyes and toss my enlightened mane, I was not greeting her with healing energy, but instead with the cold detachment of someone relieved that she knew a better way to live.

I needed to feel this flash of shame so I could step back and remember that I am a novice at this pursuit of living a wise and graceful life. The good work I can offer to the world must first flow through me, body, mind and spirit. Only when I have drank deep my own medicine can I reach out and confidently offer it to others.

Still Sewing Together These Remnants of Self

http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=808228

Tonight was my writing group’s holiday dinner. A mightily different crowd of people from my healing class, but a sweet and generous atmosphere all the same. I am the youngest in the group by a good twenty years, with the majority of the women already enjoying a well deserved retirement. There is talk of grandchildren and good therapists and the best female Episcopalian ministers, and, of course, books that change lives.

When asked about how my novel was going, I hesitated because, truth be told, fiction has taken a back seat to my healing work and my spiritual explorations and the words that I scatter here. For all my talk of integrating the self and walking around with a whole perspective, I suddenly found it difficult to marry my worlds.

There wasn’t the luxury of time or space to explain this whole other aspect of myself to a group of laughing ladies sipping champagne. They know me as the girl who writes stories about a painter of churches who struggles with his marriage and his faith. Smiling and nodding, they moved on to talk of waters more easily navigated, more updates on people they had known since their now grown children were small.

It certainly was not disinterest or rudeness that kept them from asking what sort of healing I do. I realized quickly, that for all their worldliness and their fascination with the human experience, energy healing was unfamiliar territory and required an introduction in a different setting. In the same spirit, to a group generally still wary of computers, mentioning that I kept a blog might not mean an awful lot.

Tonight was a valuable lesson for me in the art of carrying around a complete sense of self, but being alright with the fact that some people are tuned into smaller slices of who I am. To walk around constantly needing to flaunt my wholeness and announce myself as a writer and a healer and a spiritual seeker and a person with a library operations manager is just too much stuff – both for a business card and for polite conversation. All of those things are just details anyway – important details that describe how I spend my time, but details all the same that can never describe the true essence of who I am.

Still, I came home with a full belly and a slightly confused head. How will I sew the various remnants of my life together? It is one thing to know that it is not necessary for colleagues to understand the changes in my life – if they notice anything it might be that my rougher edges have been smoothed. But in a social situation, it is a little different to realize that it will be challenging to explain my shifts in priorities and talk about the things that truly matter to me.

I know that it will just take patience, and that I should not expect all of my revelations (understanding myself as a healer, as someone who communicates to people in a space like this) to take root in a week.

Isn’t one of the first lessons of writing “show, don’t tell“? When I walk through life wearing a cloak stitched with the wisdom I have gathered on my new path, I think I’ll find these worries will have flown with the moths that chewed up my old disguises.

Let Go of the Stories that Bind You, Grab Hold of the Universe

End of a Cape Beach Day

Today was the first of my three day long healing class. It’s a two year program that meets at the change of every season and this session marks the end of the first year. An eclectic program mainly informed by our teacher‘s studies with the indigenous people of Peru, the class has taken me further into an experience of energy healing than my previous work with Reiki every allowed me to imagine.

One thought I want to share before I drift off to sleep (kind of funny how having been exposed to tons of new energy can make you exhausted). It is actually something I would have expected to pick up at a yoga retreat or in a workshop on Eastern thought because it is all about attachment.

I think Westerners’ most common negative reaction to their first introduction to Buddhism is rooted in a wariness of any philosophy that directs adherents to avoid attachment. What kind of life would it be to walk around refusing to care about anything or anyone, right? I understand that this is a gross misreading of one of the Four Noble Truths, though I admit, beyond the little epiphany I had today, which had nothing directly to do with Buddhism, I know relatively little about that path.

In class we were discussing the images and impressions that we as healers might receive while working on a client. Our teacher cautioned us against putting too much stock in those stories because, without a great deal of experience, it is very difficult to tell if those visions are refractions of the healer’s state of mind. In the same vein, she suggested that any information we get about our own or others’ past lives should be valued for the themes and the real emotional stuff contained within rather than be savored for their fascinating plot turns and exotic characters.

At first, I was sort of disappointed to be told that as soon as we begin to sharpen our intuitive skills we should ignore a lot of the information we receive. As a reader and writer of fiction, I was dismayed to think about tossing out all of those perfectly good stories!

Then the idea began to take shape in my mind and I was able to absorb the wisdom at the core of these warnings. Rather than limiting our experiences as healers or as spiritual seekers in telling us to forget the juicy stuff, we are actually being passed the keys to a much greater kingdom.

If we had the chance to connect to all of the energies that swirl around at the level of the Soul and tie us to the Divine, why would we decide to play it small? When we get stuck in our own little stories we choose the narrowness of one human lifetime over the infinite potential of the Universe. Getting trapped in our own narratives, be it during a healing session or during meditation or prayer, keeps us from experiencing true consciousness, real awareness.

The reason to pursue non-attachment is not because we fear having possessions or getting too close to other people. The reason to try to attain non-attachment is that only by walking away from our own little dramas can we truly connect with God.

Does putting it this way sound as foreign as when a monk in saffron robes describes it? Like I said, I am entirely too sleepy to string sentences together and I may not be doing this idea justice. Somehow if I think about detaching from the mental junk that ties me down not because it is bad to have desires but because it’s all just static that keeps me from deepest wisdom, I become a lot more relaxed about just letting go.

Isn’t a chance at getting a glimpse of Divinity worth sacrificing a few lousy childhood memories or knowing that you were once reincarnated as a tribesman in the Amazon or the Pope in Rome?

MORNING AFTER SYNDROME WISDOM: Looking back on this post (I thought as I was going to sleep that I was missing something), I want to make sure to say that our stories are still important, it’s just that we cannot get exclusively caught up in the details. We need to mine our own stories for deeper truths, for the real threads that create the tapestries of consciousness.

Also, I also understand that though I borrowed the concept of “attachment” from Buddhism, it has very little to do with that tradition – I think it is more spun by a 21st century Western spiritual seeker ethic (oh, wait, that’s me) than anything else.

Open to Change, Receptive to Healing

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What if it’s true? What if, truly, “we are the ones we have been waiting for“?

I have always loved this phrase. First I heard it on the lips of women who inspired me. Then I found June Jordan who first strung those words together in her powerful, earth-shifting poem. Alice Walker gave us a book that borrowed the line for its title. And then of course there was Barack Obama who turned the phrase into a something more than a campaign slogan and made it mean something national and something real.

The election results are a month old now, but all that shiny hope cannot have worn away yet, right? The inauguration is still ages away, so I am sure that we are all just marinating in possibility. Aren’t we?

I ask that question because there is a sneaky little part of me worries that complacency will creep in. And perhaps it already has in some ways. The economy is still sliding downward. Cabinet picks are less sexy than frenzied chants of “Yes we can!” Christmas is coming and there are too many thing to get done in the next three weeks to even remember all that election night champagne

This was not intended to be a post about post-election let down, nor am I trying to let a big old cynical moon eclipse our gorgeous new sun. Our lightning-fast news cycle would have us believe that such musings are so three weeks ago anyway.

I am actually thinking about the changes that I am seeing take root in my own life and in the lives of the people around me. These changes have nothing to do with the political and have everything to do with the personal. Of course, we know that eventually, those two spheres almost always start to blend together

Though I have been practicing Reiki for eight years, I have begun to dedicate myself to the path of a healer in the last year since I have been enrolled in a Healing Arts School. The beautiful sense of wisdom that finally takes root when we find we’re closer to the middle of our lives than to the beginning, combined with what I have learned in my classes, has totally shifted my perspective on the world. I know its been a long process, but suddenly I realize I am able to articulate my interest in alternative health and offer what abilities I have in service to others.

This evolution in the way I can be honest about my belief in our power to heal ourselves and the possibility of finding true wellness outside the strict confines of typical Western medicine has been downright infectious. Trusting in the intuitive power of my hands and others’ desire to heal, I have been able to offer my warm touch to people who never would have been receptive to such “out there,” “new age” ideas. I think this is successful both because I take a quiet approach, casually introducing what I do and what I believe and then allowing people to open up to me in any way they can and because I have new confidence in what I do.

People’s new sense of receptivity has very little to do with me, however. I am just lucky enough to have had the chance to observe it. Something within the individual is shifting. There is the recognition that the road we have all been careening along together is doing us more harm than good and that we need to find a new way.

If we are the change that we have been waiting for, we have to realize that change is here, now. Despite all the chaos in this world, people are finding the ability to open themselves up to new experiences and new wisdom.

How can we access and live this change ourselves and how can be the midwives of change for others?

Softness and Strength, In the Soul and On the Job

Hanging up the phone, I stretched and sighed and immediately got up to fill the office teapot. I had to get back into my body and find peace in my rapidly beating heart. It had been a success – I had just convinced a vendor whose faulty service had disturbed the smooth flow of a conference I had organized to cut our bill in half. Mixing firmness with resignation, verbal gymnastics with pregnant pauses, I had gotten my way and saved some of the grant money that I badly needed to apply to other causes.

This is one of the things I am good at – making the person on the other end of the phone realize that he is dealing with a redhead who knows what she wants and what her organization needs and refuses be denied. It is a valuable skill in my professional life and was essential when we bought our house, but sometimes I wonder if it is a liability as I search for a deeper connection with my soul.

Swagger and confidence are treasured commodities in so much of the world, and I know that I have cultivated more than my share. These qualities have been a fine shield that have insulated me from that dreaded vulnerability. Thing is, such a shield blocks a lot more than just a few guys who seek to swindle a poor defenseless maiden. Walking around with an acquired tough girl attitude has made too many people believe in my callousness and irreverence. It is awfully hard to convince someone that you are a healer interested in affairs of the spirit when you just threatened (oh-so-hollowly) to make somebody come to the library to fix the leaking pipes.

At the same time, there are rings in this steely suit of chain mail that have their own spiritual purposes. Schools of thought in the world of energy healing differ about whether or not the healer can take on her client’s negative energy, but regardless, it is necessary to establish boundaries between practitioner and recipient. I know that I have an ability to say “no, I am sorry, but that is not acceptable” when I am staring down a contractor, and I can do the same if something comes up when I have someone on my table.

In the same vein, it requires a great deal of strength to be the firm hand that guides people through the places within that scare them. A healer encounters a great deal of resistance when she tries to help someone break their deepest patterns.  Even as she listens to the needs of the client, she must have the confidence to take a stand in the battle against a person’s well constructed – but essentially harmful – defenses.

I fear the extremes – weakness on one side, stridency on the other. If I become a completely spiritual being, will I lose that edge that can be so useful in the world? If I indulge the parts of me that dare someone to mess with me, am I making this endeavor for wisdom nothing more than empty rhetoric?

There has to be a way to marry these aspects of myself, to cultivate supple strength and mighty tenderness. It is a vital sort of balance, one that permits me to revel in my humanity and yet still linger with the Divine. Dancing, always dancing, with these seemingly opposite drives…