Enabling the Acorn to Flourish (Part 8)

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Regardless of how old you are, you still have the opportunity to live your calling. Age is no excuse. Neither is aptitude, or the lack of it, for this is to be developed on the journey. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t want to start something unless they are already good at it. A nonsensical view that is often adopted to mask a deep seated fear of failure, it goes against the established process of mastery which recognises that incompetent doing must always precede masterful being.

Humility is such a key virtue to embody here, for without it we cannot grow to become masters in the domain of our calling. Wherever we are on the path of life, we must remember that we are students who have more to learn each day. Learning about that which we love is immensely enjoyable. An investment of our time, energy and very being, the rewards that we receive from this engaged exploration are so much greater than just the learning alone.

Involving the heart in the process, the love that we have for what we do, teaches us about the love that we are. Opening us up to the unexplored parts of ourselves, wisdom is allowed to flourish as one with knowledge. Harmonized in this growth process, the mind and spirit add strength to each other with the effect that our learning is integrated into our life. While we may think that this happens automatically, evidence proves that our learning is nowhere near as strong when we have no passion for the subject matter of that learning.

If I were to ask you here what you remember about trigonometry at school, you would probably go blank, unless of course you have a passion for mathematics. Having love for the subject matter of our calling increases its stickiness, to use marketing language. Resonating with who we are at the deep spiritual level, we take more in with an enhanced capacity, just as a hungry person is likely to do when presented with a bowl of food that they love. While having an insatiable appetite for food may get us into trouble with our health goals, having an insatiable appetite for learning about that which we love, will pave the way for continuous improvement, while exponentially increasing our level of fulfilment.

Digressing from this point, it has always amazed me how when we get on the vocational path, and allow inspiration to speak to us, forces beyond our conscious control come to assist us in our mission. Frequently, when I engage in the process of writing, what emerges in form is so much greater than my mind’s ability to hold. Knowing what I want to say and a bit about how to express it, I feel a force more powerful than my limited conception of self, assisting with the process. Being the spirit within that has given me the ability to write, it continually nudges me forward in my destined unfolding, while supplementing my knowledge with its innate wisdom.

Trying to explain this synchronicity, it mightn’t make much sense to you, unless you have experienced it yourself. Doubting initially my own perspective on this experience of flow, I have since had it validated by many other people who have reported similar experiences when engaged in tasks or activities that they profoundly loved to do. The basketball great Larry Bird once said that often when he had the ball in a game, he intuitively knew the best play to make in the circumstances. But how did he know? Because in those moments of play, he was fully present in what he loved to do and had an incredible talent for. Allowing his inner spiritual guide to speak to him in these moments about the rhythm of the game, Bird was able to perform at a higher level than his contemporaries, who were more focused on imposing their own personal will on the game.

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Enabling the Acorn to Flourish (Part 7)

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Many of us are not curious enough, or willing to challenge the status quo, in this respect. Taught by society to accept our lot without complaint, I detect a passive reluctance to question whether the lives that we lead are the ones that we really want. Fearing the honest answer to this question, it is easier to deny the thoughts and feelings that we have about doing what we love. While this may bring us solemn comfort in the moment, our soul will suffer with the passing of time by not being able to freely express itself in service.

To be liberated spiritually and vocationally, we must listen for the clues that are communicated by our emotions. While the mind can and often does lie, our heart is honest in how it moves us emotionally. Free to express the feeling of love, this will naturally arise when we are performing those tasks or activities that are aligned with our spiritual intention to serve and create as only we can. Signalling to the mind that we are at one with our purpose, we do not have to indulge the ego identity and its fear inducing messages.

The ego mind, desiring the absence of purpose and integrity in our life, will often contaminate the thoughts that we have about doing that which we love. Using negative and disempowering words to break the bond that we have with the spirit of love, we will be tempted to believe in the impossibility of living our calling to a ‘successful’ level, or of being fulfilled by taking that journey. Listening to this cynical voice in our head, we allow fear and doubt to permeate the substance of the questions that we ask, and the statements that we make. Take for example the following:

‘What will my family and friends think of me doing this? They will probably think I am crazy and ridicule me.’

‘Moving in that new direction will be too challenging, and I doubt that I will ever succeed. I am better off sticking to what I already know how to do. Who cares if I don’t have any passion for it? I am competent at it and that will get me by.’

‘I need the money right now so I can’t pursue my passion. When I have enough money, then I will think about it.’

I think that most of us have said something similar to these statements at one point or another in our life. Staring at a fork in the road, the ego mind creates obstacles and perceived dangers, while the heart relishes the opportunity to take a new direction and flourish. Feeling our body come alive with excitement and positive expectation at the prospect of living our calling, we allow the ego mind to crash the party by interpreting these inspired responses in a negative way. Conditioned to be suspicious of that which is unfamiliar and untested, we choose not to risk what we have for fear of losing it, and being left without.

The flaw with this reasoning is based in the belief that what we now have is better than what we could have if we lived a life that gave a voice to our vocation. The ego mind is enamoured with those things that bring it comfort and security, despite those things not being conducive to our flourishing. Clinging to that which is trifling in its substance prevents anything that is more meaningful from coming into our lives. This is why we must take a step back to contemplate whether the ‘treasure’ that we have is really treasure at all. Dressed up that way by the ego, it more likely to resemble fool’s gold, when subjected to the pure light of spirit.

What we have already accumulated on our travels along a false path, has a shorter lifespan than those things that we can purchase with spiritual currency. With the spirit as the source of life, its abundance is latent in all that which is born of love. Taking the path that allows us to express our vocational gifts, what we give and receive in union with spirit is infinitely more valuable than what the ego would have us cling to for the purpose of preserving our worldly identity. While the physical world and the people in it may be fooled by our act, the universe is not. Knowing and embracing who we essentially are, its intention is that the world come to know and embrace us in this totality. This is why it is imperative that we stop hiding from ourselves and start living authentically.

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Enabling the Acorn to Flourish (Part 4)

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Having the love for what we do, we will have to trust that one thing will lead to another. Being faithful to that which we know to be aligned with the intention of our heart, we will find the courage to follow the path, even if we do not know exactly where it will lead. What holds a lot of people back from following their passion is the need to know the port of destination before they commence the voyage. Fearing the unknown or wanting a promised return on the investment of their time and energy, these individuals resist the spiritual essence of the journey that thrives on faith, and the majesty that flows from the mystery of how the path will unfold. Like a great movie, the most enthralling journey has its unforeseen twists and turns that add richness and depth to the scenes of our experience. With this I ask you, ‘how extraordinary can a journey really be, if we know beforehand how it will unfold?’

The journey of connecting with our vocation, is one with the journey of discovering the spiritual self. The more clarity that we get on who we are at the core level of being, the greater is our power to serve authentically in the world. What has progressed the world forward is the conscious application of our unique gifts and abilities that was not motivated by the ego’s desire for gain and recognition. For me, this is a key component which separates a career from a calling. We pursue a career to make something of and for ourselves. We live a calling in order to reconcile the fullness of who we are with the longings of the world.

With a career, we might strive to arrive at a place of fulfilment, only to find ourselves empty and burdened by the weight of inner tension. Strained by the wedge that we have allowed to be driven between our purpose and the means of its accomplishment, our spirit is numbed to the point where we come to believe that this type of mediocre existence is the best to be hoped for. Many of us have had the experience of working in establishments where the work to be performed did not evoke the gifts of our heart, along with the talents of our mind. Meaning very little to us, there was no joy or authentic expression to be found in that work, but only a meagre pay-check that in its accumulation and expenditure failed to deliver anything of lasting substance.

While many people would have been willing to settle for this life once upon a time, a shift is presently being effected in society that is seeing a growing number of individuals leave their career to live their calling. Craving purpose and meaning to their existence, these courageous travellers are forgoing higher compensation and an assortment of other perks in some instances, for the experience of doing on a daily basis what they love and value most in life.

Not too long ago, I was watching the grand finale of Masterchef Australia. This show, which pits a number of amateur chefs against each other for the opportunity to realise their culinary dream, has played its part in bringing many people in touch with the love that they have for cooking. For those who appeared on the show, they were inspired and driven to do what they were previously afraid to attempt. Such is the power of having a purpose that allows us to express our fullness in being.

What was interesting to me as I watched the show was observing how many of the contestants described the life that they led before deciding to follow their passion. Stuck in jobs that stifled their spiritual freedom and precluded their joy from arising, the absence of meaning and engagement could be felt through the television screen. Coming alive when they were asked what cooking means to them, they almost become different people with their tone, body language and facial expressions aligning to convey the sense of integrity that they had found on that journey.

Who we are at the spiritual level must match what we do at the physical level of being. Without finding this fit, we cannot truly know what it means to be joy-filled. The greater the disparity between who we are and what we do, the harder we must search for happiness and fulfilment. When we are doing what we love in the moment that is now, we can be said to have arrived. Not having any other place to go to express the fullness of who we are, this love naturally arises to infuse our work, like a sweet fragrance imbues the skin with a fresh and rejuvenating essence.

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Enabling the Acorn to Flourish (Part 1)

The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream. The oak sleeps in the acorn, the bird waits in the egg, and in the highest vision of the soul, a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities ~ James Allen.

An acorn is truly an amazing component of nature. The seed that an oak tree starts out as, it carries in it such power and potentiality for realisation. Fitting comfortably in the palm of a human hand, it takes on a life of its own when planted, and in time sprouts to a size that is much greater than the person who once held it. Growing into the world through this process, the form that the oak takes above the surface is beautiful and awe-inspiring.

I mention the acorn here because very recently I was reviewing one of my favourite books, The Soul’s Code by James Hillman, in which he explores the metaphor of the acorn. Mythologically, the acorn represents the seed of our vocation that was planted in us before we entered the physical world. Holding our highest potentiality and the gifts that will facilitate our self-actualisation, it is both our task, and the responsibility of the world, to honour and nurture these seeds (in ourselves and in others). As we do this by participating in the collective dance of evolution, we enable each other to flourish as oaks do, and stand out in the landscape of life to indicate something that is profound and meaningful.

While it often appears that the world is not complicit in our efforts to actualise the best version of ourselves, we cannot abdicate our responsibility to give a voice to our calling. The Latin interpretation of the word ‘vocation’ is vocare, that when translated means ‘voice’. Extensions of the divine creator that many call God, we have within us this same source of being, that is continually prompting us to fulfil our function/s and manifest the qualities of spirit in everything that we do. With these qualities of love, creativity and authenticity (among others) representing our highest potential, they are what we are called to express through our thoughts, words and actions, at home, in the workplace and in the other spheres of our lives.

I think that when most people hear the word ‘vocation’, their mind turns to the formalities of religion, where priests and nuns are held up to be favoured by God because of the devoted service that they are rendering to the church. A mistakenly narrow perception, it doesn’t accord with the spiritual wisdom which teaches that we all have a purpose/s in our hearts that we have been given life to relate with and fulfil. Even Martin Luther and John Calvin, in challenging the edicts of the church, came to the conclusion that a vocation is so expansive in its substance that it cannot be reserved for members of the church, or any other religious instrumentality.

Finding its foundation within us, a vocation is something that is inescapable. What this means is that we cannot not have one, even if in our unconsciousness we may think that we have been created without it. Many people believe that they don’t have a vocation, simply because they haven’t found it yet. What they don’t understand however is that just because they can’t see something doesn’t mean that it is not there. In these cases that I have encountered personally and through my research work, I have identified a variety of fears and other barriers that in one way or another prevents these individuals from looking deeply into themselves and discovering what their vocation is.

Thinking that this revelation should present itself at their whim, they are naive in their expectations because that which delivers the richest rewards, must be given to and worked hard for. When I say worked hard for, I am not referring to frenetic activity in the outside world, but rather the process of engaging in spiritual exploration, and the price that it asks us to pay for internal freedom and clarity.

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The Role of Anger in Vocational Fulfilment

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When we think of anger as an emotion, the connotations are overwhelmingly negative. Daily in the news, we come across stories where this emotion has been expressed to cause various forms of destruction to others. Incidents of road rage, domestic violence, terrorism, and extreme acts on the sporting field are cases in point. Growing up, we may have been taught that anger is a bad thing to feel, and because it may cause problems or lead to confrontations with others, we should suppress it to smooth our path in the world. The problem with this approach however is that bottling this anger doesn’t make it go away. It merely increases the pressure and intensity of the emotion, which makes the prospect of an explosive outburst (leading to the types of behaviour detailed above) all the more likely. Like the metaphorical spring coil, the more energy that one expends pushing down on it, the greater the counterforce will be upon its release.

As an emotion, anger already has a lot of power to it, so we need not suppress it in a way that harms ourselves and others. If we possess the desire and self-awareness to look at the things in our lives that stir up anger, we have an opportunity to harness that energy and use it for positive purposes. In vocational terms, I have observed two ways that anger can be utilised to propel us forward in the fulfilment of our calling.

Firstly, anger can have a powerful motivating effect on our desire to get things which matter to us done. In the workplace, we may encounter a leader or manager who doesn’t believe in us to the extent that we believe in ourselves, or we may experience a failure with a project that we didn’t see coming, despite our best preparations. Instead of feeling intimidated or discouraged by these obstacles, the experience of them, and the anger that we feel as a result, serves to stoke our internal fire and strengthen our conviction that we will prevail. I see this also in the aftermath of tragedies, when the parents of a child who has been killed by a drunk driver or a violent attack, channel their rage and pain towards the eradication of the circumstances that took their loved one away. Determined not to let the intensively negative feelings associated with these events eat at them and destroy their lives, these parents choose the inspiring path of going into their desolation, and transmuting it so that conditions can be improved for others.

The other way that anger can serve us vocationally is when we allow it to teach us valuable lessons about who we are and what we value, and in this process we can gain greater clarity around where our station in life may be. Here, it is important to realise that not all people come to their vocation through love. Some come to it through identifying the place where their talents and interest intersect with the needs of the world. If we are willing to look out into the world with openness and honesty, we will encounter a range of problems that are crying out to be solved. Whilst not all of these needs will resonate with us at the deepest level, there may be one or more that really strike a chord with our spirit, and sensing an alignment with our natural gifting, we instinctively move in the direction of meeting that need in a particular context.

I was recently talking to a woman who entered the law, with a view to becoming a human rights lawyer, because she could not stand some of the injustices that she had directly experienced in her community. Her motivation in that movement was primarily based in the violation of the value of justice that she held so dear. I know myself that one of the strongest drivers that I have to promote the practice of conscious leadership is the agitation that I experience when I see examples of poor or ego-based leadership. The need to have more conscious leadership is one that aligns with my interest and aptitude. The fact that I also love learning about leadership and look forward to growing on that journey, only strengthens the sense of vocation that I feel towards it.

Anger is like fire, which can keep you warm or burn your house down. Holding these two contrasting potentialities, so do each of us, in our ability to choose how we will experience anger and what the impact of that will be. Endowed with the ability to channel our anger constructively, we should make the most of the opportunity, particularly in vocational terms. Exhibiting our consciousness by choosing the path which leads to greater peace and well-being, a welcome side-effect will be the diminishment of many of the things that aroused our anger in the first place.

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