Big sigh of relief. It’s not just me. I’m not the only crazy person out here looking for her “right work” while not looking at job postings. In fact, I might not be crazy at all. I might be… hold onto your hats, folks… I just might be part of the leading edge. The vanguard, if you will. (Picked up that word learning about Lenin in History 10 my freshman year at UC Davis. Also picked up the word “paradigm” that year. Big year for my vocabulary.)
I’ve already written about my recent obsession with the inspirational writing of Danielle LaPorte. Any day now, she’s going to get me to get on Twitter. No, scratch that, I’m going to get me on Twitter. It’s all about self-empowerment, isn’t it girlfriends? And yes, I mean you. Girlfriend.
As part of my self-assigned coaching “homework,” I committed to spending a half-hour each day this week looking to the web for inspiration. It’s so easy to find, just by starting with one site like Danielle’s White Hot Truth. (There, that’s two references to a woman I’ve never met, but who just got a self-conscious Facebook friend request from me… what can I say, I’m hooked on her message, her vibe. Just from a blog. Who knew I was so easy.)
Tonight, with an unexpected bit of quiet time on my hands, I clicked on a page I’d bookmarked quickly a few weeks ago when I didn’t have time to read it, to see if I might find me a little inspiration. Turns out, after reading it, I see that I am not alone on this journey of mine to connect spirit with my work. Take a look at the article that made me start writing this and you’ll see why.
I actually took a workshop with Rick Jarow, who’s featured in the article, the summer between my first and second year of business school at UC Berkeley. We were at Breitenbush Hot Springs in the middle of the Cascade Mountains, about three hours southeast of Portland, Oregon, in a workshop called, “The Anti-Career Workshop: Finding the Work You Love.” Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised to be the only MBA student in the group of 15 misguided souls.
Perhaps I also shouldn’t have been surprised that I came away from that five-day retreat without realizing any earth-shattering breakthroughs as far as my career was concerned. I mean, look, I was halfway through a two-year graduate program, and though I had no idea – and I mean NO idea – what I wanted to do when I graduated the following May, I had baggage to contend with. I’m not talking about the the kind with wheels that fits in an overhead compartment (in case you were thinking of getting that for me as an early Chanukah present, I’d like it in red, please, to match the one I already have and love). No, I’m talking about the baggage of a somewhat checkered past having something to do with dropping out of a particularly prestigious institution of higher learning with ivy on its walls about 15 years earlier. Still feeling the weight of that decision, even if on a subconscious level (which it mostly wasn’t), I wasn’t really prepared to seriously consider changing my whole world view at that particular moment. Not again. Not just quite yet. All I knew was I was looking for some direction, I wanted it to come from a spiritual place, and this workshop sounded like exactly what I was looking for.
Don’t get me wrong, I definitely got a lot out of my time at Breitenbush. For one thing, Rick introduced me to Krishna Das. I’m not sure if it was every morning of the workshop, or if it just felt that way, but one of my strongest and happiest memories of my time there was starting each morning’s program in our little yurt (or shelter or whatever it was called), greeting the day by listening and swaying to Krishna Das chanting the beautiful, melodic and ever-so-moving “Baba Hanuman.” To this day, I have to say that outside of being woken up by someone beautiful lying next to me in bed, I’ve never found a happier way to start my day than by listening to this song.
My other happy memories of Breitenbush Hot Springs are, um, the hot springs. And the wooden sauna that was built over a hot spring with water rumoured to be laced with lithium. (That was a very happy memory.) And the amazing fresh organic food. And the drive there from Portland. And the drive back to Oakland by way of the Oregon coast and the Pacific Coast Highway. But I digress.
Jarow’s workshop was structured around working through the seven chakras, from bottom to top (or whatever the terminology is… with all due respect, I’ve never really paid much attention to the details of this kind of stuff, though I totally think it’s for real). I felt okay about whatever we did with the first chakra. Cleared that. Check. But when it came to the second chakra, which I was reminded reading this article has to do with self-esteem, I froze.
We were asked to draw a picture of the “monster in the closet,” our worst “sabateur” as my current coach would call it, and then destroy the picture. I sat there and looked at the paper. And looked at it some more. Come on, I thought, I know you’re in there. I had no doubt that there was something quite hideous and terrible and shameful inside of me that was getting in the way of my finding my “right work.” I’d come all this way to complete my “hero’s journey,” the one I’d started the day I graduated from university seventeen years earlier, maybe even before then. Hadn’t I put in my time? Hadn’t I gone on a two-day solo vision quest with no food? That I did. Hadn’t I consulted with the requisite number of psychics and tarot card readers? Of course. Hadn’t I walked through fire? Um, no. Maybe that was the problem. In any case, as that blank piece of paper stared back at me defiantly, I could see that this wasn’t the end of my road.
As it turned out, the rest of the workshop was problematic for me from that point on, since I had “skipped” the second stage, and the rest of the work was built on that. So I went along as best I could, and shared what I could muster in what seemed to be a form of incredibly intimate group therapy for total strangers who would never see each other again after those five days. As mentioned above, the remaining memories of my time at Breitenbush had nothing to do with the workshop and everything to do with the setting, which was, in a word, spectacular. I fully intend to return one day.
Fast forward eight years and one month, to this moment. You’ve heard me say it before, and I’ll say it again. The time has come. I have done (and continue to do) the work I’ve needed to in order to call out those fears and to face them head on. I have loved and been loved, which means I have been vulnerable. And to paraphrase J. Ruth Gendler from her incredibly beautiful work, The Book of Qualities, when you are most vulnerable, you cannot be hurt. I am more open than I have ever been to the life force inside of me that connects me to the life force in all living things. I call this my spirit.
And so I continue on this long and windy spiritual job search. Only now, it feels like I have actually begun the part of the journey where the hero turns and heads for her home. I’m not there yet, but I’m on my way. Thanks for coming with me on this part of the journey.
Oh, and one more thing – as I write this, I am sending special blessings to my beautiful friends in Sedona, Arizona, who welcomed me there with open arms when I arrived two years after my Breitenbush experience, at a time when I really needed to jump start my spiritual journey. I will always be grateful for their guidance in helping me reconnect with my spirit.