On Embodying Our Calling

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My favorite poet/teacher these days is Mark Nepo. No one helps me live more mindfully and deliciously than he does.

Today I feel I MUST share here this passage with you from The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have.

It speaks to me so beautifully about what is like to embody our calling. I’ve been contemplating the concept of embodiment for a few weeks now, but this is the first time I’ve seen it attached to callings.

What is calling to you? What do you feel called to do, to be, to experience? Often, we don’t hear any calls, but from experience I know that the calling is always there and it’s only through slowing down and turning down the volume of a busy life, that we can hear that voice calling to us.

May we make listening to that voice a priority.

Here’s the excerpt.

“To know God without being God-like is like trying to swim without entering water.” -Orest Bedrij

Underneath all we are taught, there is a voice that calls to us beyond what is reasonable, and in listening to that flicker of spirit, we often find deep healing. This is the voice of embodiment calling us to live our lives like sheet music played, and it often speaks to us briefly in moments of deep crisis. Sometimes it is so faint we mistake its whisper for wind through leaves. But taking it into the heart of our pain, it can often open the paralysis of our lives.

This brings to mind the story of a young divinity student who was stricken with polio, and from somewhere deep within him came an unlikely voice calling him to, of all things, dance. So, with great difficulty, he quit divinity school and began to dance, and slowly and miraculously, he not only regained the use of his legs, but went on to become one of the fathers of modern dance.

This is the story of Ted Shawn, and it is compelling for us to realize that studying God did not heal him. Embodying God did. The fact of Ted Shawn’s miracle shows us that Dance, in all its forms, is Theology lived. This leads us all to the inescapable act of living out what is kept in, of daring to breathe in muscle and bone what we know and feel and believe – again and again.

Whatever crisis we face, there is this voice of embodiment that speaks beneath our pain ever so quickly, and if we can hear it and believe it, it will show us a way to be reborn. The courage to hear and embody opens us to a startling secret, that the best chance to be whole is to love whatever gets in the way, until it ceases to be an obstacle.

Mark Nepo

When You Hate Your Job | How To Live Your Bliss

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Last week, someone sent me this email, and I thought I would share my response here, since it’s a question I get often. I hope it’s useful for you as well.

QUESTION:Mariela – you are someone who usually gives me good spiritual advice …. What do you do when a job/career brings you down & makes you feel like you can’t accomplish anything? I want to just quit but I have to support myself some way…. I have an idea to start my own business but then doubt creeps in … Any advice? I know you’ve mastered this many times.

ANSWER: Hello lovely! Sorry that took me a little bit to reply. I wanted to have time to sit and reply to your note with the level of attention it requires

First, know you are not alone on this. So many of us feel or have felt this way. I remember reading on Forbes in 2014 that more than have of all Americans are unhappy at work. There’s an epidemic in this society. Most of us feel this enormous emptiness inside, from doing unfulfilling work.

I adore this quote: “There is only one way in this world to achieve true happiness,” said William J. Reilly in 1949, “and that is to express yourself with all your skill and enthusiasm in a career that appeals to you more than any other. In such a career, you feel a sense of purpose, a sense of achievement. You feel you are making a contribution. It is not work.”

I think you need to create an exit strategy and stick to it, because you love yourself too much to stay in an environment that is bringing you down.

SHORT TERM: 1. As a short-term fix, I would do an exercise called: “The Positive Aspects Of.” During the day at work, focus only on the positive aspects of being there. Example: the paycheck, the nice desk, that one really lovely co-worker, the view from the window, the fast computer, the cold water in the cooler, etc… When I’m in situations or places that bring me down, I have trained my mind to become hyper-focused on the positive; I go out of my way to find the good, the beautiful, the useful… Or I think about someone I love, and I allow that love to spread through my body and bring a smile to my face. I can be stubborn that way, only focusing on the positive; it’s the best kind of stubbornness, IMO. smile emoticon But it takes practice.

2. The importance of self-care is something I’ve learned the hard way. I used to laugh at people who talked about it. “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” I literally didn’t have time, but I was forced to make time. And I have to admit, I also felt uncomfortably guilty about practicing self-care, and I’ve seen so many women feel the same. But the truth is, when we don’t practice self-care (which I describe as nourishing yourself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually) we have a harder time dealing with work situations and people, our minds aren’t clear on what steps to take next, and we don’t have the strength to leave.

Just putting these two strategies in place have worked wonders for people in my circle… and for myself too.

LONG TERM:

3. At some point soon, I think you should find another job. I’m not talking about a permanent job; just one that pays the bills temporarily but is not soul-sucking. I’ve seen many people do that (although they had to make sacrifices, cutting down on expenses) but with a less-stressful job you’ll have more energy to dedicate to the long-term strategy of doing work you absolutely love, work that is authentic to you, fulfilling to your soul, and helpful to the world. Some of us get caught up with the ego saying things like: “that kind of work is below yourself, your skills…” “What would people say?” “You didn’t get a master’s degree for you to work at a flower shop.” When that happens, we must remind the ego that this is temporary, that we have a strategy in place for the life we want to create for ourselves. Following through with a dream is one of the most empowering things ever. You feel you can do anything after that, and according to, again, William J. Reilly “Life really begins when you have discovered that you can do anything you want.”

4. For going solo, I recommend, again, becoming single-focused on knowing yourself and your skills. Who am I? What do I adore to do? What does the world need from me? It takes time to answer these questions. I took me a long time (years) to figure it out, but, of course, it’s so worth the inquiry, and I still have half of my life ahead to do that work.

I really found the concept of Ikigai (attached here) very helpful. I would print it, spend some time playing with it, and put it on a wall where I could see it every day. It’s fun!

5. This last advice can seem less practical, but it’s my favorite, because it’s effortless. Several people have said the same in different ways, but I love how Tom Kenyon puts it: “following your deepest sense of joy will lead you to be in the places where you will most likely survive.” I believe that my joy will always guide me, even if the path ahead is dark. I believe that by nurturing myself and my dreams, doing what bring me joy daily, is the path that will lead me to fulfillment. It’s easy. It’s fun. It’s healing. It’s the way!

I hope this is helpful to you. I’m sending you a hug. There’s nothing worse than spending 8 hours a day (40 or more a week) doing work you don’t love. Patience, courage and determination are needed now.

I’ll never forget the day I “woke up” and decided that something had to change. I continue to wake up to different areas that need change, and I give myself a strategy and time-line now, working daily toward that dream.

Much much love to you. Hope to see you at church one of these Sundays.

I Used to Hate Mornings

I used to hate mornings.

 

I would drink a lot at night and then in the morning I would have to deal with the hangover.

 

And face the guilt, the feeling of being used as a dish rag by the unworthy guy from the previous night. And the sinus headaches from smoking several packs of cigarettes.

 

I would spend nights in a puddle of sweat, awake, battling monsters, or, when I eventually fell asleep, having nightmares .

 

Then I would wake up to the nightmare of my real life.

 

What was the point of a new morning?

 

So often I felt I couldn’t handle another day; I just didn’t have the energy.

 

The truth is, I’m still not a morning person.

 

But now

Mornings = Beauty.

 

So many new possibilities to love, to be loved, to create, to feel, to connect…

 

This is my prayer: may we find the courage to do the work, the emotional/spiritual work, to be able to welcome the blessings of a new day.

[photo: the first sunny morning in North Carolina, after 10 days of rain.]

Passion is a State of Love, and Hunger

I’ve always considered myself a passionate person (not just in a romantic way; more passionate about life than anything), and here in the U.S. my passion was not always accepted, especially around intellectuals. So, I used to be reluctant to show that part of me, or even use the word because of the criticism. A “friend” once even told me he thought that passion was “tacky.”

Sigh.

Anyhow, I just adore this definition of the word because it’s precisely how I try to live these days: with the right balance of love for life and a good appetite for it as well.

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On Being Multi-Passionate

Many of you know my story, about how a few years ago I left behind a look-good-on-paper financially-stable professional career to Live my Bliss, to follow my passion… Except that I didn’t know what EXACTLY my bliss was… It wasn’t that I didn’t have any passions; I had too many.

I felt I needed to make a decision moving forward. “Should I be a writer? A photographer? A film-maker? An artist?  A public speaker? A facilitator of women’s workshops?”

I think I lost part of my hair trying to answer those questions. It was impossible for me to pick JUST ONE profession, but somehow I felt I HAD TO!

And then one day, OhMyGoddess, one day I had this clarity… No, this clarity had ME. I didn’t have to choose. There isn’t a career police, a law, that says I’m supposed to have ONE profession, that states you are only supposed to help others in this ONE way, and that you have to be that one thing ALL your life.

That was, perhaps, the most liberating day of.my.life! That struggle. Gone! Boom baby! I can be whatever I want. I can let my spirit guide me to make a contribution to the world, to make beauty, in whichever way it chooses.

That’s what living on your terms means. And it feels fabulous! 🙂

Since then, I’ve found lots of research to back my case, especially from happiness and creativity researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who found after studying thousands and thousands of creative people, that they are often multi-talented, multi-passionate.

He wrote: “If there is one word that makes creative people different from others, it is the word complexity. Instead of being an individual, they are a multitude.”

I love that! A multitude. Reminds me of Whitman.

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” – Walt Whitman

I also love this quote from Emma Watson on the subject:

 

 “I want to be a Renaissance woman. I want to paint, and I want to write, and I want to act, and I want to just do everything.” Emma Watson

 

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I think we should all have the freedom to be a renaissance kind of person.

Recently I found this video on the subject, and I was like: “Damn! I wish I had found this earlier.” It would have saved me a lot of headache. So here it is. Enjoy!

Happiness VS Joy

When I was a child, growing up in Cuba, I often went to bed to the sounds of my mother and stepfather arguing. So I would close my eyes and in my mind, I would search for something to be happy about: an upcoming birthday party or trip, the hope for a new friendship, summer vacation… And it always worked. I would fall asleep happy and serene, thinking of those things. As I grew older, I found myself doing the same but throughout the day. People would say I was such a happy person, but I wonder how much of it was because of that trick, of being in the future, relying upon external events and circumstances to make me happy.

That went on for probably 20-30 years, until one day, in my mid-thirties, I realized that I no longer needed to do that, because what I was experiencing inside, JOY, had nothing to do with external things.

Joy is a deep-rooted feeling that rarely goes away.

I’m not saying that the trick is wrong. Goodness, it served me so well for so long. It saved me from the terrible life I had growing up, and from being depressed about it, or held back by it.

Happiness and Joy are both fundamental to the human experience. But it is important to realize the differences between the two because…

Joy will carry you through anything.

I’ve been in the midst of panic attacks, breakups, clouded confusion… but I still have been able to feel the undercurrent of joy through my veins.

Here’s how I experience the two, how I see HAPPINESS VS JOY:

  • Happiness is an external expression of elation, often brought by external circumstances.
  • Joy is internal. Joy is similar to contentment; it’s a peaceful, grateful feeling.
  • While there can be moments of Happiness, Joy is long-lasting.
  • Happiness is often linked to achievements, getting something, reaching a goal, participating in something…
  • Joy comes from being at peace with who you are, being deeply connected to others, and feeling at home in the world.

Happiness, Yes! You are Fun! And Delicious! More please!

Joy, I’m so grateful for you. Thank you for your presence. Thank you for warmth. Thank you for sustenance. Thank you for lifting me, constantly.

Speaking of Joy and Happiness, here’s a little trick to bring some happiness to your life, right now. 🙂 IT TOTALLY WORKS!!!!