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.

On Savoring Life … and guilt

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Today I was watching Eat Pray Love, the movie, with my mom (it’s the 10th anniversary of the book) and there’s a part where the main character is feeling guilty about having spent three weeks in Italy basically just eating.

She’s with her Italian friend, Luca Spaghetti (his real name) and then this dialogue followed:

Luca Spaghetti: You feel guilty because you’re American. You don’t know how to enjoy yourself!
Liz Gilbert: [looking a bit taken aback] I beg your pardon?
Luca Spaghetti: It’s true. Americans know entertainment, but they don’t know pleasure. ”

And I was thinking: to know pleasure. To savor. To suck the juice out of every moment. That’s my aspiration and my daily practice.

 

Poem by by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

That rock that we
have been pushing up
the hill—that one

that keeps rolling back down
and we keep pushing
back up—what if

we stopped? We are not
Sisyphus. This rock
is not a punishment.

It’s something we’ve chosen
to push. Who knows why.
I look at all the names

we once carved into
its sedimentary sides.
How important

I thought they were,
those names. How
I’ve clung to labels,

who’s right, who’s wrong,
how I’ve cared about
who’s pushed harder

and who’s been slack.
Now all I want
is to let the rock

roll back to where it belongs,
which is wherever it lands,
and you and I could,

imagine!, walk unencumbered,
all the way to the top and
walk and walk and never stop

except to discover what
our hands might do
if for once they were no longer

pushing.

“Perhaps It Would Eventually Erode, But … ” by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer.

Messenger by Mary Oliver

Messenger
by Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

Enlightenment is Intimacy with All Things

This morning, at the park, I was having a moment with this flower—being completely absorbed by its fuzzy bottom, the soft pinky flesh of its petals, the rain droplets capturing the light—and it was then I remembered this quote from Zen Master Dogen: “To be enlightened is to be intimate with all things.”

 

Intimacy. I adore that word (even though our view of it is so narrow).  Intimacy actually means a close familiarity or friendship. It comes from the Latin intima, signifying “the deepest, most internal part of something.”

 

Intimacy requires we pay attention, being present enough to experience being one with the object of our attention. And don’t we all want that? To see and be seen that way? To connect to that degree?

 

I spent most of my life not paying attention, and it’s only been a handful of years since, with the help of mindfulness and photography, I began to observe closely life around me, and experience what comes from that practice: the ecstasy of feeling at one with all things. This is what ONENESS means.

 

Yet, I don’t do it enough, and I’m pondering today: what keeps me from not being more intimate? With the air I breathe and the soil under my feet, with my thoughts and emotions, with everything and everyone around me?