Following Your Calling

1245 Relax and Succeed - The things you are passionate aboutWhen a dictionary describes a calling they say something along the lines of, “a strong urge toward a particular way of life or career; a vocation.” Despite this definition most people get confused about how to recognise their calling or path because they too-often see it as strictly work-related, which confuses the perception process.

Yes, it’s good if you have a vocation; something you’re particularly well suited to, or something that you enjoy doing. But your calling doesn’t know borders like work and social. Your calling always impacts you because it’s a kind of compulsion.

It’s rarely the kind of thing you can explain to another person using words. It’s too subtle to be hacked up into individual pieces. That said, I’ll do my best to describe how you can find yours, and the value in trusting it.

1245 Relax and Succeed - If you don't follow your heart

When people feel like they have made a bad decision they know it because they tell themselves so in their thoughts, and the amount they do that will impact how much they feel the suffering. But people with a calling don’t ever ask whether something’s enjoyable or perfect or even as-described. They simply do it because there’s no other choice. It’s the same reason people don’t like being called hero after doing something heroic. They know full well that they had no choice–they were called to act. To not act would be more painful than to act.

You can see this in jobs and relationships. Once the pain of the job outweighs the value, the person can leave quite easily. But before that there’s a lot of ego-weighing going on. With a calling there’s no weighing because it’s irrelevant. It’s like telling someone who wants to be an Olympian that it’ll mean working-out all the time. Obstacles have no effect except to invigorate a response.

For the driven athlete it’s still a price, but it’s not a problem because it is a step on a journey they feel called to take. It doesn’t even mean they’ll make the whole journey. They could get the flu during the Olympics and ruin their chance at a medal. But they did not ruin their chance at enjoying life through having followed their calling. The Olympics last two weeks. The preparation often takes more than a decade1245 Relax and Succeed - It is only couragePart of the pain of leaving professional organized sports is that athletes must take on a singular approach to life when previously their dedication lead them to make themselves subservient to the needs of the team. Notice that: they permit their freedom of choice to be taken away in service to their calling. They feel they need to do it as a part of who and what they are.

It’s the same reason a leader feels comfortable making a decision for a hundred thousand employees. If that’s their calling, then they feel comfortable just like the athlete. It does not mean they’ll win the Olympics or an election or keep their CEO job, but they’ll be fully invested when they try. So will the guy who surrendered into his calling to become something that others wouldn’t see value in. It doesn’t have to be notable to be your calling.

Many people think it’s crazy that I’d work so hard to build such a beautiful home only to sacrifice it so that I can care for my parents. People say “put them in a home,” but that’s not what they want and I love them, and so I offered because I felt called to do it. The fact that it isolates me and is often boring, and that it prevents me from working as much as I’d like; in the end none of that personal “pain” matters. The price is irrelevant. I feel called. To not do it I would have to not be me. I always listen to this pull even when others think it’s crazy. That’s freedom.

1245 Relax and Succeed - Some beautiful paths
Path

Don’t ask yourself what the perfect job or person or life for you is. Ask instead what do you want to do even when it’s hard? What would you do if you won the lottery or if you had to squeeze it in between three other jobs?

When you’re looking for your calling you’re not looking for joy or ease or wealth or fun. You’re looking for inspiration, effort and reward. You’re looking for something you’d make sacrifices for. For some that’s trading gridlocked traffic for the freedom of being a courier with no boss hanging over their head. For others it’s surrendering a successful life to care for a loved one. In the end it’s the same thing.

Stop looking for appealing things and start looking for things you’d pay a price for, whether that’s in the realm of a job, relationship or even a hobby. The appealing parts of life are for your ego, but the rewards in our lives don’t come from that basic attraction, the rewards come from the kind of devotion that exacts a price.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

The Mobius Existence

Once you’re really good at knowing how to see through the illusion it’s fairly easy to see when other people still see it. They just say things that don’t make sense. You say to them, what colour is enlightenment and they confidently answer that it is… seven? No? Four!? No?

803 Relax and Succeed - Reality has no inside

When I’m teaching someone there’s this really fun moment about 6-10 hours into the procesas (in a few cases quicker) where they finally answer what colour is enlightenment? with less excitement than their previous guesses. Instead they sound like they just found the keys they were looking for in their own hand when they say something like purple! Which colour it is doesn’t matter to me–that’s up to them. But I know when I hear someone who has pulled back the curtain.

The other day I had a particularly excellent session with very compassionate, sensitive man who is facing the sort of decision which alters the direction of your life quite drastically. We all end up in these situations in life and none of us likes them. But it is possible to have a good attitude about that challenging time.

Like almost everyone, the main barrier I must overcome is this idea of some form of heaven or nirvana or state of enlightenment in which we somehow avoid the suffering associated with our current way of viewing our lives. But even after you know how to see clearly you still suffer, you just know how. Remember, the Buddha said the end of suffering is the acceptance that there will always be suffering.

803 Relax and Succeed - You carry heaven and hellThe reason my student can’t move forward is that he wants to take that step in the fictional land of no-suffering. So I must first dispel the existence of such a place and then demonstrate why that’s okay because the world is remarkably beautiful anyway.

Based on what he had told me I essentially asked him if he believed the universe was infinite. He felt confident it would be. I reminded him that if it is infinite it needs to contain all things, both those defined as good and those defined as bad. He didn’t love that idea but agreed it made a kind of yin and yang sense.

I asked him if he could imagine the universe as an undulating ocean of specific colours. Like a game of paisley tetris, different colours would move in the ocean like blobs of coloured ocean. I asked him to imagine that all of the feelings he was experiencing as his personal life, was in fact just a movement through that ocean.

803 Relax and Succeed - The source of all abundanceImagine a magical string that winds through every single experience in the universe before joining itself in a loop of infinite being. In reality there is no time and everyone is all one person. What we perceived as our life is in fact just a divine glow moving through a section on that infinite magical string.

Now imagine that the string is winding its way through a blob of one particular colour of the glowing ocean of light. The individual that is experiencing that colour might imagine itself as happy. When the glowing light on the ribbon wound through another colour the glowing light experienced fear, or another colour would be sadness, or compassion, but each individual lifetime is simply a narrative told to an individual sense of ourselves, by an individual sense of ourselves, as an entertaining explanation for what we’re feeling. It’s like when your dreams try to make sense of what’s actually happening to your body while you sleep.  You don’t interpret it the same way that you would if you were awake, and yet your explanation makes sense within the dream.

As weird as all that sounds, I knew my student was understanding me when he changed my metaphor. He suddenly stopped walking and said it wasn’t really a string. It was more like a giant infinite Mobius Loop–a never-ending surface. He added that, as the Mobius Strip wormed its way through the universe it would pass itself in the form of the people we meet. (Because we’re all one strip no one’s approval or lack of approval is personal.)

803 Relax and Succeed - It is better to conquer yourselfSo egos get upset because they perceive the strip has two different sides whereas the enlightened person will keep track of the fact that it’s a really just one long single-sided Mobius Loop!  And that was the moment he truly understood in a profound way what yin and yang really are. We just think something’s wrong when we see the “other” side of the strip when in fact the whole point of a Mobius Strip is that there is only one side!

Brilliant. He nailed it. Separate but united. There was no heaven to find, no place where there are no tough choices. There was where he was on the strip, and the compassion he could feel for everyone (including himself) in any situation because now he understood they were other faces of himself–they were ultimately all one and his job wasn’t how to figure out who was right and who was wrong–it was to accept the yin and yang of existence as viewed from an enlightened perspective.

We’ll spend a few sessions reinforcing his understanding of that discovery, but his door is now open. He can now tell the difference between his personal sense of reality and the larger truth that his reality sits within. He’ll still make some rookie mistakes implementing what he knows, but now he knows it. As long as he stays conscious of what he and his life really are–which is a collection of ultimately judgment-free experiences–then he will continue to become more and more aware of this greater truth. In doing so he will receive a peace far greater than the one he previously imagined would reside in heaven. All he needs to do now is practice what he knows.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organisations around the world.