Stuck, or on a journey, between self-development, reaching spiritual awakening, realizing self-awareness, and being physically productive.
Being productive, to most people, means being disciplined, organized, getting tasks done, having a well run, clean home, etc. For me, that meant giving power to material wants or tangible and intangible accomplishments, such as paying off debt, getting the kids to sleep well, organizing the week by tasks in time blocks, battle procrastination and writing this blog consistently, which till now I haven’t mastered.
But before starting on this journey, the journey of being an effective and proactive human/mom/wife/nurse/coach/awesome-listener-to-problems-of-others, I was on a lovely and peaceful path to pure, super focused self-development, in the spiritual sense. I was immersed in books, videos, classes, and audios about meditation, Buddhism, the minimalist philosophy, being free from emotional suffering, and mastering the conscious mind. I successfully rid my life of anxiety, became more empathetic, curious, compassionate and more loving to my kids (a.k.a. not letting myself become angry as much) and overall becoming less emotionally-reactive. HA! I bet you not many ladies can push through those PMS emotions without as much as a “scratch” on the kids or the poor husband!
Man, was I thrown for a loop when taking on a totally different career path. A new career where I was fundamentally good at but still totally a beginner with a lot to learn. Suddenly finding myself vulnerable and reactive all over again.
This is how I can best explain it, let’s go on a trip together: imagine, you’re on a long train ride, from NY to California (if those still exist). When you board the train, you get comfortable in your cabin for the first two days. On the third day, you may get bored and decide to explore. You spend time and effort to go through each cabin, talking to different people, seeing the train and the view outside from different perspectives. Though you enter a different cabin daily, you’re still somewhat comfortable, and also quite excited about your daily discoveries. One day, mid-journey, the train gets derailed and you are somehow forced to travel to your destination via a different mode of transportation, say, a helicopter. Only thing is, you have to be the co-pilot, because you were the only other person brave enough to get in it, eager to reach your destination quickly, besides the pilot, when the others were too afraid to go in the air and chose to either go back home or walk or hitch a ride the rest of the way to California.
Now you are no longer comfortable. You can no longer remember to enjoy the damn journey, because so much depends solely on you! Oh, and the pilot, that’s actually a projection of you, the one who thought they can do anything they set their mind to. So there you go. You’re a novice pilot, flying alone. Sure you have a map and the radio for navigation help, but that’s not enough to make you feel comfortable and secure.
If that didn’t confuse you by now, you must be familiar with this feeling.
The feeling of living your life, having most things figured out, and then being thrown for a loop, or rather jumping into a “loop”, and the peaceful, self-assured person you thought yourself to be is nowhere to be seen. Now, it feels as though you have to start from scratch.
So which journey is more “correct”? The one to enlightenment, being present, discovering self-awareness, non-duality, and so on, or the one of establishing yourself a worthy being of this life, making the most of it by being super effective and helpful to others on this earth, truly making a difference?
To be honest, I don’t have a “good” answer for you. Both of those journeys seem to be equally important, in totally different ways. Or am I wrong? Could they be one and same? Where would be the point that they meet? Or maybe a better question would be, what am I chasing exactly?
What are we all chasing that makes us feel inadequate at the moment, that we feel will complete us once it’s in our possession? What would we have to believe in order to feel fulfilled? Is it status, income, a spouse, kids or is it spiritual and self-development? Could it be both? How can one person be able to take care of all those areas simultaneously?
This is what I’ve come up with, and I had help from my mentors: whatever the reason was that started my second journey, the new career path, was it a true need or was it a pure reaction to a current unpleasant situation (I was annoyed at my job, fuming to be exact, of being controlled by someone else to such a degree that I had constant anxiety). So if the case is that I was just reacting, and I don’t have to base my life on emotional reactions, because they’re temporary, does that mean I don’t actually NEED this new career path?
Don’t need it?! What do you mean you don’t need it?! You just spent over a year working your butt off on this! …is what I was telling myself during this realization.
Then, a moment of clarity. After an agony/confusion-filled afternoon with this realization, it came to me. I don’t need it, but am I good at it? Does it fulfill a need I have? A need of feeling significant and making a difference? Actually, this was with the help of my mentor as well, or my brain would explore before I came up with it myself.
Back to my point, I don’t need this new career, I don’t need more money, BUT, I could definitely benefit from a more flexible job, or business, where I am following my own vision, using by unique skills and talents, and making a difference in the world, by being a catalyst for long-term changes in people’s lives.
Freedom! This is what freedom must feel like! No more guilt of “succeeding” in a new career, in totally new territory, in a “timely” and “perfect” manner. Sure, sometimes the guilt lingers and I have to acknowledge that ancient survival state of mind and wave it goodbye, I don’t have to believe it.
So can we develop spiritually and physically at the same time? Yes!! And I realize, finally, that no-one is rushing me, no-one was pushing me to be an expert right from day one, except myself. Matter of fact, I can take all the time I want, at least reasonably, to study and experiment with my new field of work. Because if I die tomorrow, all I have to know to be content is that I had a loving relationship with my kids, my husband, and that I was moving forward in life, no matter how “slow” I thought it was.
As I spill out these thoughts to you all, if you are still reading this, I’d like to share a paraphrased excerpt from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: imagine (seriously, take a deep breath close your eyes, and really picture this. It could be the MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do in your life right now to gain some clarity): you’re going to a funeral. You don’t who’s it is, but it is someone close to you. As you enter the funeral home, you pass by all your close family members and friends. The air feels heavy and filled with sadness at the loss of your shared loved one. You enter the wake room where the body is displayed. As you walk up to the open casket, you come face to face with… yourself. Shhhhhh. Let that image sit for a moment. Shhh, I said!
You’re gone from this earth. Now, there will be 5 speakers, a close friend, a child, an intimate partner, a parent, and a co-worker or client.
What would you want each one of them to say? What kind of parent/child/co-worker/business provider would you have wanted them to remember you as? What kind of attributes would you have wanted to be remembered as having? What kind of legacy or inspiration would you want to leave behind?
After I did this exercise, it was clear to me, that my family came first, then the kind of person I was being came second. Then I realized that none of that is possible without having good health. So health came first. Whether I was successful in business in the first year was not relevant anymore. In truth, this is my life, and what I deem important will come first.
This is my journey. It is unique to only me. And on this journey are only MY results and MY rules, (Jeffrey T. Sooey’s inspirational words that I finally understand). If I decide to land my helicopter on a mountain top and study the land below for a time or to take a nap, I will do that. The voice on the radio cannot actually control me or even has the right to control me, whether that voice is my own guilt or others’ expectations and frivolous advice.
I give you permission to be yourself, make up your own rules, and take the road YOU want to and were meant to travel. The rest is just background noise to be taken lightly.