Monday, August 22, 2011

Sacred Occupations

A lot of people are looking for something higher and nobler than what they are now doing for work. It's a beautiful part of the global awakening that's happening. It's a response to the deep internal statement of "There's got to be more than this." And there is. There's a lot more than the typical 9 to 5 world that so many people have bought into. There's a lot more to life than any job because jobs don't give our lives means. But the work we do in this world does matter. It does perpetuate a way of life, so what we choose to do to provide a stable means for our survival is important.

Moving Beyond Traditionally "Spiritual" Roles
As many of you know, I look at spirituality as being in all things. It's not that spirituality and people's best intentions are actively being pursued in all things, but at the core of stuff is spirituality. It is essence. It is truth. So we all look for ways to bring that deeper part of us, the best of us out. Certainly from the perspective of higher truth (compared to truth of the moment--check this blog out here to understand my definition), all things are spiritual. But being a chemical weapons manufacturer versus a preschool teacher is a little ridiculous of a comparison to make at this point, and I try to be as practical about these posts as possible. We'll talk about the "sacred" role of the chemical weapons manufacturer another time.

With all that said, a carpenter can be just as sacred as a spiritual teacher. An accountant can be just as sacred as a Reiki healer. What makes them sacred is the intention behind them. What makes them sacred is how you comport yourself in your work. You don't necessarily have to "escape" the 9 to 5 world to be on the spiritual path. If anything, that's probably the world that needs more practical spirituality in it. But you're not trying to convert co-workers at the water cooler. You're being honest, ethical, mindful of your actions, non-reactive in volatile situations, and speaking your truth. That's what changes a regular job into a spiritual job.


The Many Roles We Embody in Life
We play so many roles in life anyway that there are countless ways to bring the sacred into your life. But because our work is such a dominating role (at least in Western Culture) this is where you'll need it the most. It will usually challenge you the most. You'll say things that, "Well, being a sacred plumber is all well and good, but I hate it when this client is yelling at me." Of course. Who wants to be yelled at? But if you can hold a space a non-reactivity to what's going on, it's usually going to help resolve the situation faster. If not, you'll learn more about expressing boundaries with clients so you don't take this abuse. All kinds of lessons and issues come up fast, but that's part of transforming your work into spiritual work. It can be quite tiring, but then again, you've spent most of your life living another way. Didn't you think it would take a little time to re-train yourself to behave in a new way?

And of course, you're embodying other roles and "occupations" throughout your life. Being parents is a whole other job, right? That's not something you can go to sleep on, and if there's one set of roles where spirituality is most needed, it's in the roles of mother and father. Many men and women are getting pushed onto the spiritual path because they happen to have very gifted and spiritually aware children. Despite your best efforts, your kids are calling the shots--or so it would seem. So this too becomes a sacred role to embody and to grow in.

The Traditional "Spiritual" Roles
We all know about the traditional spiritual roles: preacher, spiritual teacher, healer, and so forth. They're beautiful roles. They're important roles, but not everyone who wakes up or turns to the spiritual path needs to walk those paths. Not everyone really needs to drop everything and join the Peace Corps or Habitat for Humanity. I mean, if you do, that's great. But most often, the biggest changes we make to the world come from how we interact where we already are. If you're a carpenter, you build the homes that stand up and shelter families. If you're an accountant, you help to make sure that finances are transferred ethically. If you're a school teacher, you help students to learn and expand their minds. I could continue this list, but it's always about the "how" in spirituality, and the talents you have been using and sharing to date are very often the talents you'll share in your "spiritual" work.

You can also join the Peace Corps as a fundraiser and find ways to guilt-trip people into giving your cause more money and that would make it the least spiritual practice you could do. In fact, I've seen plenty of so-called "spiritual" people who do lots of meditating and retreats, but they don't carry that practice into other parts of their lives. So when things don't go their way when they're working at a non-profit, they scream and yell and carry on, making everyone else feel bad around them. And of course, we've all seen examples of bad priests and healers. I'm sure plenty of you remember the different Catholic priest scandals involving child molestation. There's nothing spiritual about a priest like that.


Building Your Spiritual Practice and Taking It Into the World
As always, I talk about how you build your spiritual practice in a safe place, and then you have to take it into the world. You may already know that the job you're in doesn't suit you. But before you jump ship, see if you can begin to change how you are in this unsuitable job. Meanwhile, begin to volunteer, get training, or otherwise build a bridge to a new occupation. You may not really know what you want yet, and there's still so much you can learn from wherever you are. So many times, people in Western Culture have this grass-is-always-greener mentality. They just think that if they go some place else that everything will be way better. And sometimes it is, but the key part in all of this is you. You have to build your spiritual practice and change how you choose to be with yourself and how you choose to interact with others. That's how you can go some place else and the grass actually will be greener.

As I said, a sacred occupation can be pretty much anything. It's how you choose to be with it. Are you doing something you love? If you answer, "No," then step one really is to find out what you love to do. That love is sacred. It doesn't matter if you love hauling garbage, negotiating treaties, or wiping up your baby's spit-up, where your love is is where you sacred occupation will be. And of course, your work can change through a lifetime, so don't hold on too tight. Give everything a little space to breathe, and if you are sincere in your practice, you'll begin to find that the perfect job that combines with your sense of spirituality isn't that far from you after all.
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