I had the most fantastic experience the other night listening to Gregg Levoy, author of Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life, at San Francisco Coaches! I’d had a long day and felt I was pushing it to trek over on BART to Union Square for this meeting. However, one minute spent in conversation with Gregg made my whole body light up with energy! And hearing him speak for over an hour on the absolute need to listen to the call of your spirit to open your life simply charged the whole group of us.
Gregg was a journalist who got the call, but, as he writes in Callings, “Like most people, I will not follow a calling until the fear of doing so is finally exceeded by the pain of not doing so.” In his own case and those of others he has interviewed, he has noted that “the more we make a claim for our own vitality, the more we help others do the same.” And what is vitality? Vitality is our energy and passion to live fully, to discover our purpose, to awaken to the gifts we have to offer and not just get by -- on the job, in our relationships with others-- in the short amount of time we have on this planet.
Drawing from American Medical Association research findings that “the majority of heart attacks occur around nine o’clock on Monday mornings” (when many of us are going back to work after the weekend), Gregg noted that many people are, ”more precisely, going back to work [they] don’t like, work that doesn’t match [their] spirits, work that can literally break your heart.”
What fears have locked you into a corner-- loss of income, what others will think of you, no future security (rather less of this these days), no longer belonging to a certain group, losing prestige? When is the cost of ignoring your own inner promptings for change too high? How much do you have to suffer or stuff down in your body and spirit before you listen to your own true needs and take the first step towards liberating your self, your work, your life? How much suffering are you causing others by not heeding your own call for professional and personal fulfillment?
I shared with Gregg the story of a man I met many years ago at a weekend retreat on “The Genius of Place” by my friend, Bob McGahey, in the Quaker-based community of Celo, North Carolina, just outside of Asheville. Jim was new to the area and rather quiet, but when Bob talked about listening to the calling of one’s spirit and the land, he stepped forward, turned paper white, and fainted on the spot.
Afterwards, we found out that he had been a salesman for many years in Los Angeles, and over the past year had been having an insistent feeling inside that he was “dying” by living in LA. He began exploring alternative places to live and work in the United States. On a hunch, based on some reading he’d done, he came out to Asheville, saw an ad for Bob’s retreat, and felt that he was called to be there. Shortly thereafter, he gave up his job and home in LA, and moved to Asheville to begin a new career and a very different way of living that expressed his true self.
This was a dramatic example of a response to Gregg’s question, “How do you know if a call is true for you?” In this case, Jim had a whole-body response that resonated in his soul-- namely, “I was scared to death-- and I knew I had to try it.” And he did, and it worked.
So if you’re feeling on the edge, uncomfortable in your career despite material advantages, or as if you’re just coasting through life, not living out the potential that wants to be expressed, just listen, truly listen within yourself. You may well be feeling a calling to wake up and take the step that can make all the difference in your life now!
“The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you,
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.”
-- Jelaluddin Rumi