A few weeks ago I had a dream. In it a young girl was showing me a series of books I had written, all of which were about healing by reframing my experience through art.
I was amazed and delighted when I awoke and remembered it. Another message from my unconscious showing me how I am meant to be engaging in the world. I have had several of these dreams over the past few months. One in which I was told to teach love to women on a hill, another in which it was improvisation to youth that I was teaching, and yet another in which I was shown that it was my practice of meditation and contemplation, and the ongoing paying attention, that was what I needed to teach.
I have been writing each of these dreams down, gathering them together along with all my other notes and ideas for building my new livelihood. Last month I shared some of the journey toward launching my first poetry cd. The production process is still underway, as we work on the design for the packaging and get closer to sending it out for manufacturing. Then there is the launch to be planned and organized.
All of this activity and dreaming is a part of the larger frontier I am traveling as I seek to integrate the knowledge, understanding and research from my PhD, with all of my previous work and life experience and translate it into a cohesive vision. Reading poet David Whyte’s seminal book Crossing the Unknown Sea, (2000) on the making, and meaning, of work, is helping immensely with this vital and complex undertaking. In the early stages of his decades-long career as a poet, author, speaker and teacher of soulful conversation in corporate environments, he committed to taking at least one step a day toward his goal of becoming a full-time poet in the world.
As a poet, author, performer, speaker and teacher, I have been creating ways to share my poems, stories and healing vision with the world for over 15 years. And yet I feel like a beginner, because I have never been exactly right here before. I am shifting into new areas of focus, with new clientele, and a whole new body of research and scholarship to draw from. I am also trying to stay present and open, calm and loving with myself in the process.
Perhaps it is this last part of the back-to-work equation that is the most vital to me right now. I have spoken previously in this blog about the anxiety and self-doubt, criticism, and fear that has accompanied me much of my life. As I do the tasks that need to be done each day to stay focused on this new path, I am constantly up against old “patterns of thinking”. For instance when I receive rejections or cancellations, or experience delays, I often lapse into worry and fear that “nothing will ever happen”.
As a professional educator who is always interested in her own learning, I am finding myself wondering. How will I get through this process and what do I need to make it workable, sustainable? Because I realize, although I would love to think otherwise, it is going to take some time for me to build up this business. How will I stay in the love i.e. engage with myself and others with kindness, tenderness and compassion as I stumble toward “finding my way to work”. How will I encounter and respond to my own needs as I figure out the needs of clients, audiences, organizations, and colleagues?
As I ask myself these important questions, I am understanding what is required to support myself in this process is to view it as a practice. I need to see this journey into work as another opportunity to engage in Loving Inquiry, to keep attending to the “how” of my “being” as I focus on the “what” of my “doing”.
In my PhD dissertation I asked the question: What does it mean to engage in loving relationships? How do I engage in loving relationship with nature? In that instance I focused on the environment of the farm as a new place of learning and of practicing Loving Inquiry. I had previously written about practicing in the classroom with students, on the bus with other passengers, and in my relationship with myself, my partner, friends, colleagues etc…
Now I realize I can see this journey as if I am stepping into a new environment, a new “place” of learning, one that is unfamiliar, unknown.
What if I chose to practice Loving Inquiry over the next year by focusing on this process of “finding my way to work”? Like the world of the farm when I first moved here, I have no certainty as to what I will encounter as I make my way into the world as a writer, teacher, performer, speaker. I know that these are all skills I have to offer, however I don’t know where I may be offering them, nor with whom I will be engaging in them.
David Whyte suggests:
We have to cultivate what Suzuki Roshi called beginner’s mind, where we stop having to know and name everything in advance and allow ourselves the satisfactions of discovery and revelation. In doing this we actually start to re-mould our identity in the form of the learner and listener.
(2008, p. 1)
What if I were to follow his advice and take my own practice as a tool for that learning? If I chose to see myself as the learner and listener on this new journey. I could use the structure I created and laid out in my PhD dissertation, moving through the 21 gates and the seasons of the year. I’ll blog the journey and perhaps will publish it as my next book (from that series the little girl showed me in the dream).
And what if I invited other women and men to join me. I could offer the structure and prompts of the practice to support them in their own process of “finding their way to work” this year. Through this blog, we would walk through the gates of Loving Inquiry together. We could write poems and narratives, take photos and/ or use whatever artistic medium we feel inspired by as we mark the journey.
Are you interested in being supported to “find your way to work”? Do you have a dream, or desire, to live from your passion? Are you in the process of transition from one kind of work to another? Are you scared, or anxious about what’s next in your career? Do you believe there is potentially another way of working, and being, than the one in which you are and/or have been engaged?
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, I’d like to invite you to come with me on a journey of passionate and compassionate possibilities.