“On this path effort never goes to waste, and there is no failure. Even a little effort toward spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fear.” –Bhagavad Gita
We think that our purpose in this life is to find a paying job we like, so we can have money to fulfill our needs and desires.
From an early age, we ask kids, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” as though the occupation they choose defines who they are.
But jobs change. Layoffs happen, or you work somewhere that makes you feel like you’re dying inside, and you have to leave. Or you change careers, and with it, your whole sense of identity shifts.
So who are you? Are you just what you do for money?
That’s a pretty bleak way to look at the magic inherent in a human being.
What if, instead of thinking our occupations define us, we realize that our job in this world, our deeper, soul-level job, is to love other people? What if, instead of looking at our bank accounts to tell us whether we’re rich, we look at the people who love us and care for us, and realize that’s what makes us wealthy?
I had a realization like this after my divorce. I had no job, and I kept looking for one, but wasn’t having any luck. I got enough help to get me through one month, and then the next. I couldn’t plan too much ahead. But as I hiked one day near my father’s house in California, the sky open above me, the flat rock under my feet, sweat pouring down the crack of my back, I thought of all the riches I had in the form of people. The people at Quaker meeting, who met with me and helped me strategize next steps. The friend who answered the phone every time I called. The boyfriend who took me out for drinks. The father who paid for me to visit him across the country. The mother, who when I called her crying about my overdue electric bill, took care of it in two-seconds flat.
On paper, I had nothing. I was going to lose my house, I had no steady income. I was only going to see my kids half the time. I no longer had the best friend and partner I’d had since college.
And yet, in that moment, under the big blue sky, I realized I had everything. Everything. I was wealthy in love. The big hand of the universe was holding me up, supporting me, showing me, in whisper after whisper, everything was going to be okay.
I never felt that good, or that humble, or that in awe, when I was married and we brought in a six-figure salary.
I’m not saying people should quit their jobs and “grow rich in love.” (Though my friends in Santa Fe wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.) What I’m saying is we need to change our perceptions about what wealth means in this life. There is inherent abundance all around us, but we are too overwhelmed with the reptile of our mind to feel it and experience it. We have moments, little blips on the horizon, perhaps. A kiss from someone we love. A glass of wine at happy hour that makes us open our arms to the people around us. Waking up from a nice dream.
But those experiences do not have to be the exception.
All I can tell you is what works for me. I don’t want to tell you how to live, or what to do. There is still plenty I have to learn, plenty I don’t know. And I don’t walk around with a smile on my face all the time, either, ignorant of the cares of the world. I cry, plenty. I pour my heart out and I call friends and I take up one habit, then quit it, and then reach for another. My life, and my awareness, is constantly unfolding, and I like it that way. I feel like the heroine of my life’s novel, and I don’t know what the next chapter holds, or how it will end. But I keep reading, because it just gets more and more interesting.
I can tell you that you can make changes. That’s all. Sometimes we don’t think we have the power to do that. We have so much responsibility. We have goals, dreams, things that haunt us. A past full of wounds that stay in our bodies, hidden until something happens that jabs at them to wake them up. What I know for sure, though, is if you keep ignoring your spirit, the part of you that wants to rise up and be free, you’re going to feel like you’re dead, and you’re going to keep looking for things, external things, to make you feel alive. You’re going to latch on to this, or that, and when this or that loses its luster, you’re going to be right back to that starting place again. Hungry, thirsty, tired.
You have the power to decide how to spend your time. Try silence. Just try it, and see how it goes. We are very scared of being alone with ourselves. I know this from experience. I was a book-addict. I never let myself be alone long enough to hear my spirit’s longings—I always had to be reading.
So put down the phone. Put down the book. Turn off the television. Sit somewhere safe. Maybe it’s outside on your front step, or at the base of your bed, or hell, maybe it’s the toilet. Usually no one bothers you when you’re on the toilet. And just close your eyes and relax your body and breathe. Let something bigger begin to guide you. Let it help you with your life. You’ll be amazed at what a little practice can do.