The brave new world of work

IMG_0618I peruse the want ads online for that off-hand chance I’ll discover a job that I want, but also to learn of trends and new companies. Once in a while I see a job that is a good fit, but I have yet to land one. And while I look, I find that I am formulating a role for myself, one whose outlines have slowly emerged and brought me to a place where I can now fill in this little sketch.

The online world has stimulated my thought process. I read the blogs of entrepreneurs like Seth Godin, Penelope Trunk, and Chris Guillebeau. I see artists and healers make a name for themselves through their online presence. And I read about new professions, like digital media coordinator and web content manager, or ayurvedic counselor. New types of health professions are emerging, like navigators and coaches. Environmental fields are developing. As the world changes and consumer needs evolve, as healthcare and energy sources change, some of us will be taking on new roles. Seeing this change happening invigorates me: I like this direction and the values it espouses.

Some new businesses that inspire me include Mindbody Solutions, a nonprofit started by a yoga teacher paralyzed from the chest down. Matthew Sanford seeks to change healthcare and bring yoga philosophy to the process of rehabilitation. I see new companies developing solar energy products and new types of energy provision. New health insurance cooperatives.

I know a man who is a counselor who advises from a yogic framework. Physician Nita Desai and psychiatrist Scott Shannon in Colorado embrace nutrition and Eastern healing arts to help people heal in new ways. Brain imaging is changing the way we interpret some forms of learning or mental illness, and there are new perspectives on autoimmune diseases.

Meanwhile the digital age has made it possible for many to make their living through blogging, web design, social media, or online marketing. More folks are becoming entrepreneurs or advice distributors.

I feel that I am developing right along with all of these trends, evolving into a new kind of professional who will translate these ideas into words and “treatments.” I feel that I might finally bring together my knowledge, skills, and life experiences to serve, rather than hanging out on the fringes.

I am fashioning this conception of my work. It involves creating and running a web “magazine” on mental health in the digital age. One utilizing my knowledge of yoga, ayurveda, and mindfulness. My other hat will be educator/coach. I want to work with a holistic psychiatrist or an ayurvedic practitioner teaching about mindfulness, yoga, and yoga philosophy for the westerner. The third component of this work is facilitating support or discussion groups, in which people learn together how they are getting in their own way and how to apply mindfulness, nutrition, and energetic aspects of wellness.

Yes, in the meantime, I may serve in a good nonprofit or healthcare organization, most likely one that allows me the flexibility to develop my own endeavor. I may yet need to shed a few layers of my own armor, fear, and limited perceptions to embrace my creative power and take a fully realized role in my community. I know deep down it can be done.

I think of body workers who changed the “world” like Moshe Feldenkrais and Ida Rolf. Of academics, scientists, or clergy who thought out of the box: Einstein, Buckminster Fuller, Howard Zinn, Thomas Merton. People who tried to make it in established professions until creating their own niche, like Karen Armstrong, former nun who became the writer of The History of God, Buddha, and Islam. Throughout my whole adult life I have wondered, “Can we not do the work that engages our particular sensitivity?” It is the artists and somatic educators who inspire me: In them I see an engagement and fostering of life, a vocation that also provides a “living.”

For me the question is, What stirs my heart and serves the world? Though I have longed searched for my niche, it just may be that I have to create it.

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Out of step or a foot ahead?

Change is coming.  So said a healthcare recruiter to me a few days ago when I interviewed with him at the local hospital.  The company has been preparing for 10 years, he said, to develop new IT and wellness programming.  Wellness is included since new healthcare legislation is designed to instigate reimbursement for keeping people out of hospitals.  Finally!  But I’ll wait and see.

It’s the kind of healthcare I have been awaiting for a long time.   I want the hospital to hire me.  As a mind-body therapist.   I interviewed to be a wellness specialist/yoga teacher.  The description was for a health educator really.

The weird thing is that six years ago I had a job as an education coordinator in a holistic center associated with this same hospital.  I ran a yoga/qigong studio, coordinated classes and workshops, and supported the administration and holistic pharmacy.  It was part-time, and I had health insurance.

I loved that job.   I loved being a part of a holistic center within a medical center.  And I loved developing an integrative approach to healthcare and providing wellness services to the community as well as people in the hospital suffering from illness and injury.  We helped people through chemotherapy with acupuncture, people going through rehab with massage, people with chronic illness with nutrition, kids with ADD and depression with a more natural approach.  We also  supported dying people with reiki.  Our classes, open to staff, patients, and the community, included meditation, infant massage, and other healing approaches.

This center was closed down.  The healthcare company sponsored an exit lunch for us in which we talked about keeping our commitment to the cause alive in our individual work.  But it’s been lonely.

Yesterday, I talked with a recruiter for 45 minutes, took a break, then interviewed with two wellness managers and did a yoga demo.  Turns out all this was for a temporary position to teach two yoga classes a week.  While I wish for something more substantial, the wonderful part of the interview for me was the conversation with these three folks and the awareness I had of the growth in me since I last worked there.  I am bolder, stronger, and more articulate about wellness, yoga, and mindfulness and their role in the healthcare system.

Dan, the recruiter from a temporary staffing company, asked me why I was interested in wellness.  I said that I want to help people live healthier lives, to tap into their own immunity and stay well or find supportive therapies when they get sick.  I hoped to teach yoga to help people gain a sense of their inner healing capacity.   Dan looked at me and said, “that’s where our company is heading.”

When I sat down with two female managers from Wellness, one said to me, “You worked for the holistic center?  It was ahead of its time:  If it were created now, it would thrive.”

Will things really change?   We still don’t know what will happen with the latest healthcare reform bill.  And we don’t know how far policy changes will reach.  But healthcare expenses are getting too high, and more folks have less money and will be excluded from care.  When things begin to affect the bottom lines of hospitals and insurance companies, or when the people make enough noise, a shift will certainly occur.  We already see stirrings of movement.

In the meantime, us mind-body types will hang in there, learning about embodied experience, the immune response, healing, and inner work.  Practicing stress reduction and renewal, exploring our connection to ourselves, each other, and nature.  But there really isn’t time to spare:  We and our world will become much sicker if we don’t move forward.  I’m ready to work, and I think others are too.  Let’s get the behemeth moving a little faster.

What we really need from healthcare

Both streams of my career, yoga and writing, focus on health.  You could say both are designed to promote health in body.  But in actuality, my real interest is a change in consciousness.

When it comes to yoga, I think first of transformation.   Yes, yoga loosens up and strengthens our bodies, but it also changes our minds and spirits.  I love the way it changes my awareness, makes me feel more present, alive, and in tune with nature.  When it comes to writing, I sometimes write to promote wellness, but the real reason I write is to engage with the world, learn, and find greater connection.

I think health has to do with being open to change, to interacting with our environments and other beings.  I think it involves transformation.  We all know it isn’t easy to change a habit or to gain higher levels of fitness:  Doing those things usually requires a change of mind, a change in our way of being that translates into new ways of behaving.  So I experiment in my yoga practice to experience a different state of awareness and observe its effects.  And then I write about what I’m exploring and learning.

When I learned yesterday that the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of most of the Healthcare Reform Bill, I cried.  My reaction surprised me, but then I realized I’ve cared about health and wellbeing for most of my life, and I see changing our healthcare system as vital to our wellbeing as a country.  But I also know that a change in the laws and access to healthcare is not enough: to get to the most needed changes requires a change in mindset.  We must develop a different sense of ourselves and our own ability to find balance and health, with the help of good food and humble practitioners.  We must move from a mechanistic/materialistic view of the world to one of a living world in which we are intimately connected with the natural world and with each other, no matter our race or creed.  We must acknowledge the Gaia theory and the reality of our own true nature.  We must believe or die, know our connection or destroy ourselves.

I cried when I heard the news of the court ruling because I feel it is a first step toward addressing our healthcare system and the underpinnings of our insurance system, and I for one am desperate for such change.  For more access for more people, and for new conceptions of health and prevention.  But I also know that we as individuals must take more responsibility, that we need to think about our wellbeing and insist on a different model of health and healthcare.  If healthcare reform is enacted, more of us will have to think about what health means to us, how to foster it in ourselves, what kind of care seems most supportive and healing to us.  We will have to speak up to the insurance companies and governments to keep care affordable.

We need this first step to start dismantling a system that not only doesn’t serve many, but that waits for us to become deathly ill before it helps.  A system whose idea of prevention may not be enlightened, may even be destructive.  We need to wake up as individuals and communities and foster our health as individuals and groups.  Our conversation about health will address food, habits, addictions, exercise, economics, politics, environment, community, and environmental design.  Ultimately it will involve and engage our consciousness.

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