Clarity in chaos

IMG_1724Some kind of change is in the air, in my little world and beyond.  Three of my friends quit their jobs a couple of weeks ago (two from my current workplace), and another coworker quit this week.  I too am trying to create new work for myself, but a bigger transformation is underway.

A yoga student who is a veteran of the Iraq war seems to drop in on me at these more chaotic times.  This friend, who is disabled by war injuries, is aware of the turnover at work.  He supports our organization and dropped in to say hi to a few of us.  The organization is about helping people, he has said more than once.   So why are so many people leaving in states of negativity?, he wonders.

Thinking about that question, and my friends new endeavors on the outside, I notice my own uncertainty and fear, but I also feel my focus sharpening, an urgency emerging, a clarity related to turmoil at work and in my community beyond work, and one driving a vocational shift of my own.

In fact, a spiritual shift is rippling through my life.  Not only is my workplace disintegrating; my young neighbor is fighting breast cancer, and oil and gas companies are preparing to drill close to my home.  I cannot solve all these problems, but my own tasks are clearer than ever.  I know what I must do.  Take soup to my neighbor, join with other citizens and tell my local politicians I don’t want fracking in my town.  Join a larger community standing for renewable energy and better health care.

I believe there are natural laws governing our earthly life and that we are breaking too many of them, that one day we will feel the full consequences of doing so.  I find myself wanting to seek out native elders and spiritual leaders in general.  I want to be around people who are wise and who are connected to the wisdom of the earth.

Not knowing how to find these leaders readily, I did the 21st century version of searching and went to Youtube.  I watched “Indigenous Native American Prophecy (Elders Speak)” and found reinforcement and nourishment in these elders’ words.

My vet friend and the Native elders say to me to call up my own wisdom and power.  They say seek the ways to see more clearly, to bond with my friends and banish fear.  Oren R. Lyons, faithkeeper of the Onondaga nation, says Native leaders make decisions with seven generations in mind.  They know they have a sacred responsibility to the land and their people.  Lyons says that rather than talking about “resources” and our need for them, we should talk about “family,” animals and plants and minerals as our family.  Of course we need them and have to treat them with respect, not like commodities.

Environmental and spiritual leaders of all races remind us that money cannot dictate how we live.  We can’t eat and drink it.  We have to honor the earth and let economics work itself out in the areas in which we can’t see the way.

So for me, I know I cannot waste energy at work.  I need to serve while I’m there, extract myself from politics and my own floundering.  Talk to my boss and others to increase my commitment and productivity, and if the environment is too toxic, or I can serve better somewhere else, leave.  Fear and inertia cannot dictate my behaviors.  Instead, my motivation must be informed by sacred responsibility and heart-felt love for life.

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When the shell cracks

I’ve been wrestling with my job in a disability center since I started it a year and a half ago.  Once I went in to the boss to quit, which led to a surprisingly good outcome:  She clarified my job description for me and then for the staff, which seemed keen on having me do parts of their jobs.  But I continued to struggle with defining my tasks for each day.  All the while I’ve squirmed with my role in a free-form environment with a complex clientele.  To top it off I felt a disconnect between my identity and the role.

Yet this complex situation has taught me more than the jobs that felt like a natural fit.   I’ve learned to stand up for myself, to really assert what will and won’t work for me, and I’ve learned to let go of my ego, my previous way of defining myself.  Sound paradoxical?  Yes, and true, and the beauty in the paradox is more evident to me through the help of yoga and mindfulness meditation.

Here is one good lesson:  When new to the job, I met with three women working in similar positions at an organization in a town nearby.  These folks have created elaborate social activities for their constituents.  They go out to restaurants, take vans of people on weekend trips.  Made me want to run the other way if those things are part of my job.  But I’ve built my program with smaller support groups, based around assistive technology and other topics, leaving room for some sharing.  I started a yoga class.  And I carved out some time to retreat to the computer for record keeping, newsletter creation, and website management.

I’ve been able to find ways to serve that are compatible with my more introverted temperament.  Instead of den mother, I am behind-the-scenes facilitator.  I water flowers, set out recycling, demonstrate use of assistive devices.  I participate in community gatherings and parties through setting up, clearing up, socializing.  I connect more deeply with those in my yoga class.

I watch myself respond; I honor my nature; I let go of some resistance.  And the environment accommodates me.  Whatever this job is in terms of career development, I cannot yet say, but in terms of spiritual development it is filled with fruit.

This strange little job has cracked me open while yoga and meditation kept me grounded.  I have been witness to the lives of those with disabilities, and I have been part of a community sharing experiments on healing, on living with limitations, on finding our roles in the community.  It is an unusual job in a unique environment.  I love my alone time as much as ever, but I also love this way of being connected.  I love having the chance to experiment.

It’s been very uncomfortable and rewarding at the same time.  I move out in the world, and yet I am authentically quiet and gentle, finding the background when I need it.  The stories I tell myself shift; my experience in the world transforms; my body and mind soften; my feet stand steady; and my heart engages.  That yoga and mindfulness practice has taught me how to feel, how to open, how to free fall:  It is pretty smart stuff.

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