Many people hate their work. I used to dread mine, even though it was possibly the funnest job in the world. It involved what I call “eating and sleeping around.” For 18 years as a travel writer I went to spectacular places, ate delicious cuisine, slept in often-luxurious hotels, did fun activities like hike in rainforests and attend cooking schools, and wrote about it.
For the first dozen years, it was my dream life. I was blessed to take road trips to every corner of New Mexico, and to journey to Provençe, Tuscany, Costa Rica and other amazing places. I wrote for The New York Times, Audubon and Frommer’s Travel Guides, among others.
Over time, though, I lost interest in travel, and my body started failing. I developed allergies to foods and laundry detergents, and suffered from a sleeping disorder. Because of this, my life became a pathetic comedy of trying to manage my health while still doing my job.
I would take pain killers to ease my headaches and sleeping pills to calm my body’s agitation in the night. I would cry when the drugs didn’t work, afraid I would botch the assignment. I even hired an “eater” to come with me on one culinary trip. For days, she sat across from me in restaurants and feasted on three courses, while I nibbled on a salad.
The problem was I couldn’t step away from the job. I have a tough time letting go of things that at one time really worked. In truth, though, we are meant to let go. We are meant to exhaust our jobs, our hobbies, our relationships and even our spiritual teachers. Sometimes they can transform with us, but often we have to make the break. I have done just that, and now, once again, I love my work, and my health is returning. Here is how I did it:
Focused My Attention
Loved My Job Even When I Hated It
Surrendered and Asked for Guidance
Lived My Dream
1. Focused My Attention For me, a daily spiritual exercise is always step one because it is the root of all spiritual change. It focuses our attention on love, so the physical world and all its imperatives become less real. We see the dream that the world is. When I admitted to myself that I needed to shift my work, my mind told me it was impossible because it believed that my sustenance came from travel writing.
Day after day, I woke and did my morning reading, which centers on the writings of my spiritual teacher, Sri Gary Olsen www.masterpath.org. The poems of the great mystical masters such as Rumi and Hafiz can also lift my spirits enough to bring in a higher view of life, so that new possibilities can appear.
After each practice, I would see the truth: all my sustenance comes from the Divine. My job is to channel that love, energy and money into activities that serve the highest cause possible. This focus allowed me to begin to imagine a new calling.
2. Loved My Work Even When I Hated It This step involves giving with gratitude. In the last year of my travel writing, I was still attached to the job. It was time for me to update a guidebook, which requires six months of full-on eating and sleeping around. Rather than do it parsimoniously, the way I had the past few times—bringing an “eater,” and taking day trips when possible rather than stay in hotels—I decided to be All In. I chose to serve my readers to the fullest of my ability and to do so with gratitude for the opportunity.
I packed a big bottle of sleeping pills and a box of Alka-Seltzer and hit the road. I did the job wholly, trusting the Divine to keep me safe. I took long trips, staying at different hotels every night, ate duck in Madeira sauce, chocolate crème brûlée and drank red wine. It was a blast, though I suffered from a perpetual headache and stomach distress.
By throwing myself completely into the job, I exhausted it. The extremes of pleasure and pain wore down my attachment. When it was finished, I looked back as though on a battle scene and said “I’m done.”
3. Surrendered and Asked for Guidance The desire to shift jobs is really an effect of a change in consciousness that has already happened within. While I was shifting my work, whenever I wondered what to do, I released the question to the Divine. That put my mind in a random state, so that I could hear. Many flashes came in. I would teach travel writing courses or write a travel blog. But each idea would die within a day or two. For the first time in 30 years as a working writer, I did not know what to write. So I wrote nothing (except for my work assignments), and kept asking.
One night I had a dream. I stood before a shelf full of big, important books. I reached up and pulled one out. When I opened it, I found my own spiritual journal. My new job was what I had been writing all along.
4. Lived My Dream Job In order to create any new reality, we have to step into it and live it, even if only an hour a day. I had blogged a little in the past and readers enjoyed what I wrote. So I began again. I simply started doing it.
As well as investing time in my new endeavor, I invested money. Years ago, when I quit teaching college writing to become a travel writer, I cashed in my retirement account to fund my first year, money that multiplied exponentially. For my current job, I have invested savings as well. True spiritual masters and successful entrepreneurs don’t wait around for someone to fund their causes. They step into their creations, invest themselves, and thus the creations take form.
Now I can’t wait to get up in the morning to do my job. When people ask me what I do, I say, “I blog and write books about spirituality.” Every time I say that, I feel the power of my focus ripple across this dream of a life. My writings are part of a book called Every Moment a Vacation that will be available in 2013.
This physical world is a malleable dream. We can step into it and, with Divine help, fashion it to support our highest calling.
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