Work as a Spiritual Journey and Practice


I have been thinking a lot about work lately -- the nature of it and what purpose it serves. What roles money, growth, and fulfillment play in it. How it relates to myself and to others. 

When you work a job that drains all the energy from you, there is nothing worse. You feel worn down and depleted, meaningless and empty. 

But when you are doing work that resonates with you, its as if time stands still. You're filled with clarity and calmness ('flow').You feel excited and engaged. 

I believe that work can serve a higher purpose. Anything from saying a simple greeting to a coworker, to stapling papers, to building a nonprofit can be meaningful. It all matters. There is a greater story beyond our own actions and lives. And it occurs in ways that we may not always understand. But we can find comfort and hope in knowing that even the small things that we do matter toward the greater whole.

I believe that work is spiritual. That the experience flow and engagement when doing a task or activity is meaningful. It's your soul's way of telling you this is it. this is where you are meant to be. this is why you were created. Something within you recognizes it, feels peaceful and excited all at once, feels at home. 

For many years, I thought it would be best to pursue something safe and stable. And yet, despite the fact that I have now reached the pinnacle of that dream through my government job, something is missing . I'm not sure what it is -- don't understand it except to know that it is something for which I have no words. And so I've been a bit disoriented lately, after having climbed this ladder only to realize that perhaps the destination might not be for me, that the ladder might be leaning against a wall intended for someone else. 

And so I've been writing in a daily journal, monitoring my engagement and flow across different activities. I got the idea from this book, Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived Joyful Life, by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, which utilizes principles of design to build a meaningful life. As a psychologist, I LOVE THIS BOOK. It's awesome. It's really re-energized and impacted how I think about my own career. The monitoring exercise was rewarding. Through it, I discovered that I experience my highest flow and engagement through:

- writing
- website creation and design
- one on one interactions with people
- taking action to turning ideas into reality
- figuring out how to make things happen
- creating something new
- managing projects
- strategy, putting everything into getting things done, side businesses
- yoga
- prayer, spirituality

The interesting thing is that in my daily job I'm not doing much of these things. But as a psychologist, I know that its important to consider the context/environment of a person (including myself) and to shape it so that strengths are brought out, nurtured, and made stronger. 

And so I have been thinking more about taking the leap. I have been thinking more about facing the truth I have somehow been afraid of my whole life: I would like to write books. I would like to connect and help others with bipolar, depression, and mood disorders. I would like to create and run my own private practice and business. 

I'm not sure how this will look like yet. But I'm excited. I wish for my life to be so much more than about myself. I hope that I will have the opportunity and courage to one day truly live it. 

And so I think part of the spiritual aspects of work is to uncover what our purpose is. But also, the act of getting to that place and wrestling with ourselves is also where much growth occurs. 

What brings you engagement and flow? What helped you make the leap or has held you back from taking it?