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Staying True to My Inner Purpose November 30, 2012

Posted by Living Abundance in Uncategorized.
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Recently I had to make a difficult decision, and I was incredibly grateful for my sense of my own inner direction that has been cultivated through my mindfulness practice. At the same time, I am finding it challenging to stay the course of the values and priorities that are important for myself, when it seems I am contradicting what is expected of me.

It happened last week when I had a meeting with a researcher with whom I had previously made arrangements to do some part time work. The hours I was anticipating I would work for her would be an addition to my current part time job. Nevertheless, when I showed up for the meeting, she told me that she didn’t have any extra hours for me to work, but instead she wanted to offer me a job. She explained that one of her staff members had just quit, and she wanted to give me the chance to consider and accept it.

The whole situation was a complete surprise, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to tell her yes or no on the spot. Any difficult decisions I have made lately have always been slow and deliberate. I knew I would need to take the time to think it over and decide what I really wanted to do. I was incredibly grateful that I could rely on my practice to be able to clarify what exactly my inner purpose is and how to make the right decision.

I knew that I needed to go home, away from work and the office, and spend some time letting it all sink in without trying to think about it too hard (I was going to do be doing that anyway without trying). I needed to see the situation for my whole self, not just my professional or work self. I needed to clarify just how exactly this decision would fit in with the rest of my life situation and the commitments in which I am involved.

I was quite torn when trying to make a decision, because there were great reasons to accept the offer, but also some important reasons to decline. I wanted to accept the offer to get more hours and more money, and also because I could see it leading to a career path I wanted to go down. At the same time, accepting the offer would mean there would be other things that I would have to give up in order to work the job.

After some time, I connected with my inner self and found the answer I was looking for. I knew that at the times when I was really still, calm, and quiet, that a tiny voice had been speaking up and telling me ideas about what I should do that were completely different than where I am now, and where this job would take me. I still felt quite scared because I felt an major conflict in the decision. I knew what I wanted, but what I wanted seemed to be in direct contradiction of what I thought I should do or what was expected of me (by society and by those closest to me).

In the end, I came up with my answer: No, I wouldn’t take the job. Declining the job felt like a failure, and at times I ended up feeling ashamed and that I had lost a valuable opportunity. I felt quite sad because it seemed that other people wouldn’t be able to understand where I was coming from, even though I knew that I understood for myself what I needed to do. There was some reassurance, though, for me because I had a strong sense that another opportunity would fall into place and come to me without me trying too hard. I just had to be patient and it would eventually all work out just fine.

After spending so much time worrying about my decision, and dealing with the feelings that came up after, I finally remembered an insight I had months earlier while job searching. It happened at a recent meditation retreat I was on, which was the canoe trip this past summer. On the retreat, I spent the first full day in complete silence, and at the end of the day we had a chance to share anything with the group. I expressed to the group a thought that had come to me out of the silence not long before:

“Maybe the world just wants me to be happy and at peace.”

A statement that was quite radical for me, as it seems to be quite different from the way I have been living for as long as I can remember. But now I can look back at that statement and still put importance on it.

I try to take pride in the fact that it takes a lot of courage to stay true to my own inner purpose when it seems that I am going “against the stream,” so to speak, or against the cultural and societal values and norms I perceive around me. The reality of my current consumer capitalist culture and society is that the most important values that are promoted are money, achievement, career, status, and the future. My values are in many ways the opposite of these, and it takes a strong will to stay true to them.

While trying to make my decision, I felt reassured that another opportunity would come my way eventually, though I can’t exactly say why. On the very morning that I contacted the researcher to decline the job, I received an e-mail from an previous professor offering me a short job and a promise of more work to come if I need it. The timing couldn’t have been better. Yep, I think this is all going to work out just fine. Just as long as I continue to rely on my practice to help me tackle these difficult decisions.



1. Mitra - December 1, 2012

Hello Andrea,
Wow what a beautiful piece! I enjoyed reading it. It is going to make my weekend hahaha. It reminds me a wonderful piece of advice that I received from one of spiritual teachers: don’t react but respond! I always remember the advice, but sometimes to fail to put into action. As you have eloquently laid out, response rather than reaction requires time, space and contemplation. Yes, it in fact sounds like “swimming against the stream”. But it is worthwhile.
Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience in Dharma practice. I am looking forward to the next moment of insight.
Take care!

Living Abundance - December 2, 2012

Hi Mitra,
It was great to see you again today. Thanks so much for your kind words! I am so happy that you read my piece and are enjoying it (hopefully as much as I enjoy writing it)! I agree, that sounds like a useful instruction or piece of advice. I have heard a similar description of Zen, where the practice is cultivating the ability to make an appropriate response. Certainly, it is always challenging to apply to every situation that comes up. Yes, it seems that those difficult decisions need some time for the right response to come out. I guess the challenge is trying to find out exactly which types of decisions are the ones that need the time.
And I think when I said “swimming against the stream” I was referring to defying cultural and societal norms and assumptions that I see around me. I guess the difficult part for myself is that I assume they apply to me, when they probably don’t. It is all just my perception.
You’re very welcome! I am looking forward to sharing my future insights, ha ha!
I also had to look back at exactly which part of my story of coming to the practice to which you were referring. Ah yes, now I remember. That chapter in the story is one that has been very powerful and has always stayed with me. I suspect it will remain a powerful experience for a long time. Even lately I find that it keeps coming back, and it has taken quite a bit of diligence and skilfulness to determine how to handle it. Perhaps that can be my next post… Hmm, we’ll see! 😉
Take care yourself!

Mitra - December 2, 2012

Hi Andrea,
It certainly was a pleasant surprise to see you today at the potluck. I am glad that you were there.
The part that I was referring to in your story was (I believe) post # 5 in the series. Perhaps, you can recall my question: how did you end up practicing meditation or what has conditioned you to intensively engage in the Dharma practice. When I met you first, I was struck with your insight and maturity in the practice. That in fact fooled me about your age as well (hahah a moment of confession). The answer that I got then did not convince me…but reading your blog gave me the answer assuring that hardships in life initiate (in your case intensified) individuals in the practice. The blog also helped me to know you better and understand where you come from, for me that was important. Thanks for sharing it.
See you perhaps tomorrow (monday) at the meditation group.

2. Living Abundance - December 2, 2012

Hi Mitra, I’m glad that I was there, too! It was nice to see familiar faces again and meet new friends.
Yep, I was talking about post #5 in the series. Certainly, it was the case for me that suffering brought me to the practice, as I am sure it has been for many people. I’m grateful now that I focus more on creating more positive experiences, rather than getting rid of the negative ones, which I used to tend to do more.
Thanks very much for your kinds words and compliments, its a big confidence boost to know that someone can appreciate my practice!
Take care!

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