A Modern Mystic

Musings on life, work and contemporary spirituality


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The Fragile Heart

FragileHeartA gift box arrived in the mail this week. It revealed a beautiful blown glass heart, exquisitely hand made in rainbow colors. I can’t help but notice that it comes at a time when my own heart feels fragile.

At the start of the summer I decided to work on re-branding my business and deepening my connection to my work. I set things into motion: hired a branding expert and coach, enrolled in a training and credentialing course, and set lists and deadlines for accomplishing the many detailed tasks associated with moving my creative life forward. With everything planned and organized, neat and tidy, I then went on vacation, looking forward to giving these tasks refreshed attention upon my return.

Life happened instead, and I returned home to find the ground literally shifting under my feet. I first got the news that we had to move and immediately began the process of finding  a new home. The day after signing the lease, a close relative landed in critical condition in a hospital in the Midwest. I dropped everything and flew to be with family. I returned with barely enough time to pack and prepare for moving day, while monitoring my nephew’s progress long distance. And yet life hasn’t let up. There are rescheduled client meetings and make-up classes to attend, doctor’s appointments and birthday parties, Back to School Night, and volunteer responsibilities, new assignments and deadlines. It seems everything, including dinner, has a deadline.

Today I finally said it out loud. I expressed my frustration with not finding enough time to care for myself and a wise woman replied with a question, “Where is your heart?”

It was a gentle question that nevertheless pierced right to the core. What does Carrie need right now? How can I take care of her? I was stunned not to know the answer.

When did I lose the ability to check in with my own heart? Was it when I was a child trying to survive a dysfunctional upbringing? Was it when I got older and learned to associate my emotions with drama, manipulation and shame? Was it as an exhausted mother and exasperated spouse just trying to get one more thing done?

My Mahayana Buddhist training tells me to do everything I do while holding the enlightened intention to become Buddha (True Happiness) for the sake of freeing all beings from suffering. And yet because of my own personal growth work in the past – everything from therapy and 12 Step recovery, story-telling and memoir writing, to yoga and Buddhist meditation – I recognize the self-destructive side of doing for others to the point of exhaustion. I know I am not alone in this particularly feminine style of dysfunction whose root cause sends women to pharmacies and breast cancer surgeons in droves. We women are suffering because, in the face of all we are expecting ourselves to do and be, we are failing to get our own emotional needs met. At the risk of being blunt, we are shirking our number-one priority and responsibility, to take care of our own fragile hearts.

Where are our hearts?

Each of us must answer this question for ourselves. It is only by staying true to our own hearts that we can truly serve others. As women, when we authentically check-in, we do not find lists and deadlines, flow charts and decision matrices. If we are honest, we find tenderness, vulnerability, moods, knowing without being able to show our work, and decisions that fluctuate and flow.

For me, staying too long in my head leads to dysfunctional emotionality. Without the balance of time for meditation, contemplation, dreaming, praying, creating, giggling, cuddling my cat, window-shopping and trusting my wacky self, I become needy and emotionally out-of-control. This always manifests as a messy house, jerky communication, and a chaotic life. These outward signs tell me it’s time to pause and contemplate, to discover where I have given myself away or sold myself out.

I’m sure you can discover your own patterns, positive and negative, if you investigate and make it a priority today.

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Humility and six other virtues to grow a new career

Fall Heart by Carrie Ure

Fall Heart by Carrie Ure

It’s time to revise the old adage, “The teacher appears when the student is ready,” to include the concept of willingness. As a ready student I feel lucky to have attracted wonderful teachers and educational opportunities all my life. Yet it is when I am both ready and willing to make change that the clearest teachings arrive.

Never has this been more true than with my current mentor, teacher and coach, Writer Mama, Christina Katz. I found her in 2008 shortly after saying the words “I want to be a writer” out loud for the first time. Within weeks I heard through the writer’s grapevine about Christina’s books, classes and websites.

A year later, two Writer Mama courses under my belt, a few humble publications and a good start made at blogging, an unexpected exercise gives me pause to reflect on what it will take to make it in my chosen career.

On a lark I joined The Writer Mama Back-to-School Giveaway, an annual month long virtual coffee klatsch for professional and wannabe writer mamas and an occasional intrepid guy. Fighting my own demons of distractibility, boredom and lack of follow-through, I vowed to post every day throughout the month long contest. Only two-thirds of the way to my goal, I could never have predicted how much I would learn in the process.

The questions posed each day catalyze deep thoughts about what motivates me, inspires me and keeps me going against pretty high odds. Paired way down to the basics, my musings identify seven basic virtues that might apply to any new career. To make it as a freelance writer I believe I will need humility, self-love, diligence, trustworthiness, stamina, faith and compassion.

I’ll start with humility, because right out of the gate, there is no greater daily lesson for me. In the process of discovering which area of expertise qualifies me as one of those individuals getting paid for what they say and how they say it, I have had to delve deeply into the question of what I don’t know.  Like the sculptor removing large chunks of marble, I’ve had to let go of whole areas of human knowledge that I will never have the time or inclination to explore. I am left with a richly veined core of ideas just waiting for my unique mark.

Humility grounds me rather than debases me and keeps my feet on the floor, my butt in the chair. Humility requires me to make an honest living and wills me to do what I can and let the rest go. Humility trains my head to serve my heart. Humility lets me sleep at night and gives me permission to make mistakes.

I revel each day in learning something new, thanks to humility. With my new found focus, I wake up energized by concrete possibilities rather than defeated and overwhelmed by endless ethereal potentialities. By letting go of what I don’t know, I am free to delve into truly understanding my chosen subject matter.

Reinventing myself in mid-age has indeed been a humbling project. But so has parenting a teenager, going through divorce and dealing with gray hair and corrective lenses. The difference today, thanks to my writing, is a greater willingness to take each day as it comes and do the next actionable step. The student is willing and ready!


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Ask a modern mystic: cosmic job hunting skills

Picture 3Looking for work during a recession can be a daunting and exhausting endeavor. Some days I feel defeated before I even start, especially when my favorite morning radio program spews dismal economic statistics. Although such news reports have little relevance to my geographical location, lifestyle, or unique individual skills and experience, I can’t help being swayed by the national media’s insistence that I am only a dot on the bell curve.

How does the job-hunting Mystic curtail the sinking feeling that she is just another victim of an economy gone bad? She pounds the pavement of her inner path before ever venturing outside the house.

I counter the negative psychic effects of the collective’s fixation on bad news by spending time on self-inventory and self-care: lots of rest; a conscious cultivation of positive thoughts such as gratitude, faith and generosity; regular healthy meals; and plenty of down-time to dream and support my own inner vision.

Indeed, the following dream I had the other morning yielded an important clue about maintaining a sane and enjoyable job hunt even during hard times:

I am with my mother and my brother when there is a knock at the door. I open the door to find three masked children outside. They each throw a dime into my house and when I stoop to pick them up off the floor, I also find another coin, a heart-shaped quarter.

My dear friend and Tarot master, Hector Cerbon, intreprets my dream as a spontaneous nocturnal Tarot reading. The dimes represent the three coins, disks or pentacles of the traditional European decks. The Three of Pentacles reminds us that every endeavor, including the successful job hunt, involves community. It is the card of Teamwork.

Just as the two Lovers come together in creative union to produce the third, their child, when we initiate any new endeavor we must acknowledge that it takes others to help us manifest our vision. The card represents the practical skills needed to plan and execute a vision. Working with others is the beginning, not the end of your job search.

That’s why Tip #3 from the Mystic Job Hunter is rally your team.

We all have a team or crew, those individuals who are there for us, whether as confidants and supporters, or because they have practical know-how to share. Some of us have large teams and others small. Some of us rely on the professional perspectives of our team members while others just need a little cheering-on. What do you most need that you cannot provide for yourself?

In addition to being a Mystic and a job hunter, I have long been a Networker. In my years networking I have assembled what my friend, Portland artist Jennifer Doheny, calls “My Team.”

Last night I visited Jennifer’s latest art opening at the Milepost 5’s huge 10-day event, “Manor of Art.” As I wait patiently for my turn to shake her hand and congratulate her on her latest work, I salivate over her series of gorgeous paper “batiks,” back-lit and glowing vibrant greens and indigos. She sees me in the crowd and grabs my arm.

“Carrie, I’d like you to meet Sarah, my graphic designer. Sarah, this is Carrie, another member of my team.”

There is instant recognition and connection, for although we have never met, Sarah and I know of one another’s work as part of the team that supports our artist friend. Of course we had each already heard of the other’s contributions.

Jennifer is not only an early adopter of the team concept–an idea that will become increasingly important as we reevaluate work and career in the new economy–she thoroughly embodies the principle. Her blog, entitled “The World is on Your Side,” states her message loud and clear. Jennifer has long made a living as an artist because she understands her role in the community. She relies on others  to help her plan and execute her mission to provide a positive and uplifting message through her art.

Another teamwork example comes to mind. During the second installment of a year-long course in which I’m enrolled, renowned teacher Caroline Myss discusses the concept of the Crew. At the beginning of the workshop she announces that hard times being upon us, we have to realize we’re all in the same boat navigating the same waters.

We’ve got to row with our crew if we hope to make it, she explains to a ballroom packed with spiritual seekers. The rest of the weekend entails finding a crew and processing some high level spiritual data together.

My crew and I are still together, months later. We navigate four different time zones to participate in bi-monthly conference calls. We also use more informal methods to “check-in” and support one another in our spiritual growth. Not surprisingly, four out of six of us are dealing with the issue of work and career.

Another of my teams is my “family.” My sweetheart, also in the midst of a career change, tells me how much he loves me on a regular basis, not because I’m insecure, but because I have told him that I particularly enjoy positive verbal affirmations. He is also there when I need a hug and he listens without comment when I get discouraged and just need to vent.

Likewise, I pick up the phone when he calls during the day because I know that he likes to share a triumph or disappointment. I edit his cover letters and help him relax when his focused activity turns tense. Our children support us both by helping us laugh, play and enjoy the process!  They remind us that family time is one of the most relaxing and nurturing ways to unwind after a day on the job search.

Finally, don’t underestimate the creative ways in which your team can help out. I recently met with my financial advisor, a savvy business woman who spent the entire hour not evaluating my IRA mutual funds, but brainstorming ideas for getting my freelance career off the ground. A true crew member will support you in the way you need to be met, rather than with a pat one-answer-fits-all approach.

While I am lucky enough to count healers, teachers, financial wizards, neighbors, computer specialists, marketing and sales experts and artists among my crew members, any one of them can be counted on to provide the extra service of acknowledging and affirming my unique contribution to the greater community.

As a Mystic job hunter, I am learning important skills that aren’t taught by career coachs and the popular job market press. I’m learning to assemble a team of experts who know me, believe in me and support me in the precise ways I need to be loved. I’m learning that one of the first practical steps toward getting the job I want is to ask others for help and support from a place of self-awareness and mutual respect.

And building your personal team is good practice for team-building at work. Try it before you get hired!


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Mystic job hunting: yes is the new no

Sky's the limit, photo by Carrie Ure

Sky's the limit, photo by Carrie Ure

On Monday morning I hit the ground running. DAY ONE of serious job hunting. I make a short list of networking calls, read Internet articles about how to get a job in the current economy and research how to be a master job-hunter on craigslist, all before 9:00 AM.  I polish my resume and write a punchy tagline for my cover letter: “Can-do attitude meets your communications and customer relations needs.”

I am reacting to a pep talk from a friend the morning before. He had told me that it was time to get a job, think practically, put my writing career on hold while I focus on making an income from a “high probability source.”

“You have simply taken a wrong tun on the path and it’s time to retrace your steps to find a more practical direction,” he quipped.

“You mean Starbucks?” I ‘d sobbed, reaching for a box of tissues.

“Yes, if you must. It’s time for the Mystic to experience a reverse transformation.”

The next morning I sit with my iPhone and a cup of tea, to start virtually pounding the pavement. I grab for the low-hanging fruit: capable, successful people I have worked with in the past, people with whom I have stayed in touch, people who like me and who’ve been supportive.

The first person flat-out tells me that she can’t help me because she is busy making a living herself and the rest of the time is devoted to her spiritual practice. Okay.

The second tells me that Starbucks is really not that bad and that hard times demand drastic action. NO!!!!

The third, a friend of 15 years, has worked with me in two different industries.  A well respected and highly motivated entrepreneur and normally ebullient person, he launches into a whine about how our former employer professionally slighted him several years before. YIKES!

Not one of these informational networking calls is the slightest bit helpful.

Discouraged, I call my dear friend Holly, psychologist, astrologer and wise woman extraordinaire. She reminds me that no plan without a good intention is worth pursuing. Acknowledging that times on the material plane are tough, without faith and self-love, nothing is possible, she says. I think about my path. Is there anything to do but keep trudging forward with dogged determination and steely strength?

Then I remember Yes Man.

The 2008 film, directed by Peyton Reed, tells the story of Carl, played by Jim Carrey. He’s a depressed loser. Divorced and in a dead-end job, he spends his time alone in his apartment, shunning the daylight and the good intentions of his best friend. When he accidentally runs into an old acquaintance and is dragged to a New Age spiritual revival meeting, Carl agrees to a magical contract to say yes to everyting. Hilarious situations then ensue involving homeless people in his car, dates with mysterious women in berkas and well, you’ll have to see it. The film ends with a wiser and more compassionate Carl transported to the life of his dreams.

Impressed by Holly’s unshakable faith in a new future and my intuitive compass pointing to Yes Man, I decide to forgive the movers and shakers I know who are shaking in their boots right now. I relax and stop resisting my experience. I decide to just say yes to the rest of the day.

The phone rings immediately. My ex-husband. Yes. Could I interrupt my job-hunting to do an errand for our son that we’d been putting off? Yes. He picks me up five minutes later and while we wait in line at the bank, Hal tells me that he googled my name and found my blog. His wife was so enthralled reading it that they were late for an appointment. Wow!

“We didn’t realize how well you write,” he says. “We’re sure that you’re going to do well in your new career.” Yes.

I get home just as another friend calls. She had suggested a few weeks before that we prune an unruly pine on my back patio. Was today (prime job hunting time) a good time? Yes! Is it okay if she has a sandwich first? Yes! (You diehard TO DO list job hunters out there, stick with me!)

A half hour passes, just long enough to find me preoccupied about craigslist and all the job hunting opportunities missed while I field a call from my sweetheart, who also happens to be looking for work. Could I spare a few hours from my computer to meet some of his friends at an outdoor concert this evening? Yes!

An hour later, Geri hands me the chain saw and hops down from the tree. I can’t believe how many branches have been removed, what a chore it will be to haul them away and how far off my path I have wandered today. Not only that, it’s almost time to shower and get ready for my evening out.

“Should we take off that one big limb?” Geri interrupts my self-obssessed reverie. Yes!

She scrambles up the fence and takes one last whack. I step back to take in the view and there from my living room and patio, is a beautiful view spread before me, a park-like setting with nothing but huge trees. And in the center, a gorgeous red Japanese Maple sits beside an illuminated path leading up a hill. I had never noticed the path until now. Yes!

Suddenly I know that I am on the right track and that I should keep my faith in myself and keep moving forward.

Brian and I arrive a few hours later at a beautiful sunny park. Yes! Cha cha music blasts, children scamper on the lawn amidst overflowing picnic baskets. Would I like some pink wine? Yes!  I sit among new friends spread out on blankets and survey the scene. Yes!

Within a few hours I have met three new friends, exchanged contact information and one of them gives me an idea for marketing my writing to a new audience, in an industry that is thriving despite the economic downtown. She even offers to take the time to give me research leads and to meet me to discuss my options. I promise to follow up the next day. Yes!

I get home to find my first ever paycheck for my writing. Yes!

Job hunting? Stay true to your path and just say YES! Let the universe take care of the pavement-pounding.