A Modern Mystic

Musings on life, work and contemporary spirituality


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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!