In my last blog, I talked about the intersection of dharma (our sacred duty in this lifetime) and flourishing at midlife.
The issue that typically arises from someone exploring dharma at midlife is fear. Fear that they’ll have to throw away most everything they’ve created and worked for in order to follow their dharma. Sometimes, that is true; we do have to throw it all away and start again.
But Stephen Cope, in The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling, suggests something different.
“…most people are already living very close to their dharma.
However, these same people, close as they are to the mystery of dharma, know very little about it.
They don’t name it. They don’t own it. They don’t live it intentionally.
Their own sacred calling is hiding in plain sight. They keep just missing it.
…[and] when it comes to dharma, missing by an inch is as good as missing by a mile.
Aim is everything.” (p. xxv)
This is such a curious idea to me. Looking back upon my life so far – I’m living the last gasps of my 40’s – I can see that the work that has brought me the most fulfillment has been at the intersection of education and the helping professions; typically supporting people’s personal and spiritual growth or an organization’s growth.
I remember a period of time when I thought I’d have a career in the hotel/restaurant management field (a version of the helping professions). I am a creative cook and love to entertain, but as I pursued a career in the field, I realized just providing services was not enough. There had to be meaning and purpose to my work in the world; I needed to connect with people when serving them. My aim was off.
Stephen Cope suggests, and I’ve noticed, that one’s dharma may shift over the years, but it typically stays in the same general area. This idea is a little different than aim. It’s more like a refining process. In college, I was a resident assistant, helping students in the residence halls adjust and manage college life. I started my professional life as a Residence Hall Director where I trained, supervised, counseled, planned programs, disciplined students, and sat on college-wide committees. Eventually, I moved into student support services, managing a federal TRIO program of the same name.
Next, I spent a decade exploring yoga, metaphysics, meditation and energy healing. The focus was primarily on healing and helping myself rather than others. But throughout that decade, I coached, counseled, offered energy healing, and taught what I was mastering (energy healing, intuitive development, listening to the still, small voice, connecting with Source, etc). I was self-employed throughout most of this time, but occasionally worked part-time at organizations helping them heal.
Clearly, I was on my dharma path during this time period; nothing else was calling to me and the door had been firmly shut to opportunities in higher education administration. But my aim wasn’t off; I was simply being called in a different direction.
These days, it’s all come together – been revealed, if you will. I’m doing all the things that I did in the last three decades at a place that is aligned with my values. Southwestern College is a consciousness-centered graduate school for counseling and art therapy. We train spiritually mature and clinically grounded counselors and art therapists.
Essentially, my dharma has refined itself into a deeply satisfying career while I was looking down, putting one foot in front of the other. I certainly never expected to return to higher education administration. Yet here I am – working at the intersection of education and the helping professions at a college that deeply values soul-based counseling, alternative healing and conscious living.
Those refinements makes my aim better. When this position was offered to me, I knew it was a good fit.
What about you?
- How is your aim?
- What tweaks can you make to correct your aim if it’s off?
- How has your dharma shifted over the years?
- Has it stayed in the same arena or changed arenas?