Serve, Express, and Prosper:
Discovering Your Right Livelihood
by Gina Castellano
A bit of advice given to a young Native American at the time of his initiation: “As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm. Jump. It’s not as wide as you think.”* For many of us, discovering our right livelihood is about jumping. Jumping across the chasm from work as survival to work as a calling. Everyone has a calling. The key is to learn to listen in such a way that we hear the calling. When we’re engaged in our right livelihood, we’re doing the work we’re meant to do-the work that makes our hearts sing. It takes courage to even be willing to explore this aspect of life in the kind of depth required to discover not which career we’re suited to, but what it is our higher self calls us to do. When we make this kind of shift in our thinking, we change the way we’re living life. When we live life as a responder to a call, we’re living life as a mystic.
In this age, there is a sense of urgency about discovering our right livelihood; and I think it’s because we’re healing and growing at a really rapid rate, and we want every area of our lives to reflect this. For us, then, work must be an expression of our authentic selves and must reflect our transcendent values.
How do we go about discovering our right livelihood? In my own life experience I’ve had many enjoyable and creative jobs — teacher, writer, graphic designer — but only one true calling. I discovered my calling not through conventional career counseling, but rather through a process of opening up and listening to my higher self.
Have you found your calling? If you find yourself yearning for work that expresses more authentically who you really are, then you’ve probably already begun the process of discovering your right livelihood.
I’d like to share with you some of the things that helped me. A good place to begin is to examine our conditioning around work. For example, you might check to see if the advice of well-meaning parents and teachers is still part of your belief system and no longer works for you. You might ask yourself the following question: Do I really believe in my heart that I can fully express exactly who I am and get paid for it? In short, the first step involves removing emotional blocks and limitations.
Contemplation and self-inquiry help us to uncover our conditioning and also help us to connect to our natural inclinations — what it is we love to do and do well naturally.
Getting feedback from those we trust can also be helpful. Others are usually better at seeing our genius than we are. I believe we come into this life knowing what we’re here to do. It’s coded in the cells of our bodies and as children we know it. A few years ago my mother gave me a box filled with things she had been saving for me from my childhood. As I looked through these things I discovered a small book I had made. It was filled with before and after drawings of people-men, women, and children. In the before pictures the people looked unhappy and worried. In the after pictures, however, they were smiling and happy. The realization hit me that on one level these drawings were my attempt to express my life’s work as a transformational counselor. One of my dear friends shared with me that as a little girl she loved to read the section, “Can this Marriage be Saved?” in her mother’s magazines. She too is a transformational counselor.
Once you discover your calling, the next step is to clarify your vision and formulate a concise and powerful statement of you calling and willingness to respond to the call. The final step in the process goes back to the beginning of this article and the advice to a young Native American at the time of his initiation: Jump. It’s not as wide as you think. *p.298, Reflections on the Art of Living. A Joseph Campbell Companion.
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