I was speaking with someone very close to me about their career, lets call her Ruth. Ruth loves to travel so naturally she wanted to have a career in which traveling the world is part of her job description. She studied her way through college and grad school to learn everything she could about international relations. So far, Ruth has been working multiple jobs either for the government or for private companies which contract with the government. She carried out different projects to help other countries’ infrastructure – agriculture, engineering, she even helped to redesign government procedures in Russia. Ruth loved some aspects of her job; traveling, learning new languages, meeting people from all over the world, and having that status of being a worldly adventurous person. She surprisingly even loved the long hours and the challenge of being in a place where anything could happen – a bomb could go off, a siren may sound. A dust storm could settle over her shelter for hours leaving her completely unattached to the outside world, lost in a place which at the end of the day doesn’t entirely want the help of the American people and government.
I asked Ruth how she felt about international relations and the involvement the US has had in third world countries. She quickly replied that she thinks it is ridiculous that we spend so much money on other countries while we have so much work to do right here at home. I was baffled. You mean you don’t actually believe that Americans need to be working abroad? That’s what you spend most of your time doing! To Ruth, this wasn’t an easy thing to hear, she knew I was seeing the discrepancy in her career choice. I wasn’t judging, I was simply trying to understand her position and where her passion to do what she does every day came from. She took a few minutes to think about her reply. “Well,” she said, “I’m here for the instant gratification – I get to travel, to learn about different cultures, it’s basically all I’ve ever wanted.”
Yes, on a superficial level, Ruth was thriving in her career. However, the heart of it was dark for her – she was supporting something she completely did not believe in and for the moment it was ok for her, or at least she has become ok with it. When I later asked Ruth if she was happy, she said no. A contradiction arose – she said she had everything she ever wanted, yet she wasn’t happy. How is that possible?
This is when I would like to make a connection to the yogic concept of Sankalpa. Sankalpa is sometimes defined as “a call to awakening”. It’s an intention which we carry with us through all of our words, thoughts and actions. Through the practice of finding sankalpa we hope to achieve motivation, confidence, and overall happiness. Defining sankalpa is different than goal setting – sankalpa is something that must exist in the present moment in your thoughts, words and actions. It is not something you simply want to achieve in the future. For instance, you can resolve to make 10,000 extra dollars a year in three years. However, this goal is not something that you can practice in the present moment. Additionally, you have not given yourself a clear path of how you’re going to get there or why you even absolutely have to make more money. Do you want to feel happier or be able to take care of your children more efficiently? These are resolves that you could potentially start acting towards each day every day. Your actions may include asking for a raise, or becoming more efficient at what you do for work. Additionally, your actions may also include being consistently more positive about your day (if you’re resolving to be more happy) or spending more quality time with your kids each day (if you’re trying to take better care of your children). At the end of the day, money may or may not be the solution, but at least now you have looked beyond it towards a more authentic organic goal.
I truly believe that looking into the heart of what you do and making sure it speaks to you is important. Even, in a small way – you may work with numbers all day and it’s daunting. However, you are doing accounting for a company that saves animals, or helps people stay connected to the internet, or… you get the point; you’re working for a cause that you find helpful and meaningful. I know that sometimes we take on any job just so we can pay the bills and put our kids through school. Ruth, however, is in a space where she has a choice of what to do and where to go. She has no attachments and an education, both things which may help her find something she truly believes in while supporting her passions.
For Ruth, to become happy and to find her sankalpa she would need to ask herself some hard questions. She would need to find the “Why” behind her passion for travel – maybe she loves solving mysteries, or discovering new cultures. She may also be escaping the reality of home. Based on her “why” – she could then clearly identify what her passion truly is and maybe change her path to one that lines up with her truth. Easier said than done, right? Defining sankalpa may take years, it may be tough, and can lead you down different paths in your life. At the end of it all though, you will see how all the pieces fit, you will catch a glimpse of clarity into the why behind it all; the why behind all the set backs, and the pain, all the confusion, all the promotions and demotions. In that moment life seems abundant, fair, and completely aligned with who you are at your core; a total merging of your strengths.
One of my favorite texts, the Radiance Sutras, states – “be so in love that you’re willing to dissolve and be recreated in every moment.” As humans, I believe this is the relationship we strive for within each aspect of our lives. We are hoping for passion, for authentic connection, for complete surrender. I honor those of you on your search and encourage you to continue this path of inquiry as long as you can; it is not meant to stop or be achieved. As part of Sankalpa, the search is something you continuously hold on to.
I will also feature many soul searching stories on this blog, so let me know if you would like to be interviewed!