Six Tips on How to Follow Your Calling
There is a voice that speaks from some place hard to know; that seems to reside both deep within and far without. It arises mysteriously, often at times inconvenient to the trajectory you have set out as your ‘life’; sometimes as quiet as a whisper, and sometimes soul-deafeningly loud. And it is a voice that often doesn’t make sense to the logical mind that questions, analyses and evaluates.
Some call it the voice of the heart, the soul, the higher self, of divine guidance, spirit guides, intuition, or greater wisdom. Whatever it is, and wherever it comes from, one thing is for certain: it needs heeding. For it is the voice of your calling, of your truth that will lead to back to your Self. And quite likely, into greater joy, greater peace, and a true sense of your purpose, of Dharma.
It is this voice that arose that led me to undertake doula training three years ago, in a move that made very little sense at the time: I wanted to explore women’s work, the divine feminine, for my own unfolding and growth as a woman. I researched a huge range of women’s courses and programs that would fulfill this purpose, but the voice was still there – do this doula training. I questioned and doubted and got confused: why would I do that? It’s really expensive. I don’t even want to be a doula… The questions went on. But the voice persisted, hinting that there was something there for me to dive into birthwork – the primal mystery of life and creation.
Three years later, and not only does supporting birthing women feel like the most beautiful, natural thing for me to be doing, but Birth for HumanKIND has been fully birthed and is going from strength to strength: a not-for-profit organisation of volunteer doulas who support disadvantaged and vulnerable women including refugees, asylum seekers and young women. Birthed as a result of me listening to that voice and taking the training, against all reason.
It is the same voice that has brought me now to Peru, in a move that again seemed against all reason and convenience. But having experienced the overflowing blessings of listening to that voice in the past, I knew better, so
I did just that: listened and followed. So here, in the jungle of Peru, I have swum naked in the freezing cold stormy blast of Gocta Falls, the third highest waterfall in the world; I have visited the Dr Seuss-like magical beauty of the pre-Incan ruins of Kuelap; I have meditated in an ancient stone circle in the incredible nature surrounding the small town of Pamashto and been gifted with one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen.
But more significantly, I have spent 14 days doing dieta (a traditional plant medicine retreat) at my friends’ gorgeous healing center, El Jardin de la Paz. Here, I have had my path reaffirmed and deep, simple wisdom reinforced: love really is the most powerful medicine. To sit in love, to practice love, to bring love into every encounter and every situation, to be love, this is the most powerful work we can be doing. And to support that, we need trust, patience and the strength to constantly banish doubt whenever it creeps in.
This is the true gift of my path and purpose that I have been given from listening to that voice: to practice love, to be love, and to serve the world from that place, with trust and with patience. And true to that purpose, I am about to head back out to El Jardin to provide support, to serve and to offer yoga and meditation on the next dieta, as the next courageous group of people do their own powerful healing, spiritual and wisdom work… Before I travel onwards to Greece where I will be assisting my teachers Tara Judelle and Scott Lyons on the very first Embodied FlowTM 200 hour yoga teacher training. Ultimately, it is all the same work, the calling that I know is true – serving this world with great love. And what that calling will look like for you is whatever makes your heart truly sing.
So until I reemerge from the jungle, here are some tips on how to follow your own calling… doing the beautiful, rewarding work is up to you.
SIX TIPS ON HOW TO FOLLOW YOUR OWN CALLING
1. Sit in the silence
Sitting in silence is the best way to let that voice emerge. Meditation is a great way to sit in that silence, but it is not the only way: it may emerge for you as you go for a stroll out in nature, watch a beautiful sunset, or even as you surrender to the peak hour traffic on your way to work. Let the thinking mind go, drop into your heart space, and listen for that little (or great) thing that truly makes your heart sing.
Even if the voice is a tiny whisper, or even if it whispers to you a seemingly tiny, insignificant thing – trust. The path of your true calling often requires you to sit in the unknown, allowing things to emerge and unfold as they will. Purpose does not always have to equate with ‘action’. Your purpose may be an attitude, a state of being, or a quality, for example, being love or living each moment with gratitude. It may be grand, or it may be small – but really, who is to know the value and meaning of your calling until you follow it.
3. Set your compass – be clear in your intention
You have to know where you want to go, what you are moving towards. In yoga, this is called ‘sankalpa’ – your intention. A powerful sankalpa is like a laser beam that lights up the way and keeps you on track. Without a clear goal, it is like wandering around in the dark or with a blindfold on: it is too easy to get confused, bumping into things, and ending up right where you began. Again, an intention may be a goal of action or a goal of ‘being’. Most importantly, take a moment at the beginning of every day to clearly set your intention – and remember it as much as you can throughout the day. It is the guide that will direct your attention back to your purpose in each moment and situation.
4. Choose your tools
Just as an adventurer setting out on a long journey needs tools to protect, nourish and facilitate her way, so do we need the right tools for the journey of following our calling. The tools we need are the ones that keep us connected with our inner voice and our hearts, that focus the mind, and build strength and suppleness in the body – so that we are ready for whatever the journey brings. This might be meditation, yoga, time in nature, qi gong, prayer – whatever practices resonate with you and bring you joy. They say the Buddha taught 80,000 different types of meditation for the 80,000 different types of people. So choose what works for you, and dedicate yourself to cultivating your tools, every day.
5. Take the first step
So you have heard the voice, you have built your trust in it, and you have cultivated the tools and strength you need. What now? Take the first step. This often feels like a leap of faith. It may be booking the plane ticket to your dream destination, going to your first salsa class, or picking up the phone on a hunch to call that old friend you haven’t seen in ten years…
Even if the whisper of the voice was almost too qui
et to hear, taking the first step will bring the clarity you seek. As Anandamayi Ma says, “If you sit with all doors and windows closed, how can you see the path? Open the door and step out, the path will become visible. Once on the way, you will meet other wayfarers, who will advise and guide you as to the path. Your job is to muster whatever strength you have to get underway – thereafter help is assured.”
6. Practice gratitude… and keep going
Never underestimate the power and importance of practicing gratitude. It is like the prayer that invites beauty and abundance into your life. For life truly is a mirror – what you offer into the world determines what you will receive in return. For every step, be grateful, knowing that you are on the path, and that you are fulfilling your purpose through these simple a
cts of listening and following the calling. You never know what is coming around the corner, and often what may seem ‘negative’ is that blessing in disguise, clearing you out for what is ready to shine forth, or an opportunity to strengthen your practice and resolve. So in every moment, practice gratitude. Keep listening, keep trusting, stay clear, stay focused… just keep going.
Life cannot help but fulfill itself when you offer yourself to her wisdom in this way. And her gifts are beauty, joy, peace and that quiet inner radiance that lights up everything within and around you.