Recently, I went to the Writers Festival in Byron Bay and I had a revelation: in my next life I want to be a gorgeous surfer girl who writes whenever she feels like it, has no problem with letting go and surrendering and never holds a job she does not like. Now, there is an interesting twist to that, because in this life I am the complete opposite of that girl.
It would be so good to experience no agitation of the mind, to finally feel peace and to never worry about money. Let’s say I do not apply for the job because it does not feel right, and as a consequence I do not feel the frustration at having to apply for it and I will not have to go through any existential angst the dilemma might cause me. But is it really that simple? I remember not having a job – that was certainly no peaceful situation. I experienced an even bigger, angrier feeling at not being able to take care of basic needs, never mind having some simple pleasures in life. That was not peace. Peace of mind might have different definitions or be different experiences for everyone. For me, I think it is that line I have difficulty crossing, the line between trust and surrender.
Recently I went through the existential dilemma of applying for the job I already have. Sound confusing? The academic position I hold at the moment is being advertised, so if I want to stay employed I need to apply for it along with all the other aspirants. The natural thing would be to just apply for it. I am familiar with the job, I am liked there and do the best I can. There is, however, one thing. Regardless of what appears to be the obvious truth, I know I am ready to move on. I know I am ready to focus on writing and publishing, not teaching. I know that if I choose to stay in academia, it will be in a different format (research, rather than teaching), and in a different discipline. And that still may be. But for the most part, I want to focus on writing, reading and publishing works on spirituality, philosophy and religions. I know I want to reach out through writing on things that truly matter to us all – about the paradox that we all face, the human-divine paradox we are at every moment of our lives. I believe the answers lie in spiritual practice and the study of philosophical and spiritual writings in all traditions. If I were to be completely honest with myself, I want to experience and write about the possibility of higher choices. Higher not in some moralistic sense (I have no patience for moralists), but in an evolutionary sense. Choices that take us closer to fulfilment. And more. I am already working at this. I am already ready for it. For example, I am already writing about things that deeply interest me (including this blog and this website), even if they cause raised eyebrows in academia and literary establishments. ‘She has talent and potential but wastes them on some spiritual nonsense that cannot even be properly footnoted.’ This is the underlying, if silent, message I hear at times. Worse still, this is the message my own inner censor-critic tells me; it takes immense effort not to listen to it and instead focus on what makes my soul dance.
In short, I want to live, not just survive (even if that survival is ‘prestigious’). But is surviving contrary to living? Yes, we need to survive to have a life to live. The issue here is not about choice, but focus. We need to do certain things to survive, but the fine Art of Life lies in our focus. A focus on a beautiful life, a focus on living that life, doing everything needed for the creation of that life. No one else will create it for you. Only you can create the life you want. Make that choice.
So let’s get back to that job application. I found it to be a completely cathartic experience. Knowing what you want is one thing; having the courage to surrender and trust is another. I cried all morning, went for a walk with my dog, then came back and sat down by the computer, addressing the selection criteria one by one with a vengeance. I felt sick in my stomach and decided I had the flu. I took a break and continued. I cancelled my yoga class and did not go to the satsang so I could finish the application. I re-read my section criteria and knew I had a very strong application (I’ll show the bastards how good I am!), but I felt I needed to cry more, and felt miserable. So I reached for wisdom from Vedanta. I went to pages 224 and 226, volume three, to the commentary in chapter VIII by the Vedantic teacher Parthasarathy I met during my years in Asia. Loosely translated and excluding Sanskrit terms, it reads:
When a person acts according to his nature the entire personality supports his action. His body, mind and intellect cooperate. He finds fulfillment in what he does. The environment or circumstance may not allow a person to act according to his nature. Yet he should pursue his nature to the extent he can. Gradually, his part-time turns into his lifetime activity by the force of his inherent nature… he will ultimately find peace and prosperity in life… It is a course of life best suited for evolution…
Now, back to that job application: do I click ‘send’ or ‘delete’?