So where did the click go? Did I listen to the energy, the intuition, the inner gut and refuse to act on fear, or did I follow all the signs and not apply? It is so nice to see all the postings on Facebook from Rumi and other inspirational poets and wise people, or the teachings of our spiritual teachers. But the bottom line is – do we follow what they tell us in critical situations? All the great teachers say it is bad for us, in the long term, to act out of negative emotions (fear or anger) that, however beneficial the short-term outcome from them might seem to be, their long-term price is too big to pay. Eckhart Tolle gives beautiful examples in his second book. He writes of overcoming fear as THE most important element of evolution, the crossing from the fear for survival to higher goals. Tolle asks us to imagine the first weed that decided to blossom and became the first flower, or the first reptile that ‘chose’ to grow wings to become a bird. Each a step into the great unknown, and each absolutely necessary for growth. It is even more complex with human beings as we actually have a choice. But this is what makes it so difficult – it is up to us whether we take the step beyond fear. So hard and so easy at the same time. Carl Jung said that the great majority of human beings still choose (I repeat here ‘choose’) to act from the first chakra, or the survival instinct. I have read all of this and know all of this and deeply agree with all of this. So what did I do when I had the choice to apply or not to apply for the well-paid job I knew was no good for me in the long run as it would taking me further and further from what I believe to be my chosen path. What did I do?
I did send the application out. I sent it out and for a week was in a state of turmoil, calculating the moral and financial odds, observing the struggle between my heart and mind, feeling sick to my stomach. Vedanta says it is better to follow your calling – even if it does not bring you immediate financial reward – not because it is some higher goal (Vedanta is too wonderfully practical for that!), but to avoid the mental torment which follows the opposite choice. It is better, Vedanta says, to do what you love because it brings you bliss, which, in the long term (this phrase again), is more beneficial for you – and work done with love will eventually bring good financial results as well. For a long time now, I have been observing people who do what they love and somehow earn a decent living doing it. For a long time, I have wanted to be one of them. I want to do what l love and earn a good living doing it. This message to myself is very clear, but is immediately intercepted by inner anxieties, by voices of fear from within and without: you are a writer, how do you think you will earn a living? So for years now I have been mostly teaching things I have had no interest in because it pays good money, even if on some level it seems to kill my sense of purpose and joy in life.
Yes, I confess – I did send the job application. I did prepare a good presentation. I did well at the job interview and my sense of being, again, untruthful to myself, persisted. As I was dressing for the interview I looked in the mirror and I remembered an incident from a few years ago. I was at a writing workshop at the University of Sydney run by two women: one an accomplished writer and the other a very accomplished academic. It was a highly competitive situation, as I really wanted to win that writing scholarship and book deal, so during the break I hid in one of the corridors and continued working on my manuscript. I noticed that, from a distance, the highly accomplished academic woman (very elegant and happy with herself) was observing me with interest, and I had a strange sense of déjà vu. It was as if my possible future self was observing me with a strange sense of triumph. I remember thinking how much I did not want to be that woman. Yes, she was accomplished, good-looking and elegant, but I knew with an inner knowing I had walked that path in the past. This time I was a writer, an author, a traveller, and yes, a scholar – but not within the limits of academia anymore. In that moment, I said to myself, ‘I need to remember this so I won’t stray again in the future.’
I remembered that moment as I looked in the mirror – and I shivered, because what I saw there was a younger version of that woman from the University of Sydney. I was making a step in the wrong direction, I knew, but I could not stop it. So I went to the interview and I did well. I drove back home and another week of inner conflict followed. I sat in mediation and said to myself, ‘I let what is not for my higher good happen’ and had a deep sense of relief, felt I could breathe freely again. I had a quiet sense that I should go and check messages on my work email. And there it was: a message sent five minutes earlier informing me the selection committee had decided not to give this job to anyone.
I felt even better. So I am scared and I do not know what lies beyond the end of the year, but I feel like I have stopped something and started something much more fruitful, if uncertain. It feels good.