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Align Your Career with Your Hearts Vision

by Beth A. Bottorff, MA

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In her ground-breaking best-seller, Do What You Love and the Money will Follow, Marsha Sinitar outlined the psychology of creating a conscious career. Right Livelihood, as it is known in the Buddhist tradition, involves enacting right speech and right action in work or vocation. According to Vernice Solimar, PhD, "Right Livelihood happens when one's work is in alignment with the highest vision or principle in his/her life. It is when one's life work reflects the whole of who we are; so it has heart and soul." Knowing what is truly appropriate and in accordance with one's own nature is essentially the key to discovering Right Livelihood.

For many of us however, understanding the underlying dynamcis of our career choices involves deep inquiry or examination into the societal and personal belief systems through which we have come to express ourselves in the world. In a culture that defines success by output and contribution to the Gross National Product, we are taught to vallue the capacity of the human doing, rather than to embrace our own essential qualities as human beings. Success is acheived at the expense of our relationship to family, friends and community and oftentimes at the abandonment of our deepest connection to the Self. The discontent that we feel when we realize that the byproducts of our work are no longer stimulating and that the work itself has become meaningless, is often that catalyst that inspires change-change in career, change in lifestyle and change in perspective.

In Northern California, there are a number of institutions that are helping people negotiate this life transforming process. Programs offered at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), The Sophia Center at Holy Names College, The University of Creation Spirituality and John F. Kennedy University's Graduate School for Holistic Studies are among those schools which focus on the integration of the whole person, including the mental, physical and spiritual aspects our being.

Dr. Solimar, who received her doctoral degree degree from CIIS and chairs the Consciousness Studies department at the Graduate School for Holistic Sutdies, teaches classes in sacred intention and career development. "We don't really use the word job or career; we use the term Right Livelihood, which may include the other two, but they are not the intention. The way we perceive the world and our place in the cosmos shifts as we begin to see the interconnection of all life. From that place, spirit, soul, core values and social or ecological issues become concerns of the workplace. We begin to look at the consequences of our actions. We come to see that everything we do is a seed."

The Graduate School for Holistic Studies is a unique community of educators, practitioners and students who share a vision of personal and societal transformation. The programs and courses are designed to provide a balance between academic learning and experiential understanding. They honor all dimensions of consciousness and promote a fuller integration of body, mind and spirit. Collectively, students use the structure of an academic setting to learn the skills that will prepare them to seek new career paths while profoundly deepening their self-knowledge.

Planting those seeds of our higher vision takes courage and trust. When we let go of our old concepts about success and work through our resistance and fear, we can begin to tap into the deeper sense of connection and love about which Sinitar wrote in Do What You Love and the Money will Follow,. Victoria Stiefvater MA, MFCC and Terry Hatcher, PhD, founders of Counseling for Creative People, use expressive arts techniques to help eople do just that. Stiefvater, who worked 10 years in the computer industry and 18 years in the restaurant business before completing her counseling degree and establishing a private practice in Berkeley, has gone through the process of career change herself.

"I was working 10 to 12 hours a day and I really thought I wouldn't be alve to make it if I left the security of that job. It was traumatic leaving because I had so much fear. I had to get sick to make a change. I was offered a job that allowed me to work 20 hours a week and create my own schedule the rest of the time. It really helped me to see what was important. I may not go out to dinner as much as before, but now I have time to share dinner with friends and to spend time in nature."

Stiefvater and Hatcher assist clients with the intention of "energizing the soul." "We focus on helping the person to integrate the psychological and historical dimension with the spiritual being. We use expressive arts to access the creative force with which many people have lost touch," says Stiefvater. "When we are connected to our life force, we can see the possibilities and change can happen in all areas of our lives. When our self perception shifsts, our whole concept of work and our motivation for working changes as well. We relate from a place that involves harmony with the environment, with the earth and all beings."

Achieving such harmony means that we must be willing to let go our our attachment to being in control. One of the ways we learn to recognize whether or not we are in harmony is by listening to the messages of the body. "My body knows the anser to my questions and it tells me, if I can slow down long enough to listen," says K. Sue Duncan, MA, MFCC and the Dean of the Graduate School for Holistic Studies.

Duncan, who recently closed her own private practice to assume the role of Dean, has seen students and clients undertake the venture of creating life work. "This process is non-logical, non-linear and it isn't rational; it is the unknown. It's about shifting from the mindset that to be credible you have to have certain things (i.e. title, money or degrees). In Right Livelihood, my identity is not tied up in what I do, but what I do is who I am. I've heard repeatedly people say 'I thought I was missing something and that I just needed this thing, but what I came to realize was that the only thing that was missing was me.' In this program we encourage people to express themselves from a place that is authentic, instead of who they think they should be."

Discovering our authentic self leads to the awareness that we each have a purpose, a path that is uniquely our own. Folowing this path is what Sinitar believes will lead us to dow work that we lvoe and be paid for it as well. In many cultures, it is believed that each person has a gift, a contribution to make that is essential to the community's ability to function as a whole. Each indiviudal gift is supported by the collective wisdom and energy of the group. In this way, Right Livelihood or conscious career becomes not only a manifestation of our own soul's journey, but an expression of our deepest relationship and service to our community.

Beth A. Bottorff, MA is a singer/songwriter, freelance writer and the Outreach Coordinator for the Graduate School for Holistic Studies.

Related Info:
Program Yourself for Success
Changing Careers
Align Your Career with Your Heart's Vision
New Thinking in Health Education
Holistic Health Educators as Agents of Transformative Change

Holistic Education Choices


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