All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life, I could say I have traversed long long paths, but I am not anywhere. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere, but one has a heart, the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.

Before you embark on any path ask the question: Does this path have a heart? If the answer is no, you will know it, and then you must choose another path.

Don Juan quoted by Carlos Casteneda in The Teachings of Don Juan, a Yaqui Book of Knowledge

Every great journey begins with a Call.

Dorothy dreamt of going over the rainbow before she was swept up in a great tornado and brought to the land of Oz. Luke Skywalker received Princess Leia’s call for help before departing for his journey to become a Jedi warrior. Belle sang of wanting so much more before she was kidnapped by the beast.

Maybe you feel called to fulfill a greater purpose.

Maybe you’re burnt out and long for work that brightens your spirit while still making a meaningful contribution. Or you’re bored at work and know there must be more to life. Or you’re dreaming about starting a business or contemplating a career change. Whatever your circumstances, you want to work in a way that feels nourishing and fulfilling and makes a difference in the world.

Or, maybe you’ve had a recently wake up call.

People also feel called to change their lives after they experience a wake-up call that reminds them life is short. Maybe a serious illness, the loss of a loved one, a crisis at work, or some other experience has shaken the foundation of life as you knew it. Often, heroes are kidnapped, carried away and sent to foreign lands against their will, and their journey begins when they choose to become the person who can rise to the challenge.

So, what is a calling, exactly?

Typically, people think of callings as goals, as something you can reach out and touch. For example, you might hear someone say, “I have a calling to become a teacher or a nurse or to start a non-profit.” But, while thinking of a calling as a destination is not entirely off, it can limit you.

Living your calling is not about getting attached any desired outcome. Rather, it’s about listening to the voice of your inner guidance in each and every moment, choosing courage in the face of the unknown and finding clarity by taking small, practical steps forward.

A “calling” as a sense of inner knowing that arises deep within in response to the question, “What is my next step forward?”

The root of the word “vocation” is the Latin verb, “vocare,” which means “to call.” The voice of your calling can sound like an almost imperceptible whisper and like the loudest of thunderclaps. The voice of your calling is known by many names in many traditions—  both spiritual and secular— inner guidance, inner light, intuition, “that of God” in each of us, a gut feeling, a heart’s yearning, spirit, soul, or authentic self. You get to choose what you call it.

You can learn to listen.

When you pause long enough to listen, you can hear the voice of your calling beckoning you to say yes to your next step, including steps that don’t come easily or make complete sense at the time.

Sometimes, it’ll feel like you chose your calling, but at other times, your calling will feel like it’s happening to you. For example, you know you need to do something that’s really hard or uncomfortable, and you really wish that instead, you could stay in your cozy bed and sleep all day. Either way, your callings will challenge you to let go of old identities, habits, and stories about the way the world works and stretch yourself to become the person you want to be.

Following a big calling can feel like it requires you to turn around a huge ship in the midst of a storm. Smaller callings arise in each and every moment, and once you’re aligned with the voice of your calling, staying on the path can require similar attention to steering a ship. Sometimes, you need to pay more attention, and other times, you can coast.

Learning to discern the voice of your calling can take practice and time.

And, I invite you to start right now.

  1. Get a piece of paper and a pen to write with. Writing on paper (as opposed to a computer) helps to slow down our thoughts and hear ourselves more clearly.
  2. Set a timer for the amount of time you have, five minutes or more.
  3. Think of a decision you’re facing. For this first round of practice, choose a decision that doesn’t feel super-high stakes or bring up a lot of anxiety.
  4. Take several soothing breaths. Relax your belly and your shoulders. Without trying to change anything, notice how you feel in your body.
  5. Then, read the following questions and write down comes up:
    • What steps forward do I feel called to take?
    • What next steps are calling to me?

Write down whatever comes up without censoring yourself or changing what you hear. Keep your pen moving until the timer goes off, even if the words don’t quite make sense to you. When the timer goes off, if you want to keep writing, you’re welcome to do so.

Throughout the week, I invite you to practice asking yourself the question— “How do I feel called to respond to the situation I’m facing, right now?”

Rather than grasping onto what comes up as the “right” or “wrong” answer, hold the information that arises lightly. And, take a risk to follow what you hear. The more you practice, the more you’ll be able to identify the signs and signals of your intuition.

I’d love to hear from you!

What comes up when you ask— How do I feel called to respond to the situation I’m facing, right now?

I’d love to hear from you! Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, and I will make sure to respond.

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