I would be remiss if I didn't encourage you to develop a practice of mindfulness and/or meditation: this is the #1 thing that helped me change careers and create Repurpose Your Purpose. While I had changed careers before with a totally different approach, this time around, my transformation has been more profound, long lasting, and led to deeper fulfillment and inner peace. Read my story on how I found meditation below, and get inspired to develop a practice that will support you as you change careers.
Sometimes in 2015 I checked out The Surrender Experiment audio book from the library. I was still working as a Marketing Director back then, and although my commute was short by LA standards, it still took me up to an hour to drive back home every day. I used that time to listen to lots of books. I had previously read The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer, but have to confess that although I had found it interesting and to the point, it felt quite abstract. Yet, it sounded good enough for me to check the other book by Singer, his autobiography. The Surrender Experiment changed my life.
I was not happy at work, but here's the deal: I had done everything right. I had changed careers years before, gotten great jobs, made lots more money, had an upward trajectory, got to travel, blah blah blah. And yet, life was throwing stuff at me all the time I felt powerless to control. Coming from a mindset of making it happen, working hard, "reasons or excuses," I felt more and more stress. I had put on over 20 pounds, and for the first time in my life felt I was not living in alignment with my values.
I left my job at the very end of 2015, determined to follow Mickey Singer's lead and develop an approach to life that would give me inner peace regardless of what was going on in my life. I was going to give up my need to plan, control, fight, and instead I was going to "surrender to life's perfection." It's been 2.5 years since then and I can say now that it was 100% worth it.
The first step was to develop a meditation practice. I had tried meditation in the past, sometimes finding it relaxing, but never more than that. No enlightenment, nor experiences of higher consciousness, I mostly felt it didn't work for me, and my attempts had been meh at best. I did however determine I was going to try harder this time! I had dabbled with Zazen (Zen meditation) and Tibetan Buddhist meditation in the past, and thought the latter would be easier. So I set out to find a place near me where to practice.
I couldn't find anything. Ugh. So I asked a neighbor. And she told me she didn't know of any Buddhist meditation places nearby, but the neighborhood Sikhs were going to get together for a long evening of meditation on New Year's Eve, and anyone could join. She often went, in fact, and would love to take me. My first reaction was the usual one: control, control, control. Sikhs? I had heard of them, but didn't know anything about their religion. Meditating for a few hours on New Year's Eve? Ugh. With people I didn't know? Not my cup of tea. So of course I said No, I wanted what I wanted. And to that she replied: "Weren't you going to surrender to the flow of life?" and I felt busted. OK, I said. I will start my practice of surrendering on New Year's Eve. And that was the beginning of my adventure.
The moment I stepped into the Gurdwara (the Sikh's place of worship), I felt I had just found heaven. It was not a silent meditation, but one with music and chanting. Everything was covered in white and most people were wearing white. I sat down in a meditation pose, closed my eyes and focused them on the spot between my eyebrows. And for the first time, with no effort at all, I found myself truly meditating.
This experience changed forever my outlook of life and career: I saw how I would have never discovered the amazing richness and transformational power already present in my neighborhood, if I had not given up my belief that I needed to know, plan, control, be in charge of my own life. And I also made another discovery: there are many different types of meditation approaches and styles, and when you find the one that works for you, you will be able to start meditating (almost) effortlessly. Coach Michael Neill says that "Clarity is the mind's natural state" and I couldn't agree more. It takes practice to meditate for long periods of time, but no practice at all to start with a 5 or 10 min meditation. I expected to work super hard at making silent meditation work for me, and instead found that it was just a matter of finding the right approach - in my case sound! I didn't even know that was an option.
We are brought up to believe we have to fix ourselves, that if something comes easy it is not worth our time, that we need to plan, figure out all the little details, work harder than anyone else. All these can become incredibly destructive beliefs that cause people unnecessary suffering and generate a lot of fear. I am still working on completely freeing myself of my own conditioning, but after the first year and a half of chanting and meditation, I did start to experience inner peace regardless of what was going on in my life. In other words, I became much more resilient to the ups and downs of life - and this is why I encourage you to develop your own meditation practice: it requires just a few minutes a week to get started, and if you keep going, the benefits will be life-changing.
Let's bust a few myths about meditation:
- You need to dedicate half an hour a day or more to experience the benefits of meditation. This is not true. For the first year, I only chanted 30 min per week and then added 5 min of chanting or silent meditation while listening to the chants a few days a week. Now I meditate up to 30 min per day. I started to experience beneficial effects right away, doing as little as I enjoyed.
- You need to work hard at silent meditation, or any specific approach, if you want to learn. Nope! I found that once I tried chanting, it worked for me immediately. It is my observation that different people benefit from different approaches, and these can also change throughout our lives. Some find Zazen to be amazing, others swear by Loving Kindness Meditation, I love sound. To each her own.
- Meditation has to happen sitting down crossed legged and in silence. See above and also, you don't even have to try traditional meditation. If you want to experience inner peace and being fully present, some traditional practices of yoga (e.g. Ashtanga Mysore Style), Sound Baths, or Mindfulness practices can be enough for you to achieve the benefits you desire.
- Meditation is what I should do to manifest money, my dream job, a husband, etc. This is a misinterpretation/misuse of spiritual teachings, and an insidious one too many coaches and "spiritual" teachers use to hook you. Meditation and mindfulness, depending on the philosophy behind them, are practices to tune into yourself, and let go of the thoughts that cloud your mind. The purpose is not for you to control your life by some kind of magic, but to let go of control.
- You can get an app and be a meditator. I find apps are great after you find the right teacher and approach. Nothing beats an in-person* session with a very skilled teacher. So find the right approach in person first, and then get an app, use YouTube, or any other remote way to access more material. Teacher first, app second.
- Meditation is only about clearing your thoughts. Nope again. Each style of meditation is based on specific beliefs and spiritual teachings. While you don't have to subscribe to any of them - the important thing is the experience you get while meditating - the style of meditation differs based on the principles. So for example, some types of meditation have been developed to experience union with God or bliss, while others are all about getting to the experience of "nothingness." You will probably resonate more with one than the others, even though the end results are the same.
- It makes no difference whether you meditate alone or with others. Wrong. Human beings exchange energy all the time, consciously and unconsciously. Sitting in a room with highly skilled meditators, all sitting in meditation, will help you a ton in accessing your own meditative state. This is why I highly recommend you start with in-person gatherings. Sometimes a teacher can be so powerful that just sitting in a room meditating in her presence will cause your own mind to go into much deeper and higher states you could have never imagined were possible. And yes, I am speaking here from personal experience, I didn't use to believe this either 😉
Changing careers can be one of the most confronting things you will ever do. Even when the transition is relatively easy, it takes a lot of courage to come face to face with your fears, past conditioning, and disempowering beliefs. For some, the process can take a few weeks, for others a few years. During that time you will experience ups and downs, face rejection, might go through some financial difficulties, and also achieve big successes and unexpected results. In other words, it can be a roller coaster. Before I found a meditation practice that worked for me, those ups and downs would go to my head: from feeling hopeless and sorry about myself, to feeling on top of the world, and even scared by too much success. Since I determined to cultivate inner peace instead, my journey has been a pleasant and fulfilling one, regardless of what is happening "outside."
You can have drama, frustration, highs and lows while you change careers, or you can experience peace while going through the motions. It's up to you. But if the latter approach sounds better, I encourage you right now to find a teacher near you who can teach you mindfulness or meditation, and go learn in person. Don't stop until you find the method that "clicks" for you, and then slowly build your practice. This will carry you through your transition and help you make decisions that are right for you - learning how to meditate truly is the #1 thing you can do to make your journey through life fulfilling no matter what happens.
*if you cannot attend in-person meditations because of the pandemic, the next best thing is to participate in a live online meditation gathering