by Carol C. Wheelock
I am often asked how I decided and dared to leave a long time and successful career in education. After all, I was leaving behind a regular salary, benefits, and relative security. In addition, how did I ever choose to be self-employed in a field that most people couldn't even pronounce? The answers are actually very simple. I had no choice about leaving the library and the public school system, and feng shui found me.
When I first started reading books and articles about finding my true purpose in life and about "following my bliss," I had three children, a house, a husband, and a teaching job as a school librarian that I enjoyed. For years I didn't allow myself to think it had much to do with me. It sounded like a wonderful idea, but not very practical. Besides, what would I do if I didn't teach? In addition, who would I be if I didn't call myself a librarian?
In feng shui, the career area of the bagua (the template or grid that is superimposed upon any structure, indicating which areas of the spaces we inhabit correspond to specific areas of our lives) refers to more than a job. It is life's work, or true path. Some of us are born knowing what that true path is. Some of us search for many years to find it. Still others of us know what it is and deny that knowing, even to ourselves.
Also referred to as "The Journey," the career area is connected to the water element. Deep water is symbolic of looking deep within ourselves to find what it is we are here to do. Ideally it combines earning money with honoring our spiritual paths. It has to do with honoring ourselves and requires soul searching and honesty. It also requires a willingness to be open to the signs that the Universe sends us.
Those signs can come in a wide variety of forms. It may be a nagging feeling that "there must be more to life than this." Some experience a restlessness, a shift in how they feel about where they live or their jobs. Signs can come from dreams, childhood interests, hobbies, movies, books, and other people. The Universe can also get our attention through accidents, job loss, illnesses, or some other stressful event, especially if we don't seem to listen any other way.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer the first time I believed that it was meant to be a learning experience. I knew I had to make some changes in my life. I read, wrote, and reevaluated my life. I realized there had been no room for me in my life and vowed to make some changes. Looking back, I can see that those changes were primarily superficial. Did I think about my career, my life's purpose? Not for long. After all, my schedule was similar to my children's and the money was dependable. Besides, I liked my job.
Over the next nine years, my personal life (divorce) and professional situation (different school) changed and I found myself in a job that did not nurture my spirit at all. It drained me on every level. Nine years after thinking I had learned about making room for me in my life, I was diagnosed with breast cancer again. Looking back, I realized I had changed very little on a deep level. I was still ignoring myself.
I had a long recovery time at home to think about my life and what I wanted to do with it. I knew that I could not go back to the public school system, especially to that school. The stress, the unsupportive administration, and complete lack of any personal time in my life added up to a situation intolerable for me. It was at that time that I realized my fear of staying in that job was greater than my fear of leaving. My job was killing me, yet I knew that I was still very much a teacher and always would be.
Teach what? Feng shui kept coming up for me. I had been introduced to this ancient Chinese art of bringing harmony and balance to our surroundings about the same time I had breast cancer nine years earlier. During that nine year period I had been studying feng shui, devouring every book I could find and attending workshops. Coincidence? I don't believe there is such a thing.
When I look back on how hard the Universe had to work to get my attention and make me willing to take my life in a new direction, I can't help but think others can learn from my experience. I know now that the intolerable situation in my job was a gift - it got me out of there. If your job does not nourish your soul and /or there is no time in your life for what makes your heart sing, take heed. If you are not acknowledging and honoring the gifts you have been given, whether it's singing, mothering, teaching, painting, healing, building, gardening, or whatever, I am convinced you will receive messages that will let you know that the time has come when you need to make a change.
It is not easy to walk away from what you know. It can be very frightening and requires an enormous amount of trust in the unknown, in the future, and in the Universe to provide. The rewards are wonderful, however, and there is an incredible sense of freedom that comes from doing what it is you are meant to do and want to do. That concept of oneness starts to make a lot more sense.
Many people don't know what makes their hearts sing. There are many assessments, books, and internet sources available today designed to help people determine what jobs would be best for them. I believe that most of us just need to spend more time listening to ourselves and Spirit. You can also start by thinking back to when you were a child. What were your favorite things to do? Where did you like to be? Consider what books you like to read and places you like to visit. What makes you feel energetic? When you think back on the happiest times of your life, what were you doing? What would you do even if you didn't get paid to do it? Look deep within yourself and you will find the answer.
After getting in touch with what you really love doing, the big issue is often turning your life's passion into a way to make money. It is also easy to use this as an excuse to not make a major shift in your life. We've all heard, ̉Do what you love and money will follow," but hearing it and believing it on a deep quit-your-job level are two very different things. It is a huge risk and it does a require a leap of faith. It brings up issues around prosperity, security, trust, identity, and many others. For some, it works to ease into a meaningful career gradually, perhaps part time and combined with a temporary job. Either way, the rewards are more than worth the risk.
As with any change in your life or space, a major career change needs to be done with clear conscious intention. Intend to honor yourself and the gifts you've been given. Intend to live with a higher level of personal integrity. Intend to select a career with your heart instead of with your head, the way many of us were raised to do. You can't help but make the world a better place when you approach what you do with joy and a sense that you are doing what you are here to do. That is your life's journey, the true sense of "career."
Carol C. Wheelock, M.Ed. of Feng Shui Vermont is a certified feng shui practitioner who has studied in the United Sates and China. She practices Black Sect or western feng shui. Carol does private consultations for homes, schools, libraries, and businesses; clutter counseling and clearing; spaces clearings; phone consultations; presentations; and teaches workshops throughout the United States. She also does personal clearings.