Finding and fulfilling your calling can be confusing, disheartening, anxiety-provoking, disappointing, and frustrating, but it can also lead to the greatest feelings of deep fulfillment you’ve ever experienced. When you know—you just know—that you’re here to be an instrument of sacred service for the Divine to use you as a vessel of love amidst a world in crisis, you’ll find yourself on just such a hero’s journey—because your calling will reach out for you like a magnet draws forth metal. This kind of journey is not for the faint of heart, which is why I wrote my new book The Anatomy of a Calling. Consider it a sort of field manual for anyone on the hero’s or heroine’s journey of embodying your soul’s purpose. (The book trailer just dropped today! You can watch it here.) I wrote this book for anyone who just knows that you’re here on a sort of spiritual mission, one that your soul has been preparing for your whole life, which may be quite mysterious, filled with unexpected twists and turns.
You may have already heard the Call to Adventure, and you’re now on the Road of Trials, where things don’t always go quite as you planned. Or maybe you’ve heard the Call, but you’re Refusing the Call. Or maybe you’re in the Ordeal in the Innermost Cave, experiencing a Dark Night of the Soul, which always happens just before you Find the Holy Grail that you bring back to the Ordinary World on the Road Back. Maybe you’ve already completed one hero’s journey and now you just got called to another, because most of us are in the midst of multiple hero’s journeys all at once! Wherever you are, The Anatomy of a Calling is meant to offer you comfort, reassurance, tools, and practices that can facilitate whatever phase of the journey you find yourself navigating.
One of the ways in which heroes and heroines get off tracks is that people get seduced by myths about what it means to find and fulfill your calling. As I wrote about in 8 Myths About Finding Your Calling, your true soul’s purpose may not be what you think. So how can you tell if you’re on the right track? Here are a few signs.
Last Thanksgiving, I wrote about Radical Gratitude, and this Thanksgiving I feel it calling me again. Usually, when we talk about gratitude, we express gratitude for our blessings. I’m grateful for my beautiful daughter Siena. I’m grateful that I live by the ocean among the redwoods in the most beautiful place on earth. I’m grateful to feel like I am smack dab in the center of living and fulfilling my calling to be of sacred service in my own unique ways. Gratitude for our blessings opens the heart and raises our vibration, calling in more blessings. Being grateful for our blessings feels good and reminds us to appreciate what is with us already. This kind of thanksgiving is easy, when we remember to pay attention to it.
But can we also practice Radical Gratitude? Can we feel just as grateful for our struggles—our painful experiences, our crises, and the Dark Nights of the Soul that we experience both individually and as a collective? Can I access the state of consciousness that allows me to feel grateful that I lost five people I love this fall—most of them way too young and tragically? Can I be grateful for the breakup I just experienced from someone I adore? Can I be grateful that my spiritual retreat center Harbin Hot Springs—the place I would go to heal from this kind of grief—burned to the ground in a wildfire?
More radically, can we as a culture feel grateful for what is happening with ISIS, as innocent people are murdered around the world in the name of a jihad? Can we find it in our hearts to not only accept but even thank those suffering souls who think they must become suicide bombers in order to stand for what they think is right?
Can we be grateful for climate change? For extinction of animal and plant species? For genocide? For sexual trafficking of women and children? Can we be grateful for starving babies and suffering refugees and mega storms that threaten to flatten whole cities?
The following is an excerpt from my new memoir The Anatomy of a Calling. The Anatomy of a Calling is about finding and fulfilling your calling, using Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey as a map for what happens in between the moment when you hear The Call to Adventure and when you finally bring the Holy Grail home to your people who need it. This excerpt describes a particularly painful part of my hero’s journey and demonstrates what happens when we start to veer out of alignment with the integrity of the soul.
I received the letter from my patient Fiona in my box at the office after a long night of delivering babies, when I had almost no reserve left. In her letter, Fiona explained that after she and her husband fought for the bazillionth time about the fact that they hadn’t had sex in over a year, he threatened to leave her if she didn’t go see a gynecologist to figure out what was wrong. Because my schedule was so packed, she waited two months to see me, praying I might have some magical solution that would save her marriage. I had taken care of her a few years back, and her recollection of me was that I was approachable, tender, funny, compassionate, and honest. She felt she could trust me.
More now than ever before, we are entering a time when people are realizing that it’s not ultimately fulfilling to just find a stable job, hunker down and serve a company that doesn’t feed your soul, build up your retirement account, and delay gratification until you retire at 65, when you can golf and lie on beaches in Florida until you kick the bucket. Not only do fewer and fewer stable jobs exist; even those who have seemingly stable jobs are finding that something even more important is beckoning them—a way to do soul-uplifting work you love that serves others and benefits our planet.
More than anyone I know, my beloved friend Scott Dinsmore believed in doing work that you love. In addition to starting Live Your Legend, he also gave a TEDx talk that over 3 million people have watched—How to Find and Do Work You Love. In a tragic accident while climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, Scott just passed into the spirit realm in September, but his legacy lives on, in the hearts of all who knew him. We can’t help ask ourselves, are we living our legends NOW?
You came like a bolt of lightning in the form of a man. You gazed into my eyes and showed me myself. You quieted my mind and dropped me into Awareness. You held my hand and coursed through me like a river of pulsing vibration. You came into me and shook me with pleasure. You told me all you know and showed me who I am. You glimpsed the future and revealed the past. You broke through my illusions and unveiled the truth. You created miracles and so did I. Together, we were a miracle. Together, we were God seeing God, Goddess staring into the eyes of Goddess, witnessing Creation Itself, Stillness Incarnate. We merged together, one Unibeing, one Mind, one Heart, one Body. We became heaven on earth, the Godself celebrating the Godself, Shiva dancing with Shakti, wholeness embodied, skipping hand in hand on the beach like magical children with enjoyment bodies of light.