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?
There's a school of thought in spiritual circles that ascribes to the idea that everything that happens in our lives—the blissful things, the growth edge things, the horrid things—all happens with purpose. This spiritual teaching suggests that everything reflected in our lives is the result of our conscious or unconscious desires, and that when things aren't going our way, it's because the blueprint of the subconscious actually desires the very thing we think we don't want. In other words, we may believe that we want to meet the love of our life, or we may hope to have the cancer cured, but if someone were to muscle test us or read the subconscious mind intuitively, we would discover that at the level of the subconscious, we’re actually terrified of falling in love because of a past heartbreak, or the cancer is meeting some core need for rest, connection, or freedom from a toxic job, for example.
“Wait!” you say. “But I really DO want to find The One!” Or “Hang on a minute! I swear I want to be cured of my cancer.” Or “Watch it now. Are you suggesting that my business is failing because I want it to fail?”
Yes, and no. Those who promote this viewpoint are not suggesting that you CONSCIOUSLY want a crappy love life or cancer or failure in your business. They’re saying you subconsciously want it, and because your subconscious is in charge 95% of the time, this subconscious blueprint will sabotage the very thing your conscious mind wants to create. They say that everything in your life, you create. The good, the bad, the ugly—it’s all up to you.
Communing with the Pueblo ancestors at Bandelier National Monument
In the past couple of weeks, three people I love dearly died. Two were quite young and died tragically.
Scott was a beloved friend whose hand I held as he skyrocketed to very quick, meteoric fame. Scott, who founded Live Your Legend and gave this wonderful TEDx talk, died while climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. Scott and his wife Chelsea, who he has been with for more than a decade, had been traveling the world for the past eight months, checking one thing after another off their bucket lists. Every email I got from Scott while he was on the road was filled with exclamation points, laden with the exuberant enthusiasm that made everyone who met him fall in love with him instantly. After a day we spent together in the meditation garden at Green Gulch Zen Center, Scott wrote this fiercely brave blog post to reveal vulnerable details about himself as a way to inspire others to live authentically. He was so passionate about helping other people live authentic, vital lives that aligned with their callings that you could feel the fire in his soul burning through him and radiating out into the world. Some souls are just too big for their bodies. I can barely imagine a world without Scott in it. The day after Scott died, I was almost paralyzed with shock. But in spite of my inclination to stay in bed all day, I attended a sound healing conference, where this random woman came up to me and said, "You just lost someone you love. They want you to know that he was just called to a very important Divine assignment and has just been promoted to Lead Angel." Then she turned around and walked away. Later that day, a dear friend texted me to tell me Scott had just become Lead Angel. I can only imagine it must be true.