If you feel that the majority of your life is driven by guilt and obligations, or you find yourself thinking in “would have”, “could have”, or “should have” terms, your life is likely not in alignment with your joy. Let’s explore why that is, and discover how you can bring back your inner sunshine.
From a spiritual perspective, the ultimate goal of life is the embodiment of wisdom-compassion and the realization of your oneness with all things. One of the way this can unfold is through doing work that is uniquely your own to do. It is not driven by “should”s or “have to”s. It is fuelled by your relationship with your true self as a reflection of the divine.
I am often asked how I found the courage to leave a promising career in architecture and follow my dreams as a musical artist. For me, the life of an artist is one deeply connected to spirituality, rooted in the cultivation of both interconnection and humility. So the immediate answer I give is that I am in an ongoing, day-to-day practice, learning and discovering a deepening courage to live my dreams.
When you work in a way that engages your soul, you become part of an unfolding process. Through it, layers of your psyche are revealed. You discover that which is an authentic expression of who you are, as you recognize and release that which distracts from it.
Singing, producing music and performing are a way I feel close to Source. As such, they are also where I feel the most raw and vulnerable. Yet something deeper within calls me to open to what often has me at my very edge. I find myself inspired to grow in previously unforeseen ways. I need to do my soul-directed work, because it keeps me real, honest and true. It gives my life meaning.
It may be tempting to take a well-worn path, one others think you should do. It may seem to be the simplest choice. But it will end up being harder, if it squelches the voice of your soul. Ultimately, choosing constriction, fear or hiding is more difficult. When you align with your soul, life flows with lightness and possibility.
Your soul, like everyone’s, is enriched by how well you love and how fully you live. You do not take the contents of your bank account or the trophies on your shelf when you leave this world. What remains rooted in your soul are the experiences that have led you to grow, such as laughter, sharing, caring, openness, serving and joy.
In my case, the depression and ill health I experienced when I was in architecture were a call from my soul to wake up. They helped me tune into my deeper truths so that I could live a life that expresses my joy and purpose. I began letting go of living for other people’s dreams and listening instead to my own soul voice.
Part of letting go of the dreams of others is being able to articulate your own. You may believe that dreaming is a waste of time. You may not allow yourself to consider that you have dreams of your own. Before you begin to connect to your soul voice and purpose, you may sabotage yourself by judging the process as useless.
But once you are honest with yourself, you can be honest with the world and begin to take the necessary steps to make your dreams a reality. With inner clarity, you can hear the call of your soul. You may feel afraid, but you realize that to resist your soul’s voice is to live in regret. Rather than resisting, you open to possibility. You welcome the new, knowing that if you don’t, your life will remain the same and you will be unhappy. When you say “Yes!” to yourself, doors open and you see things that had been hidden previously.
The American mythologist, writer and lecturer Joseph Campbell popularized the concept of the hero’s journey – the path through adventure, challenges, trials, temptations, atonement and victorious return. We must all face this journey if we are to follow our bliss, which is a phrase he coined. Interestingly, he said he derived it from the sacred Hindu texts known as the Upanishads, inspired by the word Sat-chit-ananda (Truth-Consciousness-Bliss), a state of enlightenment. I love these words from him:
If you follow your bliss, doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else […] you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are, if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.
To learn how to live a soul-directed life, you must investigate your core beliefs. In them you will find the external voices you have internalized that keep you feeling small. These voices are not in alignment with the voice of your soul. You need to ask yourself who is really in the driver’s seat of your life. Is it your soul joy? Or are you living to satisfy someone else’s idea of who you should be? Give yourself the permission now to look at what external forces you are allowing to write the story of your life, so that you may reclaim authorship over it. Your unconscious patterns will create your reality until you find the courage to look within and let them go.
Everyone’s core beliefs are different, depending on our unique journey. So I encourage you to write out yours. They are driving your thoughts, choices and actions, and as such, creating your reality.
EXERCISE: CHALLENGING YOUR CORE BELIEFS
Find a quiet place and set aside about 20-30 minutes of time. Have a computer or pen and paper handy. With the intention to be transparently honest with yourself about what you deeply believe about these topics, ask yourself the following questions:
What do I believe about the divine?
What do I believe about myself?
What do I believe about others?
What do I believe about women?
What do I believe about men?
What do I believe about intimate relationships?
Do I believe I can find a life partner? How come?
What do I believe about my job?
What do I believe about work?
What do I believe about money?
What do I believe about my career path?
What do I believe about being fulfilled?
Be creative. Be open. Write other questions – such as what you believe about sex, money, fun… Keep diving deep. You are like an archaeologist on a treasure hunt.
This process will reveal to you many of the hidden places that have kept you from living your soul joy. Once you find them, challenge them. Are they true? Are they really true? Look again, and question them. They are only a belief, not an absolute. As you do so, you begin to draw your road map back to your true calling.