Yesterday after work, I sat in on a bench in the sun on campus, breathing deeply in the hopes that it might induce a little enlightenment, waiting to meet a friend. I talked to my mom in the meantime, listening intently as she read a section from the latest spiritual book she was working her way through. It was helpful as the words hit my ear, I found little pockets of peace and hope to grasp onto, but my ability to retain the meaning and purpose of the thoughts was nil, and as soon as her voice was out of my ear, little waves of worry and panic started to creep back up.
What if I don’t find work that makes me happy?
What if this life is just a sham, designed to make me crazy?
What if my understanding about the manner in which this all works is fatally flawed?
Still breathing deeply, I met my friend, and we walked over to Wharton to attend a short presentation on leadership. We were mostly going to this lecture because they were serving a sandwiches, and we wanted to get something to eat before heading over to a reading at the Kelly Writer’s House. As we walked in, the coordinator greeted us, and asked us to make sure that we just took a cup of soda and not the entire bottle (as the caterer hadn’t brought as many as she had ordered, and she was worried they were going to run out). We smiled and nodded, and Jess said hi to the speaker, as she had taken a class taught by him earlier in the year.
We sat down with our sandwiches, mayonnaisey pasta salad and soda-filled Au Bon Pain paper cups in the second row. I felt uncomfortable in the grandeur of the Wharton classroom and the reflected confidence of the other students. Except that then the speaker started to talk, I felt like he was talking right at me. Through me. In me. The last place in the world I expected to find a little inspiration that day was the basement of Huntsman Hall, but that is truly the beauty of life, the chance to find illumination where you least expect it.
He talked about the how and why of leadership. Of how getting things done contains two components, the will power and the wish. The will power gets us going, but that the wish sustains and motivates us. How what we are all looking for is to do work that comes from the wish. Work that is filled with joy and fun. I almost started crying right then, although the fear of humiliating myself in Wharton kept the tears at bay. I so was completely floored to hear someone talk about work with the perspective that it should be pleasurable, since mine has always fallen so far away from that mark. He pulled this Rumi poem up on the screen of the power point and pulled out a guitar (this was so much more of a show than I was expecting) and started to sing.
When you do things from your soul, you feel a river
moving in you, a joy.
When actions come from another section, the feeling
I experience this starting and stopping of flow every day, and was further stunned and a little wrecked to see it put into words so clearly and with deep understanding by someone who lived 800 years ago. Soon the talk was over and I followed Jess out of the room, half blinded by words.
This morning when I got to work, I went looking for the poem on the internet, wanting to have more of it than the few lines I could paraphrase. In addition to finding the poem, I also found a sermon that had been given less than a month ago by a Unitarian Minister in Needham, MA. He used the poem as a reminder to “let go of easy answers and to live in your deep questions. Knowing that in them, through them, as well, flow the living waters.” [Rev. Dr. John Beuhrens, March 19, 2006]
In a time period of less than a day, I experienced this poem being applied to both the practices of work and of spirit, at times when I deeply needed something to create movement inside of me on both levels. I had been asking, pleading, begging the universe to help me see a little light for days, and here it was, neatly wrapped up in a poem, a lecture and a sermon. Maybe my understanding of how the universe works (that you ask for what you need and trust you will get it, although you never know in what form) isn’t so flawed after all.