The Metamorphosis of a Professional Life – Part II

There’s nothing like a meltdown, especially a public one, to give pause for reflection. Prior to the veil of tears, I had told the closing circle of fellow participants at the 2012 Social Change Institute (SCI) this was the first safe space in a group I had experienced in more than ten years, since training in spiritual psychology.

What I mean in reference to `safe space,’ as I indicated in July 9th and July 21st blog posts, is to spend time among kindred souls who appreciate and support each others’ respective pursuits focused on creating a better world for the human family and planetary well-being. Such group understanding and compassion is rare to experience in everyday life for many of us, dedicated to the pursuits of social justice and environmental healing.

Meltdown and breakdown are two different phenomena. Fortunately my `full round’ descent some years ago, to come home to my soul, has been the glue to hold me together through further challenges, such as repeated job rejections that diminished self-confidence. Lunching with an SCI fellow participant, I even joked about feeling like a piece of Swiss cheese, given the many dents to my self-confidence that I have withstood in recent years. Yes, I feel wobbly; but, my spiritual groundedness is intact.

Many folks who have lost jobs, and/or find themselves under-employed, or who cannot even get their foot in the door to prove their worth in gainful employment, are often not so lucky in how they negotiate life’s disappointments and losses. Nothing can be more heartbreaking than feeling unwanted, not needed and not valued.

For individuals in transition or who feel as if they are standing at an abyss, I can be a guide, in facilitating personal and professional development that deepens and expands various levels of awareness so that individuals can reframe their circumstances and move forward. To do so I have a range of modalities, based upon academic study, professional practice and experiential learning, all grounded in approaches in transformative learning. These include cross-cultural healing, global education, media literacy, spiritual psychology and expressive arts modalities, both to understand our inner life as well as enhance interactions among fellow human beings.

The distinction between my second and third metamorphoses is that the second was a personally chosen life transition, while the impetus of the third descended from the economic realities of the surrounding world, an experience shared with thousands of other human beings these days. Unpleasant realities are no longer limited to the so-called `developing world.’ They also alter the terrain of available work in the developed world and environmental health issues now are more visible here too.

Each metamorphosis of my professional life has brought a new level of understanding about the human condition an the tenacity of the human spirit. Each transition has forced me to ask, once again: who am I, what is my purpose on earth, how do I confront whatever is obstructing my desires, what must I retain and what must I let go to pursue the journey that I have chosen? And, last but not least, is it my perceived purpose that needs to change? Alternatively, is it the ways in which I manifest my purpose and towards what new and different types of work not previously considered?

Many people seeking not just work but, moreover, a life purpose, need to ask the same questions. As for me, I prefer the latter choice. In other words, I retain my values and identity as a helper to serve humanity. However, I am willing to see the necessity to change how, and where, I offer my knowledge, experience and skills. Regardless, it is easier said than done.

Marketing, I confess, is my Achilles heel. In previous metamorphoses, I worked diligently, without fanfare, steadily employed. I did not seek the limelight, nor need my ego massaged. The joy came from the soulful intentionality of helping others.

Establishing boundaries, however, was one of the most important lessons for me to learn in the journey from the first professional metamorphosis to the second, in the continuing work of activism and advocacy for social justice and environmental awareness.

Through that journey, I let go several subpersonalities or `identifications,’ such as playing the `rescuer’ in trying to save the world and alleviate human suffering. In the process of `disidentification,’ one of the concepts and practices in psychosynthesis, I developed the fuller awareness that I am more than the medley of personae or roles that I had assumed. I acquired the wisdom to deal with my own woundedness, tapped into several layers of the unconscious, and learned to function more from my Higher Self.

Upon completing a doctorate, I had full clarity about the next phase of professional work. Projects included: producing a documentary life story about Roberto Assagioli; adapting my thesis into a trade book; doing workshops; and giving public lectures on why and how psychosynthesis (a spiritual psychology) is so pertinent today – used internationally in therapy, education, conflict resolution and more – in the project of our time, namely, the evolution of consciousness.

My game plan was to get semi-regular sessional teaching positions at universities, to pay the bills, and have blocks of time to do field research, direct, shoot and edit a film – maybe a couple of films, and write a few books – through the coming years. For my other ace card was based on many years of cross-cultural work and researching 500 years of cultural racism, the topic of my course taught one semester at an Ontario university.

But then the sky fell. I have yet to find co-producers who can appreciate the inspirational value of Assagioli’s life and contributions in today’s troubled world, despite several field research trips to Italy and the United States, gaining access to key interview subjects and insightful documents, writing proposals and pitching at various documentary festivals.

Worse, part-time university positions diminished. The person who had hired me at the one university later quit his position. I am considered too old for tenure university jobs. Meanwhile, since the economic downturn, universities in North American increasingly seem to give part-time teaching jobs to doctoral candidates rather than individuals with more years of field experience and the knowledge/wisdom that develops through time. Economic security dissolved with those lost job prospects.

However, I am tenacious. If I could package and sell the persistence and creative ingenuity with which I have sought out more different types of jobs in recent years than in a lifetime, I would be doing a jig in my country garden, instead of putting all of my energy into keeping the wolf from the farmhouse door.

What really frosts me though is when anyone tells me that I need to lie about my education and other credentials. I am supposed to shrink wrap my intelligence, diminish my accomplishments, and a lifetime of gathered knowledge and experience, into a tiny `no-name’ box in order to get any work at all.

Ever since finishing art college (with honours) fresh out of high school, I have been told that I am over-qualified. When hired as a female graphic artist, I faced regular humiliation from engineering and advertising employers, who discouraged initiatives from a mere woman artist. Metaphorically and literally, I was allowed only to draw within the lines prescribed – by them. I put such patriarchal mistreatment behind me.

That is why I chose to be self-employed through the next 30 years. Indeed, after getting the first of three university degrees where I could use my brain, I felt as if I had found the Holy Grail in embarking on a vocation of freelance writing. I sought to make a difference in the world, and within a society that suffers sorely from a resistance to employing creative, independent thinkers and practitioners.

Moreover, I made it my life purpose to facilitate other individuals’ respective journeys to self-esteem and social/political awareness, in helping them identify, and move through, whatever barriers, inner and outer, that blocked the road to their potential. That holds true today, more than ever.

For the world today – more than ever – needs brave, creatively intelligent independent thinkers and practitioners to collaborate, and challenge, whatever reduces our humanity, and whatever undermines and threatens the life support system of this planet.

Here I revisit my meltdown in the closing SCI circle. There I said that I ran away to someone else’s culture to find a different story about how to live on this planet. Here I add, my return home was not limited to the very important inner journey to come home to my soul – what I had characterized to fellow participants as the `descent to the goddess.’

`Coming home’ also meant refocusing my work, wiser and with a more compassionate heart, to heal a culture that I long ago had concluded was systemically dysfunctional.

Important to my second professional metamorphosis was the recognition that my work no longer was meant to focus on the soul woundedness of Indigenous people, to try endlessly to make amends for Western culture’s misguided, and unconscionable, deeds.

I felt the time had come to deal with my own culture’s soul woundedness, to which it systemically is blind. The continuing task is to find those people who genuinely are seeking a new story, regardless, and also who want to know the backstory to how Western culture arrived at this moment.

The hope resides, always, in each and every human being, across generations, who similarly recognizes the Western world’s broken covenant with Nature and Spirit, and who is willing to collaborate across cultures to mend it. Please read my previous blogs written on May 3rd about ancient environmental wisdom and May 14th about unearthing the feminine, for a few insights about why and how mending that covenant is possible.

So the meltdown in the sacred closing circle at SCI was a healing moment. Grief that had been welling up in me, that I had not permitted myself to feel in the wake of a number of unexpected losses – work prospects and certain lifelong friendships formerly cherished – spilled over.

I wept for what I had perceived as the wider world’s refusal of my boon, that is, service to humanity and wisdom that I have wanted to impart. Nevertheless, I never will give up on myself, nor my love and compassion to care about fellow human beings and to challenge the stupidity that threatens planetary life.

SCI was a pivotal moment for me. I took ownership of my grief, and expressed it, dramatically imploring Spirit to send me a sign about why I am here on this earth.

Grief is an honourable emotion, too often repressed in Western culture. Releasing it opens the chakras and calms the spirit, freeing the energy to go forth, once again, into the light.

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