In working with my clients and with students I get asked questions about having a calling, about service or healing work, about individual paths and what people are ‘meant’ to do. In orthodox religions there are structures in place with defined roles and boundaries that help people make choices about their spirituality, what activities or choices they want to make about participation in their religion, and what paths are open to them. This is good in that it helps people find clarity and be able to navigate through these issues and provides them with language and social structures so they can talk about them or talk through them and figure things out as they go along. On the negative it can be too restrictive and destructive like preventing women from being priests or the current issues between the Vatican and American Nuns.
However, for those who don’t belong to an orthodox religion these issues, these questions become more confusing and more weighty. It can feel very isolating to have questions that no one knows how to answer or where there is no community which would even understand the question. It can be confusing to have multiple sources using the same language to mean different and even contradictory things or have only orthodox systems to use as a structure for something that is in no way orthodox. In working through these questions with clients and students, here is how I try to help clarify situations and give them a structure for understanding the different paths they might choose or be drawn to.
White Lighter: This is someone with an aptitude or a gift that chooses to utilize that gift for their own spiritual benefit and those of others, others being all living things, animate and inanimate, not just humans.
Some misconceptions about this: Everyone is a White Lighter. Nope. Some people are here to work through their own issues and play roles for others to work through theirs. White Lighters add ‘service’ as part of their life and their path on top of that. All White Lighters are healers. Nope. Healers get the most press because they work publicly with other people, many are extroverts, and they tend to publish books, articles, and hold seminars. A great proportion of service work isn’t public, has nothing to do with healing in the context of hands-on-healing with clients, and a lot of it is not labeled as service work at all. Stealth can be an ally in a world of malls and commodities.
Being a White Lighter might mean you are an artist who puts spiritual energy into your art. Or that you are a master gardener who works with local ecology trying to repair the land. Or you are a geologist working with deep earth structures. Or you travel to learn about different cultures and become a story-teller that learns the wisdom of the elders and passes it on. There are as many ways to be a White Lighter as there are people. There are just a great many of them here right now because we are very much in need on all fronts.
Having a Yearning: Feeling that you have a path, that you need to find it, start doing it, are missing something is becoming more and more common. Is this a calling, not necessarily. Does it mean you need to spend 2 years in India with a guru in meditation? Maybe. Each path varies. Usually not, though. Yearning means you are ready to start changing your life. You are ready to stop doing what you’ve always done and start doing what it is you really want and what you really need, which in the end, regardless of the specifics, is pretty much about being authentic. So the yearning is to acknowledge your authenticity, whatever that looks like, and then start doing things that brings your life into harmony with your authentic self. Easier said than done, I know, can be bewildering many times, and sounds like a straight line from point A to point Z. No such thing. Being authentic is a life long enterprise so the only goal really is to get started trying. Don’t worry if what you try first doesn’t work for you. Look at it as a way to strengthen your boundaries around knowing your authentic self. If everything is yes, then how authentic are you being? Pull out that skill you learned when you were 2, say “no” when you need to say “no” and don’t despair. You will find what it is that makes you happy, that fulfills you, and gets you up in the morning. And don’t worry if that changes. You change so everything else will as well. It’s what we do about that, feeling guilt, feeling stuck, staying silent, that causes the damage, not the change.
Having a calling: ‘Many are called, few are chosen.” Yup. There are a lot of reasons for that and many people get that twisted around with power and control and heroics and sacrifice. Which all really just people working through their stuff. Unfortunately it can have drastic consequences to the individual and to everyone around them when it gets to this point.
Some misconceptions about this: Everyone with a calling needs to be either ascetic or clergy. Nope. If you want to live in nothing but a loin cloth out in the desert somewhere existing on bugs and the dew drops on cactus, be my guest, but I don’t recommend it for the majority of us or the weak of heart. Nor do you need to live in a cave on a mountainside, unless you really, really want to. And you don’t need to take a vow of silence, although it can be an amazing meditation and eye opener about relationships, perspectives, and expectations. Nor do you need to minister to your fellow human beings. There’s a reason while we don’t like being ‘preached’ at and as most of us have learned, unsolicited advice can be so very, very annoying.
So what is a calling then? It’s you and the Universe agreeing that you want to learn more, in whatever field or spirituality that you are working with, prefer, feel called to, about how the world works and how you work in it. It usually starts with “Healer, heal thyself” or as the ancient saying goes “Know thyself”. The most pertinent spiritual practice you will ever undertake is to figure out who you are. Why do you feel, think and act the way you do? What is working, what isn’t? How do you fix what isn’t working? From there it moves to learning more about the world, which you can now intake because you’ve cleared the way, cleared your eyes and your heart to really see what is there without all of your preconceived notions and unhealed wounds in the way. Then you start applying what you learn to yourself and your life. All of which happens within the context of you being around other people and so affects not only your personal situation, but everyone else, usually in a positive way.
Like losing weight and becoming healthy and fit, where you slowly reveal your body, shape it into new shapes and experience new ways of moving and being, so the process of answering the call can allow you to release the old and no longer necessary, heal the unhealed, and develop a new you. This may include preaching, teaching, service work, travel, and healing others. It may not. Just because you are called doesn’t mean you will become a guru.
And just because you are called doesn’t mean you have to answer. Sometimes the right thing to do when you are called is let the Voice Mail get it. You can check on that message later when you’re ready.