Thursday, March 26, 2009

Be in the world but not of it


A friend of mine reached out to me yesterday for some advice about her work situation. She felt that her boss was trying to force her to resign so that the company wouldn't have to pay severance or unemployment. Things had gotten so bad that she thought her health may be at risk, feeling panic attacks and moments when her heart seemed to be beating in her throat either when she was at work or thinking about it.

She had decided to give her 2 week notice on Friday but wanted my advice before she did that. Myself knowing what a difficult market it is out here and knowing that she just had a baby in the past 6 months and knowing that her job is the one that provides benefits for the family I advised against that move. She then asked about an alternative of going to HR with her list of grievances to see if that would help the situation. Again I advised against that approach.

What I did suggest was that the universe was giving her a wonderful opportunity to learn how to be in the world but not of it, an opportunity to create peace and tranquility even in a difficult situation, to learn that peace is something that comes from within and isn't something that anyone can take away from you without your agreement. I asked her to find a picture of a lotus flower to help visualize what this might look like.

The lotus flower is a wonderful metaphor as it is one of natures most beautiful creations and one that grows best in the most stagnant and putrid of waters. It reminds us that wonderful things can emerge from seemingly terrible conditions. I asked her to visualize herself as that lotus flower, emitting her inner beauty and not reflecting her putrid surroundings. I also said this would help her direct her focus on what she wants to have happen in her life instead of focusing on what she doesn't want to happen.

Whenever we invest energy into complaining or fretting about a bad situation it robs us of the very thing we need to set us on a right and peaceful course in our life. The more time we spend focused on what we don't want there is less focus that we can give to what we do want. So I told her to find a picture of a lotus flower that she could look to for inspiration whenever the putrid waters rush over her. To look within to find the peace and focus to create something better in her life. It is an old Sufi saying that we should be in the world but not of the world which means that we are here to give to life our fullest potential rather than being sucked into anything less which might happen if we let the world around us determine who and what we are.

Of course I also told her to use some of the energy that this would free up in her life to create the next place for her to exercise her creativity. And I'm happy to report she is already seeing improvements on both fronts.

An excerpt from the site I link to about this quote written by A H Almaas about conflict and challenges in our life:
"Your essence is very intelligent, very generous. It has a way of throwing a conflict in front of you, so that by looking at that conflict or barrier you'll find out something you need to know. The situation that you are given is perfect in terms of timing, place, the people involved, your capacities, the capacities of people around you, everything, every detail. The situation is such that if you actually try to understand it, you'll understand something about your essence."

A not so funny thing that we do as humans is that when confronted with conflict or challenge we somehow think that if we can only remove ourselves from a situation, a relationship or a person that somehow we can remove whatever exists within ourselves that called that situation to us. So we throw away partners, jobs and friendships thinking that our problems will be solved when they are gone but then we eventually find ourself facing the same issue in the a new job, relationship or situation. How much easier it would be to understand and learn about ourselves so that we can grow into something even better, no matter where we are or who we are with.

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