In order to stay on course in your life work, pay attention to signals from all sources, not just from your intellect. Some of the signals available may be fairly subtle. You can find navigational help in your body and its physical sensations, in your emotions, and in your imagination.
So, for example, if you feel a certain physical malady, such as a headache, you might look for a navigational message in this minor ailment. You can start by posing a question to your body. Ask what message it has for you. The message might be a conventional one. Perhaps back pain might be a signal that you’re taking on too much responsibility. Maybe problems with your throat indicate problems in communication. Or the message might be one that is more intimate and less obvious. It might be one that requires a more personal understanding of your body. So you must ask and contemplate.
Just as with physical sensations, you might find yourself experiencing a strong emotion. Does it feel out of proportion? Are you clear about the cause or does it feel unprompted? Either way, ask what message it has for you. A strong emotion signals that something is off—that a change is wanted. Are you enjoying what you do? Do you need approval to validate what you do?
These physical and emotional signals are there to help steer you. They are part of the wind that blows.
By using your imagination, you will also find navigational help by seeing the ways in which your daydreams and ideas move. Listen to your impulses and intuitions. You must trust your unfolding urges. As time goes by you will gradually imagine more and more of the scope and details of your life’s work. Though things will surely change and evolve, you can trust your urges and daydreams to guide you over the course.
Don’t judge the results of your intuitions too quickly.
You may have noticed how things that seem like false steps or off-course distractions are, in fact, sometimes important detours that bring you into contact with experiences or events that you have ultimately recognized in hindsight as having been essential.
There will be moments when some of the things you pursue won’t seem to get you anywhere. And yet these things also will in the long run play a role. At some point, in retrospect, you'll understand this more clearly. It's easier for you to do this when you look back at your life and think about the vast assortment of experiences you’ve accumulated and the ways that all of these diverse things are now part of your palette of skills and experiences.
This principle is an important one in human life because very often people feel a sense of being lost or adrift, of having experiences which seem somehow to be far removed from the kind of life they dream of. While it is important for people to learn to pursue and create their dreams, it is also important to trust that whatever experiences come to you are useful in some way. You would not have them if they weren’t. In that sense there is no wasted time or wasted experience in human life.
Even though some insights may come to you through long, arduous or painful experiences, they are still worth gaining despite the difficulty. With time, you can learn to acquire insights in less arduous or difficult ways. As you come to believe in happiness, well-being, health and joy as the primary forces of human life, it will be possible for your life to be a pleasant experience with no forfeit of insights.
It is in the nature of nature to grow organically, which is a complex process, not simply done. It depends upon time and growth. A quick progression from conception to realization is not in the nature of life on planet earth. Your time in physical reality gives you an opportunity to grow things organically, which means with time and nurturing and in response to the elements. Things grow toward the sun, bend with the wind, grow best where there is good rain and good drainage. These are all metaphors that apply not only to the natural world, but also to the achievement of your life’s work.
There is a great deal to be learned from the example of nature. You can observe the efficiency of nature in accomplishing powerful changes and spectacular effects. Yet rarely in nature to do you see an example of effort, or straining ... rather, what you see is the exuberance of things to become, to grow, to transform themselves into something new. In the spring you feel the energy of the buds swelling. This swelling of the buds is not the same as straining. It is an exuberant process. In the Fall you will see many things wither and die, many things let go and relax, release themselves without anxiety or fear. For it is just as natural to decay in the physical world as it is to blossom.
One of the advantages of spending time in nature is that you can better learn how these transformations can be accomplished without deadlines. The emergence of leaves on the trees in Spring does not occur because the tree has been given a deadline. The tree does not think, 'I'd better hurry up and get my leaves out before May or I will be late.' Rather, the tree feels the growing warmth in the air and feels the lengthening days with their longer hours of light and in response ... always to the present moment and its energies .. the tree begins to grow leaves. So live in the moment, and respond to its conditions, its climate, its weather, its energy, and trust that by doing this you will sprout and grow at the right times.
You may have learned to associate deadlines with being productive. Perhaps you have used deadlines to whip yourself forward, to keep yourself moving by creating circumstances that leave you feeling pressured, obliged, and committed to accomplish things. This self-imposed pressure may be strengthened by the thought that if you don’t reach the deadlines you’ve set for yourself, you’ll be deemed a failure, or judged poorly by others for having failed to accomplish your goal.
This use of deadlines may work well in goading you to accomplish many things. But perhaps now you’ve come to a point where you realize that this approach, while effective in making you productive, is stressful, and does not help you enjoy what you do. Perhaps you have been thinking about transforming this process, so that you can continue to be productive, but without forcing yourself to proceed by using deadlines and commitments.
One way to make the change that you seek is to think of each task you undertake in terms of what would be the most enjoyable way of accomplishing it. Then, without regard to commitment or a deadline, follow your intuition about what is the most enjoyable route to reaching your goal. Consciously hold yourself in a state of pleasure. You will find that if you do this, you’ll be able to forget about the pressures of time, for you will so empower your productivity that you’ll be able to accomplish things quickly and, as a result, always have plenty of time.
It is beneficial to remember that in the long run there is no deadline. There is no ultimate obligation on your part to accomplish anything. Rather, there is, in fact, all the time in the world. For you will certainly achieve the goals of your soul, whether it takes you moments or a lifetime. In the end, so to speak, for ends are simply beginnings, you cannot help but arrive at your destination.
It can be useful for you to adopt the mode of a passenger who is in the car looking out the window and enjoying the scenery of the journey. You can let go of the role of being the driver who steers the car and must focus concentration on the road, on driving, on the future. There is a big difference between driving, watching the road ahead, worrying about road conditions, traffic, directions, taking all the responsibilities of maneuvering the vehicle, and being a passenger who completely trusts the driver so that, as a passenger, you need never even look out the front window. The front window is just one of four windows in the car. You might just as easily look out the rear or the sides. I encourage you, whenever possible, to be like a passenger in the journey of your life. Trust that goodness will drive you. Look out the window at the side to view your current position. And also look out the rear window to reflect on what you have already accomplished. Doing so means putting less energy into always looking out the front to see what is coming up.
This shift of focus will be useful in transforming your work. For as you turn your attention to the pleasure of the moment and let go of all thoughts about the obligations of the future, you will enjoy yourself much more. The key element to all of this is trust.
Trust may be an issue you have dealt with throughout your life. Perhaps you have at times been consciously aware of the fact that you are unwilling to trust others to drive you. The more completely you can trust other people to drive you with safety, the more you will have learned about trusting the universe to bring you where you need to go. And so it is with many of the goals of your life. You will find it more enjoyable and in the end more efficient to let things come to you, to trust that they will, to stop efforting.
The universe will provide. And you will be safe. And it is entirely possible for you to relax and enjoy the scenery on this journey of your life. If you are skeptical about this, I say, try it out for a while. Try it on as you might try on a new pair of clothes, a different outfit. Just adopt the attitude that you have all the time in the world, that there is no rush to do anything, that everything will be done as it needs to be, and that you will simply do what you enjoy. Part of you may resist and want to fret and worry about this approach. But I say, try it on for size, before you make a judgment.
Painting: Jean-Francois Millet, The Gust of Wind, 1871-73, National Museum of Wales