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Care of the Soul - Finding Life at Work.

by Thomas Moore

Life's practical jokes: About three years ago I was sitting at my desk, minding my own business, when I received an invitation to speak to career counselors in San Francisco. It takes a lot to get me away from home, but I was beguiled by the man who invited me, and a few months later, there I was, speaking about work and career in the language of myth and alchemy to a very large audience of professionals. From their response, I quickly knew that going deeper into the roots of work would be a live issue.

What I didn't know was that my own work life was about to go into crisis: I discovered that much of the money I had made on widely read books had vanished into some economic black hole. Then an editor asked me to recreate myself as a communicator, something I've never aspired to. Then the publication date of my next book was pushed off and off, and with no money coming in, I sought help and advice, and none was forthcoming. So in the midst of a work crisis, I wrote my new book, A Life's Work, exploring the confusion and anxiety I was experiencing.

The alchemical idea of work - work on your soul and your life - and the idea of work as a job are linked. All work has an aspect of calling, and sometimes the career or job you've had all your life isn't the activity that defines you. You may find more meaning being a parent, traveling, volunteering, gardening, or playing a sport. Your life work may not be one thing but rather a mix. Work may change several times during your life, and many "jobs" may occupy you at one time. Whatever form work takes, you need the sense that what you're doing makes life worth living.

If you feel, as many people do, that you still don't know what you want to be when you're grown up, you may need to look deeper than the job market for your work. Consider your family: their successes and failures, their influences good or bad on you. Think deeply about people you admire and people you pity. How do they affect your search for a life work? Take into account your values, the contribution you hope to make to your community, your faith and trust - the spiritual issues. All of this important material goes into the vessel when your search for work is deep and engaging, when your work is also the opus of your soul.

The great American poet Wallace Stevens, an insurance executive by day and a poet by night, said that it was poetry that gave his life meaning, but his job kept him out of poverty. I like that attitude: a willingness to do several things at once, to be practical and visionary.

As research for my new book, I read the charming autobiography of Sting, the rock musician. For a while he was a bus conductor. I often thought of the mysterious arc or gap between his life on the bus and his life as Sting. Clearly, he had to trust the spark of a musician that was in him. I think everyone has such a spark. Finding your work may entail protecting and nurturing that incipient fire.

C. G. Jung once described creativity as an instinct. If I do something creative in a day, I can sleep well. I'm relaxed. But if the practical world of traveling and family and obligation prevents me from doing something creative - if I can't make anything - I feel tired and sick and somewhat depressed.

I receive many letters from people having trouble in marriage or in an important relationship. They often discuss the role of work, but they don't make the connection: that being on track toward your life work prepares you for a good, solid relationship. They don't see how everything is connected: a sense of well being, marriage, and not feeling depressed.

I began A Life's Work with a quotation from Teilhard de Chardin: "Every person, in the course of his life, must build a work, an opus, in which something enters from all the elements of the earth. He makes his own soul through all his earthly days; and at the same time he collaborates in another work, in another opus, the completing of the world."

With the help of my life partner and friends I am reinventing myself and my work, and my own depression is lifting. And I know that my life work is exactly that, a work of a lifetime, a life at work.

Thomas Moore's new book is A Life's Work: The Joy of Discovering What You Were Born to Do (Random House, February 2008). See careofthesoul.net.
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Author:Moore, Thomas
Publication:Spirituality & Health Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2008
Words:798
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