A couple of weeks ago I went to an incredible yoga class and have been thinking about it off and on since then. At the beginning of class a student asked the teacher, what should I do with my life? The entire room fell silent for a few seconds and then the teacher and a bunch of us laughed out loud. We weren’t laughing at the student. It was that all knowing laughter, that laughter that says, what a great question! And while you’re at it teacher, what should we be doing with our lives?!
I got the strong sense that everyone in our class that morning had asked themselves that question at least once, if not multiple times. It was such a great question not because any of us could answer it for the student, but because of what our teacher said without missing a beat: pay attention to what you are doing.
Pay attention to what you are doing. I heard that and had this flash of light where I woke up, like really woke up. I believe that it was no mistake that I was in that class on that day. It was clear that I needed to hear that question being asked and the dialogue that followed.
I can’t even count how many times in the past I asked friends, therapists, teachers, anyone I trusted that questions, what should I do with my life? Since I can remember there has been this sense that I didn’t have all the answers within. I had a strong intuition (always have according to my Mom) but I didn’t trust it. I am a highly sensitive and perceptive person who spent much of my life seeking for answers outside of myself. I read articles, books, took tests, attended workshops and sought out teachers all in the hopes that they would give me the magical key to unlock my potential. When I look back now I see what that searching was about. I had a deep longing for validation of my own worthiness and wanted one golden answer that would make me feel okay for the rest of my life.
And then comes the question, what should I do with my life? And the (golden) answer, pay attention to what you are doing. Surrender. Practice. Create stillness. Slow down. Notice. Breathe. Inquire. Be curious. Let go.
Being part of that class discussion reminded me that it’s my job to pay attention because when I pay attention the answers always reveal themselves. I’ve known since I was a young girl what I was supposed to do with my life but I didn’t always trust it and trust that I could support myself doing it. My working life has taken many different forms because at my core I am very connected to my creativity. But the underlying theme, the desire deep within has always been, and I believe always will be the same: to be of service to my family, friends and community.
In order to harness the eternal forces that drive me to create a life and career that are so dear to me, I have I have to pay attention to what I am doing. This requires that I create space for stillness. When I’m rushing from one thing to the next, not making time to pause and notice, it’s easy to lose faith in myself. After a few days (or weeks) of not making time to check in with myself, the self-trust that I have worked so hard to build starts to erode. Little by little I stop relying on myself and start looking for something or someone to give me an answer and ultimately to make me feel okay.
Today I know pretty quickly when that happens and I ramp up my self-care. I try to be sure I am getting enough sleep and take more time to be still. One of my teachers always reminds me that the busier we are the longer we need to meditate. How true that is for me. The more I have going on, the more attention I need to pay to myself. When I’m back in the groove with these practices I no longer question what I should do. I surrender to the flow by doing what’s in front of me and enjoy paying attention to what lights me up.
If you want to know what you should do with your life, pay attention to what you are doing. Make time to be still. Observe what sparks your curiosity and recognize who you admire. Notice what makes your heart swell with joy. See what motivates and inspires you. When we pay attention to the activities that bring us a sense of purpose and wonder, we’re well on our way to manifesting the meaningful lives we are destined to have.