This week I’m diving deep into an idea that I’ve rediscovered… survival work versus sacred work. I’m sharing with you a personal story of what helped me to discover and start doing my sacred work with 6 useful tips for you. I’ve been inspired by re-reading Bill Plotkin’s amazing book Soulcraft – a must read for anyone who is on a journey of soul discovery.
Bill Plotkin talks about a Native American teacher who says that each of us has a survival dance and a sacred dance. The survival dance, what we do for a living is a necessary developmental step teaching us how to support ourselves physically, emotionally and economically. This can be a paid job or raising children – it is the task we take on when we leave our parent’s home and start supporting ourselves. It helps us grow up into adulthood.
Once your survival dance is established, then you can start to discover your sacred dance – the work you were born to do. This could be totally unrelated to your job, it sparks you up, makes you come alive and you’d pay others to get the opportunity to do it!
I love this idea because it’s so easy to self-flagellate when you know you aren’t doing what you were meant to do, and you don’t know what that is. This turns that idea on its head and says that your survival dance is the foundation for your sacred dance. You don’t have to run away from your life, quit your job or leave your family to discover what you were meant to do. You can start following the clues right where you are!
That’s what I did. Years ago, I started what I called a DREAM team in my living room. Based on Barbara Sher’s Success Teams - small supportive groups to help people get what they want. When I first read Barbara Sher’s Teamworks, where she talked about setting up small supportive groups, I had goosebumps. I was totally inspired. I’d been tracking my life’s purpose and trying out all the things that gave me goosebumps. The minute I started reading Barbara’s book my goosebumps told me that I had to create my own team. My group would be to help people figure out what they wanted to do with their lives – which conveniently, was what I was also trying to do.
I had a hidden agenda, I was new in the city and wanted to make new friends. I’ve never been good at superficial friendships, so I thought that I could connect with women in a deeper and more authentic way than by setting up lunch dates.
So, I invited 6 women over – none of them that I knew very well – on a warm spring night. I’d spent the day cleaning and scrubbing. I remember the scent of fresh spring flowers in the air, candlelight and comfy cushions. I remember hoping that the women would be my new friends, love the experience and want to keep doing it. I was hoping my goosebumps really were pointing me in the right direction.
Our group became a group of 4 and it gelled. We ended up meeting every couple of weeks over a period of 3 years. I wanted to get clearer on what to do with my life – and so did everyone else. I facilitated the process and participated – which I know now is a difficult balance. I tried out anything that lit me up and we created a safe, intimate space where we could all share and grow. It was the first sisterhood I created.
I wasn’t paid for doing this.
This was my sacred work.
I knew – as soon as I started doing it, that THIS was what I was born to do – create the spaces for connection, facilitate an honest process so that women could discover who they really were.
It required all of me – I had to use my intuition and energy sensing ability to make it safe for everyone to be fully themselves – even when they feared being vulnerable. I had to be creative and come up with exercises and questions that generated insights. I had to try things out and constantly be in creative response to what came up. That’s my sweet spot. That’s when I get into what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls flow, optimal functioning, where there’s a challenge but not too much, and you’re competent but not overly so. Too much challenge and not enough competence results in anxiety, and not enough challenge and too much competence results in boredom. I was in my flow zone.
We definitely went off track – like when we decided to have a slumber party and then renamed ourselves the “Drink-Team”. By then, we were all great friends.
And I also had my survival work.
That was the corporate job. That was the job that “seemed” like it was one that helped people – which was one of my personal criteria for job-satisfaction. My title was impressive – National Manager of Rehabilitation. I designed and developed policies, programs and training to help people who were injured or ill in the workplace. But really, I wrangled with bureaucracy and politics struggling to do good in an organization that was more concerned about making money than keeping people well. The job sounded good and looked good, but I was rarely in my flow zone.
That survival work, paid all my bills, allowed me to take courses and learn and helped me to develop my confidence as a leader. But I was never fully “me” in that job.
It wasn’t my sacred work.
After 3 years in our dream team, we all completely transformed. Here’s a glimpse of what happened.
Each of us attained something that we deeply wanted even though when our group began none of us knew what that was!
I got to clarify what my sacred work actually was, do it, and get the feedback and support of this group.
Creating this group allowed me to test and tweak my techniques and learn that I was good at this! I also realized that I didn’t want to do my sacred work “on the side”. It had to be the main dish for me.
Here are some things that I want you to know about your sacred work & your survival work:
Are you doing your sacred work?
Is your survival work supporting your sacred work? Are you wondering what your sacred work is? Because of my Dream Team, every program that I create includes a big sisterhood component. The magic of a supportive group was my soul fuel.
My sacred work is helping women claim their hidden or disowned gifts, so they can shine their light in a world that needs us. If you are want to discover or do your sacred work and reclaim your hidden gifts, Unlock Your Soul's Calling – our signature course & community for coaches, empathic women, and meaning-driven women who are aching to know their purpose and create meaningful work or a business they love. Registration is OPEN and you can still get the earlybird pricing until May 8!
If you want to start living the life that is waiting for you, then this program is for you!
Find out more HERE.
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