When we have learned something so well that we can do it, recite it, sing it, etc. without thinking, it is said that we “know it by heart.” Knowing something by heart goes well past rote memorization or verbatim recitation; this thing that we know has woven itself into the fiber of our being, encoded itself into our DNA, etched itself on our heart. We know it by heart; that is, it resonates at some unconscious, intuitive level that to do it is effortless, beyond thought. This is where magic happens.
Beneath conscious thought is a part of us that knows things, that we are not always aware of. It is like an internal guidance system that periodically bubbles up to the surface of our awareness and whispers to us, “Yes, this is it.” It happens when something external triggers something internal and we experience a sense of rightness, of completeness. And in that moment, without doubt or hesitation, we know. Yes, this is it.
Recently a friend of mine gave herself a gift. She stepped away–stole away– from her career as a scientist and immersed herself in an intensive ten-day music program situated in the heart of a nation where music–rhythms and harmonies and spirit–are all coalesced in the culture of the place. It resonated with the very core of her being, thundering “Yes, this is it” through her whole body. She returned to her world as a scientist–of predictions and calculations and measurements–and it felt more lifeless and colorless and flat than it ever had before. She confided in me her uncertainty that she could remain in her job when her “soul work” was her music.
What do you do when your soul work is misaligned with your day job? There are a number of answers to this, of course, many of them not satisfying. First I would say that many people do not know they are not doing their soul work, they perhaps they don’t know or believe there is such a thing. I believe there is, and the really lucky people know what it is and are doing it. Most of us, though, don’t really know what our soul work, what some refer to as our “calling” is.
The only time we really pay attention to it is when our job is misaligned with our soul. In some people this shows up as a vague sense of restlessness that can sometimes look like disgruntlement. And who wouldn’t be disgruntled when you realize that you spend nine or ten hours a day doing something you really kind of don’t like? I’ll never forget the title of a book I was reading about discovering your calling, your soul work. It was called, “I Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know It’s Not This.” That’s the restlessness I’m talking about–we don’t know what we should be doing and often are not given permission (or give ourselves permission) to ask what we want to be doing. But when we look at ourselves squarely in the mirror and ask what work would make us truly content and happy, we could easily answer, “I know it’s not this!”
So the first part of leading with the heart it might be about recognizing when you’re not. Even the discomfort of restlessness is a good sign because it means we are coming awake to the realization that we are out of alignment–our work life is out of alignment with our true passions and abilities. The second part really is about connecting to the deeper parts of you that already know that thing you know. It’s the “Yes, this is it,” factor that I mentioned earlier. For my friend the scientist, it was her music. Interestingly for some people it is their science–the joy of discovery of unearthing new knowledge. For still others it’s about manipulating a machine to put together a widget; the satisfaction of assembling the pieces and watching the machine work. I don’t know what it is for you, that’s for you to find out.
It is about that form of expression that is unique to us, that thing with which we connect deeply. If you know what that thing is, even if you are not doing it right now, there’s still power and opportunity in the knowing.
It has taken me a really long time to zero in on my “Yes this is it.” I’m still not sure I’ve totally uncovered it, but I’m close. I can feel it. One of my favorite quotes on this subject says, “To find out what one is fitted to do and to secure the opportunity to do it is the key to happiness.” There’s joy to be had in the figuring out what you’re “fitted to do,” and then, without anxiety and frustration, as best you can, begin to seek the opportunity to do it.
I can hear you right now saying, “I can’t run off and join the circus because I love the feeling of flying through the air on a swing and always wanted to be a trapeze artist.” or “I’m too slow, too old, too _____ (fill in the blank) to be the professional athlete I always dreamed of being.” That’s not what I’m talking about. I am talking about discovering that thing that gives you such pleasure, such a sense of ease and effortlessness that you totally lose track of what’s happening around you because you’re so engrossed in the experience. I believe that once we figure out what that is, the Universe begins to slowly and quietly bring to us a variety of opportunities that move us ever closer to the “Yes this is it” feeling.
Before he started his public ministry, Jesus secluded himself for 40 days and 40 nights in fasting and prayer. In some ways he was preparing himself for the next three years, to get ready to live into his calling. In these 40 days I encourage you to steal away and find some time to really think about that thing that gives you joy and to lift up your hands and say, I don’t know how it might happen that I might get to do this more often and more regularly, but I’m making myself available for the answers to show up. And then go about your business, holding your current job or occupation or work with gratitude. It might not yet be the thing that makes you say, “Yes, this is it,” but be faithful to it as best you can. You never know where that will lead you.