There’s a zen saying that goes: “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” The sense in this is that life goes on as before. You don’t become any less human after becoming enlightened. You don’t have any fewer needs and obligations in the material world, at least as far as the general physical needs go (shelter, food, water, etc.). I like to change it a little. I prefer to say, “Before awakening, do what you love. After awakening, do what you love.” I’ve noticed that a lot of people are turning awakening or enlightenment into a goal, but really all it does is focus you towards love. In more truth, it’s about “being” love and not “doing,” but doing things in this physical world has value. So if you truly want to awaken, one of the best things you can do is to follow the calling of your heart because that’s where awakening will take you anyway.

But I Don’t Know What My Calling Is

People have let their minds sink into such confusion that finding the calling of their hearts is half the battle. It always starts with making a dedication to yourself to explore. For someone who really doesn’t know what they love to do, I simply encourage them to try things. But even more importantly, I encourage them to trust the path, and that if new opportunities arise on that road, they need to trust themselves to follow the new opportunity. You don’t want to get stuck on forcing the original goal.

I followed my heart towards getting into a graduate writing program at one point. As I followed that, the spiritual path opened up for me, and I got rejected by all the schools I’d applied to by the end. I don’t see this as a failure. I see this as an amazing success in learning to following the path and trust its turns and changes.

Simply, finding your calling is about learning to trust your heart and intuition. You have to let go of some of the social mental programming that says, “If I can’t make money at it, it’s not valuable, or I can’t do it.” Money is just energy. It flows when you are least divided within yourself.

Consider this. Half of you wants to go one way. Another half wants to go another way. You are split. Can you go anywhere?

This is what it is like for many people. They actually do know what their calling is, but their internal fears and ideas are trying to make them go another way. You are frozen in your life. And worse yet, the money and energy that would support you in a new pursuit is stifled and stymied by the half of you that wants to go another way. If you want to be a physicist, but you’re too afraid to tell anyone or apply for schools, how can you get the education you need? How would anyone know to give you a scholarship? So it turns money into a bigger issue than it needs to be, and in truth, you don’t ever know if something will be financially supportive for you until you try it. The rest is simply conjecture and a mind-game that is keeping you trapped.

After the Exploration Comes the Practice of Doing

Maybe you already know what you love to do, or maybe there are elements around love that you need to explore. In my many posts about love (including this one called, “What Is Love”), I encourage people to challenge their ideas around love. Love is often too narrowly defined, and that’s another piece that keeps people from the calling of their hearts. So if love is something that always feels good, then you may have difficulties in finding a calling. Because life doesn’t always feel good. Sometimes, you will be challenged in the deepest ways by love kinda like I described in a recent spiritual allegory. That will not be comfortable, but it’s often our own resistance to this flood of internal energy that wants to take us somewhere that makes it all so uncomfortable. We have to learn to trust ourselves. We have to learn to let go and open up to the creative power of the unknown, which in essence is opening up to the totality of our own creative power.

And with that comes yet another important form of dedication. As many of you know, I think the “go with the flow mentality” is very juvenile. At best, it is only one half of the equation. It oftentimes presumes that everything will be easy and pleasurable and care-free. This attitude may have you shun difficult situations because you assume that anything that is uncomfortable is not the right way. But, the other half of the equation is the dedication and focused work that you do to birth your dreams. Perhaps child birth is a good metaphor. Some parts of pregnancy and child birth are easy and pleasurable (like the part involving sex). Other parts can be extremely challenging (like the actual birthing). All aspects are sacred. All aspects are needed to bring new life into this world, so as you focus in on what it is that your heart and soul (those two become the same in many ways) want to do, remember to dedicate yourself to that creation through easy moments and challenging ones.

The Importance of Following the Calling of Your Heart

And in case you think this is just about you, it’s not. We’re all interconnected. Where one of us chooses misery and monotony, we all choose it. Where one of us chooses love, we all choose it. We are so deeply interconnected that every choice we make is a ripple in the ocean of life. The more ripples that combine in the interests of love, the more the world moves from that space.

We have already seen enough of the power of ripples of fear. Depending on whose numbers you look at, the number of deaths from war in the 20th century is over 160 million people. That is the power of our fear. It destroys everything. We destroy everything because we killed those 160 million people collectively. That is the power of living in our misery. We seek to inflict that misery on others, and we become cold-hearted. It’s easy for many of you who are younger to forget these lessons about fear, but the level of fear is very high these days with so much change going on. There’s so much attachment to try and protect our individual hills of beans that worse world wars could come. That’s what makes following our hearts urgent. How do you convince someone who is in love with life that we should kill others in another nation? It becomes impossible. It makes no sense to impose our choices on others. But when we are imposing choices on ourselves to make certain amounts of money or have certain types of relationships, we are living in that fearful mindset. Now imposing choices on others “makes sense” of to a certain degree because sitting under that internal pile of crap is a part of us that says, “If I’m suffering, then others should suffer too.”

And the misery, death, and deceit continues.

Keep in mind too, that technologically the horrors we can commit on one another is at an all-time high. If you think dropping atomic bombs on two cities in Japan in the 1940s was bad, think about where we are technologically able to do today.

Sobering Realities of Not Following Love

These are sobering realities, and I haven’t really blogged this way in awhile. In general, I try to keep it very focused on you in the present moment and to not get caught up in the worldwide story that has happened. I want you to see, however, that you are a critical part of writing a new narrative. Global awakening isn’t just going to come because it’s December 2012. It comes because each individual makes an internal dedication and daily practice of living in their love.

Because another war will come. The war-drums will be beaten again to get everyone scared enough to do something violent to “terrorists” or “dictators,” which are our current terms for fear in Western Culture. In other regions, you have different terms, but the words are still there. They are the words that say, “If we do not kill them, they will kill us.” And they are lies.

But turning to the path of love clears your eyes of the lies. You see the truth. You see what you are really here to do, and you begin to walk out of the misery that you’ve created. Nevermind what the rest of the world does at this point, you have an obligation to yourself to own the way you want to live this life. You only get this one life as you in this body and personality. It is a gift. Do you really want to live it out doing work and being in relationships that make you unhappy? Practice expanding your view of what your life could be to help get out of the old mindset. This is one of the ways where imagination can be a powerful tool and an important first step. You may enjoy this blog about expanding your imagination if this is where you are in your process:

Expanding Your Imagination

Embracing the Power of Failure

One last thing before I leave this topic for today is to embrace the power of failure. Failure is a powerful teacher, and ultimately, “failure” is simply a part of life. How many times do professional athletes fail to achieve their goal? How many shots do professional basketball players miss in practice and in games? So I encourage those of you who are setting out or who have set out on the paths of your hearts to learn what lessons come from failure and to practice tenacity as it makes sense. Not all roads lead to six-figure jobs, nor should they. Not all roads leads to until-death-do-us-part long-term marriage. That doesn’t necessarily even mean that those paths have been failures. In truth, your ideas about failure may drastically need to change because life is change, and it is doesn’t play by the intellectual rules that we’ve tried to set up. It is so much bigger than that.

And truly the only real way to know if you are succeeding or failing is to listen to your heart. What is it calling you to do? What is it asking you to be? Take a moment. Pause. Breath in. And listen. You’ll know what you need to do.


I'm a spiritual teacher who helps people find freedom from suffering.


  1. Thank you Jim! Please keep up your amazing work. I'm at a moment in my life where I need such messages and I need them repeated, time and again, until I find the path that's truly mine. All the best to you from Poland.

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