I’m in a period of stasis. I reached a point where I somehow produce wealth and yet I am not working on the thing for which I have been employed. I am reading a translated version of the words of Lao Tzu and wondering what is happening energetically with me. Last week I quit my job but my boss avoids talking to me and I have to wait 2 weeks before I can leave the country were I was initially sent to do research. In the absence of any advice or support from my mentor, what I do is focus on myself, on my health, my sleep and work, on managing my inner uncertainty. An overwhelming feeling of ‘living in the moment’, followed by a larger ‘this was meant to be’, washes over me at variable moments throughout the day, like the cool waves of the sea. I live in a state of ‘calm turbulence’, I think this is how I would describe this period of my life. I’m in some sort of spiritual transition.
A dear friend from Bangalore, whom I never met in person yet I feel a connection to, shared a book with me about Tantra and absolute love, over the holidays. I finally managed to read it and it felt like I had a tiny awakening. I also noticed in the postscriptum that the French author who wrote it, Daniel Odier was also working as an academic when he read the work of Lao Tzu and decided to leave his job and move to France to teach tantra.
I am wondering if it is actually true, that once you begin your spiritual journey, all your material needs are being met in almost magical ways. Of course, you don’t get an Ali Baba cave of riches all of a sudden at your doorstep, but you get just enough to keep you nurtured and healthy. You get what you need, as you relinquish what you want…or thought you wanted.
I try to live still anchored in the present, but when I spend most of my days alone, with no clear goal to fulfill and inevitably waiting to leave a place that feels alien to me, I keep wondering if I am going through a spiritual awakening or if I am merely losing my mind? In the absence of an answer, I rest. And as I rest, the answers come to me.
For two years now I’ve been in the process of commiting my time and energy to a lot of work, seeing it through and then merely leaving it behind me, while neglecting my personal relationships on this path for success. I thought that once I will become ‘established’, the right and supportive relationships will follow. I was wrong.
I quit a prestigious teaching job in the UK and a researcher position that had me travel between Sweden and the US. During these job transitions, I returned home to Bucharest and got floods of awareness that helped me grow by leaps and bounds. I am maturing at such speed and yet I also have the feeling that I might be self-sabotaging my chances of success in life. Where does the truth lie? Am I following my intuition or am I simply not comfortable with positions of power? Am I escaping the constraints of rational-bureaucratic work in favor of the spiritual path, or am I lazy and afraid of commitment?
From the outside looking in, my decisions surely must look bonkers. But from the inside-out I keep feeling that this is not the kind of work I felt I could do in this world when I initially began studying humanistic sciences. The younger version of me wanted to help people, to work in their service, while figuring out who I am. But the work I ended up doing alienated me from the very things I initially set out to achieve. The paradox is that working as a socio-psychologist keeps pushing me in isolation from the social. Unsurprisingly, I ended up supporting academic egos and projecting a false sense of self, repressing who I truly am.
In this soul-searching context, when I read this line from Lao Tzu, I felt woken up:
‘proud of wealth and renown
you bring your own ruin.
just do what you do, and then leave:
such is the way of Heaven’
So is leaving this job, my way of following the Way (Tao)? Of being immersed in this beautiful philosophy of just being or is this a sign that I am shooting myself in the leg, metaphorically speaking? I could analyze the situation to death, but I prefer to let it be as I continue to exist temporarily in this state of nothingness, wondering how to fill my time while I wait for my flight back to Europe. It’s like waiting for Godot, but the international version. Helpfully, Lao Tzu has an answer for this dilemma as well :
‘presence gives things their value,
but absence makes them work’
So by letting go of this job, I might increase my self-worth, huh? In addition, and contravening the protestant work ethic that dominates so much of Western economic thinking, Lao Tzu writes:
‘When you never strive, you never go wrong’
‘things rare and expensive make people lose their way’
This feels true to my experience so far; all this movement between jobs and countries made me realize how futile the quest for material success is and how easily I can live without a lot of material things. Minimalism is somehow spiritually supportive, so I’m starting to understand the stoics and the ascetics. I’m also learning the rhythm and value of things, people and places because I am engaged in a state of constant comparison. The more I compare things to each other however, the more I realize how similar they all are.
So am I becoming more aware of when to act and when not to act, while making a lot of blunders on the way? I am reminded of the principles of karma and dharma. Karma as action and its consequences and dharma as doctrine but also the principle of receptivity. As I write about stasis for my book and learn about Kashmir Shaivism and the philosophy of nonduality, I try to think of how action and inaction are blended in reality in how individuals perceive and experience them. I also try to reconcile this awareness of my personal power, my growing inner world and being emotionally open and vulnerable, by stimulating and healing my heart chakra to accept life and intimacy, after loss and trauma.
On this path, I feel I am embodying both sides of the Divine Feminine archetype described in Odier’s book: one being Kali, the terrifying and destructive feminine force, and the other Devi, the balanced and harmonious feminine energy (two slightly more imaginative interpretations of the Western clichés of the Madonna and the Whore) :
With all these mysteries in mind, I feel that I am at the beginning of an interesting string of life events.
With universal love,