Reflections on the Future of the Centre for Spirituality at Work
from Cate Laurier, Toronto
What is the Question?
In considering the future of the Centre for Spirituality at Work, the obvious questions might seem to be “should there be a new centre?” and ”if so, what should it be and do?” However, I feel I need to start with questions aboutdeeper core needs, separate from any particular form that meeting them might take.
I know from past experience how tempting it can be to jump to questions of form, structure and activities. Indeed, a lot of energy, passion and technical wizardry could be unleashed on these. However this beautiful energy needs a direction to guide it... ~ the deeper question of “why”. What’s the beating heart at the centre of this? What are our needs? What do we yearn for?
For me, these questions are the necessary foundation to guide any renewal effort, or to determine whether other forms exist now that could meet these needs. I thus have no idea yet if we need a rising phoenix or a gracious burial.
Bringing it Home
The questions that Eric led off the September breakfast were bang on for me. “What does spirit at work mean to you?” “What do you need in your own work journey?” They weren’t ice-breaking preliminaries. They were core questions to bring us home to our own needs. When Eric said we can’t just “do it for others”, I totally agreed. The only way a rebirthed centre or network could sustainably exist would be if it’s meeting our own needs i.e. if it’s personally relevant and sustaining for us.
Asking these kinds of questions can be difficult, scary and maybe even “heretical”. First, it’s hard to talk personally about issues of spirit or soul. Secondly, as people who care deeply about service, we are accustomed to asking what the “world” needs, and may think it’s “selfish” to ask about our own needs.
Living the Questions in my Own Life
At the September breakfast, it struck me that the inquiry I was going through about the Centre’s future was similar to the inquiry I’m going through in my own life and vocational journey. I’m living with a lot of questions that need to come before the more tangible ones like “What would I like to do or achieve?” or “What service or product would I like to offer in the world?”
I know from my own experience, that if I do things just because they’re a “good idea” or will be “good for the world”, it doesn’t work happily for long. I am mindful of how many times I’ve jumped too quickly into things that I agreed with in principle, but then lost my energy and found it a tough slog. I finally realized it wasn’t something “wrong with me”. It was that my involvement, while helping others, wasn’t meeting my needs. It wasn’t joyful, sustaining or regenerating for me.
So I’m carefully asking myself new questions.
• What do I care about, need, and long for?
• What are my heart and soul called to contribute, in a way that has joy and meaning to me?
• What do I get energy and joy from expressing and sharing with others?
• How can my doing be a gift not only from my soul, but also for my soul?
I hunger to connect with other people in soulful conversations about these very kinds of things. The space to talk on a deeper level than the mental or activity-based orientations of our customary conversations.
The unstructured soul-centred conversations that Eric facilitated during the Saturday breakfasts were one of the most beautiful gifts I received from the Centre over the past year. Indeed, that experience helped me identify what I was missing and yearning for. A safe and welcoming environment for listening each others’ souls into discovery and expression.
While I can explore much on my own, through contemplation, reflection, meditation and creative arts, I don’t want to sit exclusively in the silence of the solitary. I want to connect with others on a soul level. I also know there is music inside of me that can only be evoked by sharing myself with others. The deep listening of the conversation circles brought out inner knowing and words that would have been otherwise lost to me. I’d have never heard them or felt their fullness.
As I travel on my individual journey, it is so important to be with others who are walking a similar path. In these circles I took heart and courage from peoples’ stories and from sharing my own. It was so gratifying to have a safe place to speak of my aspirations, hopes, dreams, fears, conundrums, and show my vulnerability.
I love learning from others about how they are living the questions and dealing with the real tensions, challenges and successes of their spiritual and vocational journeys. It’s not just “10 quick steps to happiness” or disembodied “how to’s”. Practical tips can help big time, but they’re strongest for me when they’re embedded in people’s stories and experiences. Through their stories I can absorb and consider what practical lessons might apply in my own life. People’s stories also show the immense diversity of our paths, which provides me with even more permission and encouragement to follow and trust my own unique path.
Changing our Lives one Conversation at a Time?
In a broader sense, it also strikes me just how central conversation is to expressing our souls in the larger world. “Conversation”, “voice” and “speaking our truth” aren’t just powerful metaphors. They’re literally the way we create and shape our world and relationships. After all, isn’t conversation the heart of what most of do almost every waking hour? We talk to our co-workers, management teams, board members, clients, friends and families. We put our voices out to the public through our blogs, newsletters, presentations, websites and marketing materials. Aren’t these exactly the places we want to bring our souls?
What I would Love
To support the larger conversation of expressing my soul in my work and my life, I would love to have the opportunity to connect to the wisdom of others. Whether through a rebirthed centre/network or some other forum, I would love to be part of soul-centred conversations of the kind that Eric facilitated. I would also love the opportunity to learn about and connect with the work and offerings of people who are sharing wisdom around particular aspects of the journey.
As I navigate my way in the workplace or as a potential spiritual entrepreneur, here are examples of the types of questions I have asked myself and would love to ask others.
• How do I discern the call of spirit? How do others?
· What brings my soul out of hiding and gives me courage? What helps remind me I even have a soul and that I’m part of something larger?
· How can I find inner permission to take care of myself and my needs without feeling that’s selfish and “unspiritual”?
· How can I reveal and express myself more authentically, tell more of my own “truth” and share my gifts with others?
· How can I find the support and encouragement to take new steps when the “dragons” rear up?
· How have others dealt with fear, doubt or external opposition?
· How do I reach out and open up a soulful conversation or let myself be more “real” at work? How do I go against the grain and be a leader when I don’t see anyone else doing it?
· How can I deal with the tension of trying to express myself more authentically in the culture and conditions of my current workplace? How do I know if it’s time to leave to seek or create something new? How have others navigated this?
· How can I reconcile and get comfortable with the idea of connecting money-making with a spiritual livelihood?
· How can I talk about my gifts and offerings without feeling “arrogant” or falling into “spiritual self-effacement”?
A Shared Web of Co-creation?
I definitely feel a need for a network or community to provide hope, courage, solidarity and inspiration on this soul journey. I don’t know what form this would take, but I deeply resonate with Eric’s metaphor of a “shared web of co-creation”.
I understand that there are over 800 people on the Centre’s mailing list. That’s a sizeable web of people who are interested in connecting spirit and work, even if they haven’t had an opportunity to participate directly or recently in the Centre’s activities.
I wonder what would it be like if we were actually networked to each other in a way that felt like we were part of a community or movement, or mutually supportive conversation? I wonder if there is something we can weave and co-create that would meet our deep needs and hunger for soulful expression and community? Or if we can find a way to link with something that already exists that could do the same?
I’m in an open and questioning space, listening for guidance in my own life and in relation to the Centre. Opening to the mystery, the co-creative dialogue with life itself. Listening to what wants to be created. What wants to emerge?
Cate Laurier, October 2014