Chris’ story inspires us to understand that success is measured by so much more than the rank of one’s job. It shares how Chris has found so much more fulfillment and satisfaction from life when he chose to re-examine his work choice and follow the calling of his inner being.
My journey of awakening and personal expansion
Earlier in my life, I was basically focused on keeping my life comfortable and familiar. If we think of my experience of living like a radio, it’s as if I was trying to make sure I only listened to a really narrow range of stations-only smooth jazz, for example-and that I never had to listen to rock, classical, R&B or any of the other music out there.
Eventually, I realized there was a part of me that actually longed to try the other stations-even the ones that played music I “didn’t like.” I discovered this when I started taking up mindfulness practices to de-stress from my work as a lawyer. The meditation, yoga and other things I started doing often focused on learning to be with difficult sensations. The best example is yoga, which for me has been about learning to tolerate the feeling of a really intense stretch. It was like tuning the radio to a station with music I hated, and learning to sit with that feeling of really disliking what I heard, without turning it off. Expanding the range of experiences I could be with, I found, was actually kind of exciting.
I also gained a different perspective on the suffering that happened in my life. I used to think certain experiences “made” me suffer-maybe the breakup of a relationship, or someone getting angry at me, and so on. But what I started to see was that no experience can actually “make” me suffer-it’s actually my resistance to the experience that creates the suffering. So when I feel sad, it’s not the sadness itself that creates suffering-it’s my belief that I “shouldn’t” feel sad, or that radio station WSAD is no good.
My Inspirations and Influences
Until a few years ago, I was an attorney, doing litigation work for corporate clients. That path in life grew out of what I talked about earlier-the desire to keep my experience within a narrow band. I was pretty much addicted to people telling me I’d done a good job, and because law was something I was naturally talented at, it gave me an opportunity to get a regular “fix.”
Like I said earlier, I got into mindfulness practices to ease the stress and anxiety of my job. I began using forms of meditation, movement and conscious breathing in real time, as I sat at my desk, to keep myself focused. What I started to find, as I got deeper into these practices, was that situations at work that used to really throw me were becoming easier to tolerate. I started getting more creative and productive at work, and actually having fun doing my job.
After several years of exploring these practices, I began to realize how much others in stressful work situations could benefit from learning these techniques. I noticed that, while there are a lot of books and other products about spirituality, and many books about business, it’s rare for someone to write and teach about bringing spiritual practice into the business context. Seeing that I could offer a lot of value by playing this role, I finally left the legal profession and became an author, speaker and personal coach with the goal of teaching this material.
There’s definitely a long list of teachers and authors I’ve found influential and inspiring. Some of the biggest examples are A.H. Almaas, Michael Brown, Peter Levine, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Richard Moss, Osho, Marshall Rosenberg, Hal and Sidra Stone, Eckhart Tolle, Ken Wilber and Stephen Wolinsky. As far as “in-person” mentors, I did a year-long training with the leaders of a transformational workshop called the Arete Experience in San Francisco, California, and they remain an amazing source of support in my work and life.
My Positive Life Changes
I’ve felt so honored by the opportunity to work with people, whether in a one-on-one or group situation, and to have them share with me their desires, challenges and deepest truth. There’s something about having an interaction with another person where we’re being completely open and honest with each other that warms my heart. And now I get to do it for a living!
I’m also very grateful for the opportunity to write whatever I want, without having to worry about losing my job. While I was working as a lawyer, I built up a lot of creative energy that I didn’t really have an outlet for. When I left my law firm, I had so much of that energy that I wrote something like ten articles on my first day of exploring blogging, and I feel like I’ve still got that kind of momentum in my work today.
My Next Steps as an Evolving Being
I’ll be publishing a book in September 2009 called Inner Productivity: A Mindful Path to Efficiency and Enjoyment in Your Work. I’ve released e-books before, but it’s been a dream for me since I was a kid to create a full-length, hard-copy book, so I’m definitely excited. For a while after that, I’ll be deeply involved in letting the world know what the book has to offer, and this will mean a lot more opportunities to communicate with people about and support them around their goals and challenges. I will continue to write about my creative ventures and help others in the personal development areas on my blog Purpose Power Coaching.
My Advice to Others
No matter how amazing your life becomes, you’ll still probably have moments when you feel sad or frustrated, and no technique for making yourself happy seems to perk you up. In these moments, I invite you to take a moment and notice the sensations you’re feeling in your body.
What sensations are coming up that let you know you’re feeling sad, angry, or whatever other “negative emotion” is arising for you? For instance, perhaps you’ll notice that “sadness” for you means a tension in your shoulders, or a sinking feeling in your solar plexus. In other words, “sadness” is a label you’ve been putting on a group of feelings in your body.
Now, if you notice a specific place in your body where the feelings are arising, take a few breaths into that place. What I mean is to focus your attention on the area where you feel a lot of sensation, and breathe so that part of your body rises and falls with the movement of the breath. Notice, as you breathe into the place that’s full of roiling energy, that the energy starts to move-that the area of your body you’re focused on relaxes a little, and the sensations start to change.
The point of this exercise is to see that emotions are really just currents of energy that move through our bodies from time to time, and we don’t have to fight or run from them. When you have this realization, moving forward in and staying focused on what you’re doing, whatever you might be feeling, becomes much easier. We might say this is about learning to appreciate more radio stations, like I talked about earlier, than you may have before.