A few years ago I had enough. I always felt that there is more to life than my career in information technologies but it came to a turning point when I decided that I will build an online business and become my own boss. The universe proved that it works in mysterious ways. Call it synchronicity or a lucky coincidence but my team had a restructure and I was offered a redundancy package. My employer did not want to lose me and generously offered a couple of other options to stay but I was dead-set on becoming a digital entrepreneur and becoming free financially and otherwise.
There came the glorious nine months of exploration and soul searching. I denounced corporate slavery, grew long hair (contact me for a photo of me walking on water wearing all white), did all kinds of personal development workshops and lived in Europe. After a few months, I found my rhythm and could finally have a day lying on a beach without feeling guilty of not being busy. My circle of friends at the time included energy healers, handpan drum players and people on a journey of self-discovery. Yet, I was not ready to go up the mountains and spend years meditating in silence. A realization that online business will take time to grow and I would have to consider it a side hustle came just in time.
I went back to the workforce and picked a twelve months government contract. My long hair became a symbol of the unstoppable quest for spirituality. I felt that the journey was a separate business from my daily work hours. What really happening was me trying to be a monk disguised as an office worker. As a result, I was stuck between two worlds without being able to fully engage in neither of those. My contract eventually came to end. I went back to the job market looking for my next role, reluctant to change my view on this. I recall a conversation with my coach when in a stern voice I stated that cutting my hair is not an option, inevitably committing to be stuck in this limbo.
My experience taught me that crucial change moments in our lives happen when we start growing uncomfortable in a current situation. This pain serves as a catalyst for a shift. Fast forward two months I am sitting in a barber chair and Janeke holding clippers enquires, “So what are we doing today Jay?” At that moment it clicked. One of my mentors warned me about the ego looking for enlightenment. It will send you walking circles looking for another guru, buying another book, attending another event with an acclaimed spiritual scientist again and again.
Like with any mind construct the ego will put a label “spiritual” on what it qualifies as enlightenment, place it in a box and announce a victory. You will feel compelled that this experience requires you to wear orange robes, have your house fitted with crystals and sip on a drink that is guaranteed to give you awakening if you hashtag it in your Instagram feed. But deep inside you will still feel that something is amiss.
There lies a mistake. Your mind can lead you to the awakening like the proverbial horse to water but it will not wake you up. It is because the concept of enlightenment is linked to a non-dualistic, all connected consciousness. This illusion, a reality where you are a separate entity from everything around you is created by the mind. This walking in circles is your ego resistance. It is clinging to what is familiar to it and it comes in many forms. When you are on the right path or what some may call a purposeful living that resistance is replaced with acceptance of what is.
In a story told by philosopher Alan Watts, a young monk came to his Zen master and asked how to free ourselves from the chores of living like eating and sleeping? The master answered, “When we are hungry we eat, when we get tired we sleep.” “But isn’t it what everyone does?”, enquired the monk. His master responded, “No. Most people think of all kinds of things when they eat and they dream instead of sleeping.” Walking the path isn’t just defining your purpose but it is also an undivided focus and presence with it.
Accepting that my conscious choices led me to this moment I decided to follow the path with a natural curiosity, learning from experiences. I decided to stop searching for answers outside and tune in to what is inside of me. Spiritual practices have their merit however the name practice suggests that it is something to learn and apply in your daily life. Just like basketball players practicing a perfect throw for hours bring this skill to a game in front of thousands of fans.
And that is the way to awakening – work when we need to work, sleep when we are tired, eat when we are hungry. It is hidden in plain sight, simple and easy to follow. I looked at my face in a mirror and said, “Cut it short Janeke.”