Spiritual Principle: Walk your own path

I don’t like cryptic, hard-to-understand ideas.

I much prefer clearly expressed truth.

Truth I can instantly feel at the deepest level of myself and that illuminates my mind, so that I can embrace it right away and integrate it into my life right immediately.

My first title of this article was “You are your own path”. Though this original title is essentially true, it is an oft-repeated spiritual principle that implies looking and going inward because “all you need is inside yourself”.  Yes. This is factually true.

However, simply stated truths like this can feel cryptic and frustrating because they often raise the question of “OK, but what do I do to be on my own path?” And “This feels like truth, but leaves me feeling frustrated because it is so far from my day-to-day reality of life.”

Frustration = not being gentle on your path.

Instead, I changed the title of this article to its current version: “Spiritual Principle: Walk your own path”, which feels much more action-oriented, empowering, freeing, and at least to me: gentle to oneself.

So, here is what this principle means to me and why it is a key principle of a gentle spiritual path for me:

Principle: Walk your own path

Most of us have been en-cultured by processes all our lives.  We line up at school and in stores. We do worksheets in school for letters or percentages, which then lead to steps forward called “grades”. After our years in school end, we apply for jobs through a process, we get a job and are trained in processes, we follow these process steps to accomplish things in our work and the employment process gives us money, which we use in a process to buy things that we need and want.

Is it any surprise that when we hear an inner calling from our spirit and soul that we naturally look for a process to follow to answer that inner call?

It is no surprise at all, which is why we have religions, yoga, meditation groups, new age teachings, retreat centres, and a hundred other spiritual processes we could follow. They are wrapped in soothing words like “journey”, which makes them seem to our minds to be the right thing to follow, and cost a certain amount of money for “x” number of sessions, days, weeks, or months.

All very much in alignment with the linear, step-by-step way how our minds like to see the world and tell us is the “right” way to go about answering an inner call.

But it is not the only way to answer the inner call. And as history can show us, this way is fraught with challenges that must be overcome at best or are succumbed to at worst.

So, now the tough part to write:  How do I express in words that the gentle path I chose does not follow a religion or process of any kind?

And how do I express that there are wonderful teachers and teachings you can learn from and useful tools, concepts, and principles that you can pick up and use? And that you can use these teachings and tools in your very own way rather than in the way a religion or process tells you to use them? And that by doing so you are inherently answering your inner call with yourself, which is the most powerful commitment you can make.

Maybe I just expressed what needed to be said.

One more piece that should finish off this principle:

Walking your own path means you are free to be gentle on yourself, which in turns results in a spiritual journey that is itself quite gentle.

“Gentle” feels just right for me!

But let’s take a bit of time to satisfy the mind, so that your mind and your inner knowingness can come into alignment. When they are in alignment, there is little or no internal resistance and discombobulation.

Alignment of mind and inner knowingness = trust and peace = gentleness.

Why no religious or spiritual process?

Without the processes that come with traditional religious and spiritual “pathways” there are no metrics to compare yourself to. No grades. No comparing yourself to someone else who is at a higher “step” in the process than you.

Let’s take a look at this one:

No grades, no steps, and no comparisons = less self-judgement = being gentle with yourself.

There is no right or wrong. Only what works for you and doesn’t work for you. Doing what works for you = less resistance = gentleness.

There is no-one outside of you to tell you what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.

Notice that I wrote “to tell you…”. That was a specific wording choice. Because if someone tells you how to walk your spiritual path, then you are setting yourself up for failure and self-judgement compared to an external metric or criteria. Or, alternatively, you will believe you are “successful” and judge yourself as “good” and “better” based on what someone told you you should do. This can result in “spiritual pride”, a really problematic challenge to overcome. In either case, judgement of your “progress” using an external metric is not gentle. For every “success” and “good” you think you “achieve” based on what someone tells you to do, you will find the opposite comes to pass…in due time.

Choosing to listen to yourself for what works and doesn’t work on your spiritual path is a huge gift of gentleness to yourself.

And the idea and practice of “worship”:

There is no-one to worship.

Oh, this is a juicy one. The tendency of even the most serious and determined spiritual seekers to worship a person or religious idol with deeply felt and expressed emotion never ceases to surprise me.  Worshiping anyone – yes, even the most trusted teachers and spiritual guides – will eventually lead to a challenging blockage you will have to transcend. And it will set you up yet again for self-judgement when you realize over and over again that your efforts have not resulted in you becoming the same as the one you have been worshiping.

Freedom from worship means you are free to be peaceful and let your natural kindness flow through you and out into the world as you walk your own path in your own time.  Peacefulness and kindness are by nature gentle.

The challenge with “Walk your own path”

OK, so there is a challenge that comes with this principle and with walking your own spiritual path. It may not be an easy challenge for some. It was a only a small challenge for me to deal with, but I respect it may not be for others. Here’s why:

You must take responsibility for your own journey. And you must do your own journey by yourself.

[pause}

Are you feeling any emotion?  I suspect that reading this principle and letting yourself “feel it” may generate a sense of discomfort, uncertainty, confusion, and possibly even fear.

Why?

Because taking responsibility for your own spiritual journey and “owning it” is not easy. Processes can feel trustworthy and safe to your mind and your mind runs your emotions. Taking responsibility for yourself can trigger emotions that give you evidence to your mind that walking your own path is neither trustworthy nor safe.

An analogy:  When you first learn to ride a bicycle, it may be scary, but when you get the hang of it, you realize that balancing and moving forward are connected and with care and focus, result in an experience that is fun and generally reliable.

No-one can teach you the exact a process for balancing while riding a bike. Techniques? Sure. Tips? Sure. Hold the bike in balance for you? Maybe for a few meters, but they have to let go or you won’t figure out balancing for yourself. Balancing while riding a bike is something you must learn on your own.

Learning to walk your own spiritual path is like learning to balance while you ride a bicycle.

At first you need to get a few things coordinated: How you use your spirit, mind, and body to learn, grow, and live peacefully and joyfully while moving forward in life.

Continuing the analogy – and this is when the “gentleness” comes in – you can learn to ride a bicycle by going fast, crashing, getting up and taking more risks, all while trying to keep up with your friends or trying to “get to” somewhere.

Not a gentle way.

Or you can take your time learning to ride your bike by going slower, staying on quieter pathways at first, learning what works for you, and as you gain experience, emerging into the world with confidence and abilities that you can trust to lead you to ever more clarity, strength, and peace.

A more gentle way to learn.

An invitation:

Walk your own spiritual path.

Learn to walk it carefully, patiently, and gently. Be kind to yourself as you learn to take responsibility for your own journey and what works to help you grow and how to balance yourself inside and out.

Writing this posting has resulted in a deep sense of peaceful relaxation, gratitude, and joy in myself.  I watch as the tea pours into my mug.  I watch the bushes outside move in the breeze. I watch as my spirit rests gently and joyfully while the world around me swirls.

I let it swirl. My path is my own. It is a gentle one. I choose to walk  peacefully through the world and through my spiritual journey.  I don’t always succeed, but peace and gentleness are now the norm in my experience, not the exception.

May yours be a gentle path, too, if that is what you choose.

A Gentle Spiritual Path

Walk the walk

Ever heard the saying:

“She doesn’t just talk the talk, she walks the walk”?

It is a compliment. And deservedly so, because people who actually do what they think, believe, and say they are going to do are not the norm.

Thinking or knowing something is not the same as understanding, doing, and becoming what you think and know.

I was a college and university professor for some 25 years. Over the years I found my students becoming less and less interested in “walking the walk” than in “talking the talk”.  It was not their fault: The higher education system puts thinking and knowing on a much higher pedestal than doing and becoming. And thinking and knowing something are much easier than doing it and actually becoming.

For example, which is easier: Learning to ride a bicycle by thinking about how it is ridden in theory or by getting on one and learning to be become a comfortable and natural rider of bicycles?

Of course it is vastly easier to think about the concept of pedaling so that you move forward and moving your handle bars to balance yourself, than it is to actually get on a bicycle and learn to balance while pedaling and moving forward and become natural and comfortable at staying balanced while riding.

Another example:  Is it easier to learn what a spiritual teacher did, and suggested we do, or to do it yourself? In other words, is it easier to think and know spiritual ideas, concepts, and principles or to practice them and “become” them?

Is it easier to think “Love thy neighbour as thyself” or to actually “love your neighbour as yourself”?

Well, duh! Of course it is harder to actually do it!

But which choice will result in your being unconditionally loving?

Thinking the words or practicing the idea?

My favourite bumper sticker of all time:

“What would Jesus do?”

It is quite humorous and profound for me at the same time because it prompts a simple and powerful question:  In everyday life, in all you do and with everyone you meet, are you doing what Jesus would do?

Or are you just thinking about what the “right” thing to do might be?

Not worshiping Jesus. Not knowing his words. But actually embracing his teachings, or those of any other teacher of the highest level of truth, and integrating them into how you live your life and into your thoughts and actions that you do all the time, every day, and in every moment?

Walking a gentle spiritual path is simply the choice to proverbially stand up and walk. To actually take one step after another. Every day, right now, in this instant. To take timeless truths and make them real in your life.

A wise teacher shared that it is just the choice of love in every moment.

Another wise person said it is the choice to always be kind to yourself and to everyone and everything.  All the time. Right now. This instant.

Same same.

Are you fed up with “thinking” and “knowing” because doing so for months, years, or lifetimes it hasn’t gotten you very far along the path to the inner peace you seek? And that actually runs you around in circles where you find yourself right back at the beginning again and again, no further ahead for all your thinkingness?

Choose to do and become. Right now. Commit to yourself the simplest commitment:  To do and become that which your soul is pointing you towards.

Walk the walk.

Which is one of the foundation stones of a gentle spiritual path.

Self-empowerment 101: I will make fewer decisions

Undoing mental patterns and habitual behaviors can be devilishly hard to do.  This is in direct contrast to how easily we create mental patterns and habitual behaviors.

I recently began undoing my belief that I have to make decisions all the time.  I guess I made a decision to stop making so many decisions!  A most fascinating and empowering journey has followed.

I gained the belief early in life that we are in control of our lives and destinies.  This control is called free will, and I was taught in school and by the world that it is a precious thing that should be exercised daily.  This belief in my free will has been at the foundation of my philosophy of life.  In fact, I still have the belief that I have free will.

What has changed, however, is in how I choose to use my free will.  One choice I made was to undo the belief that I have to make decisions all the time.  I used to believe that if I am not making decisions all the time I am not actually exercising my free will.

I now have a different belief.  Free will is not about making decisions all the time.  It is about “freely using my will”.

If this is getting too theoretical, here is an example:

ballotElection day.  You are to elect a new government leader.  You are presented with a list of 4 candidates.  You must decide on one and choose him/her.

Full stop.

First, who said you have to choose one from a set of options you didn’t create?

Second, who said you must participate in this decision process called an election?

Why did you buy into these two beliefs?

“If you don’t vote, you are not fulfilling your legal, moral, and ethical responsibilities to this country. ”

Ahhh…there we go:  I was forced, encouraged, or guilted into participating in a decision making process called an election.  And I am a bad person if I do not participate.  Someone decided that participating in elections makes you a good person and not participating in elections makes you a bad person.

Wait a minute!

How many other beliefs and decision making processes have I been invited to ascribe to and participate in?  How many have I chosen to believe and participate in, quite willingly, because I thought it was the fulfillment of the reason I have free will?

Lots, and lots, and lots.

Let’s take a step further back to uncover more goodies:

In university I chose a business education, where I gained the belief that leaders and managers are decisive, taking initiative as a part of their minute-by-minute workday.  One must “drive the agenda”.  And another saying goes:  “Decide, or someone else will decide for you.”

This is where it gets even more interesting:  “Decide, or someone else will decide for you”, is actually a fear-based belief!

I chose long ago not to live or act from a state of fear.

But I am still playing out the habits of my university training and even more traditional acculturation as a man, which says that a strong man is a decisive man!

Decide. decide. decide.

“People who don’t decide are weak, spineless individuals. They are soft.  They don’t take initiative, but let life walk all over them. The meek may inherit the earth, as the saying goes, but I would never want to be meek! Why be a victim when you can be a victor!”

Again, full stop.

This is getting silly.

One last look at this:

How many times have I encouraged my children to make decisions, when they did not understand the need for the decision to be made, the choices available, or the consequences?  And how traumatic was it for me to have to make “blind” decisions as a child or teenager, when I learned that decision making often resulted in outcomes that I didn’t understand and that hurt?  Ouch.

What I believe free will is not

Free will is not about becoming a “decision junkie”, thinking we have to make decisions all the time when we really don’t. It is not about habitually making decisions out of fear, usually without understanding the real reasons for the decision needing to be made in the first place. It is not about accepting the choices we are being presented and assuming without thought that they are the only options and the most valid ones. Free will is also not about making decisions when you don’t understand the importance of the consequences of the decisions.

And it is not about forcing others to make decisions when they don’t need to.

What I believe free will is

Free will is about exercising our ability to choose how we live our lives: What we believe, and how we act from those beliefs.

This year, I will use my free will to undo lots of beliefs and to make fewer decisions. And in doing so, I choose to empower myself to stay focused on the quality of my life itself and how I wish to live it.

I can hear the critics gleefully challenging this logic with “you just made a decision!”

Intellectualize all you want. I won’t play that game (another decision).

I am backing out of my addiction to the distracting activity called decision making.

And in doing so I am taking my power back to use my free will to focus on what will make me stronger and happier in my life.

Gigs or a job after graduation?

Why you should seriously consider getting “gigs” before seeking a job after graduating university or college.

New graduates, and their parents, typically consider the end of university and college the ideal time to seek a job as the launch point of a successful career. Reading and hearing that many graduates end up doing “gigs” – short to medium-term projects that they get paid for as contractors – causes many grads and their parents distress. Why? Because a “job” is secure and “gigs” are not, despite what the pay might be. Gigs come with no employee benefit plans, and unlike a job, have a defined end date.

Let’s decode this:

A full-time job = “safety”. Why do you want safety? So you can invest in a house, buy a car, and start a family. This is the life path your parents wanted and expected.

And for the tens of millions of immigrants to the U.S. and Canada over the last century, life here was also the escape from war and persecution. What did they want? Safety. So again, having a full-time and preferably unchanging job was an intense relief, or at least very, very desirable.

Gigs = “opportunity”. Why might you want opportunity? Because you are probably not trying to emulate your parents desires and life expectations – at least not immediately after you graduate university or college. And you most likely are not a refugee from a war or serious persecution. And if you have significant student loan debt which is causing you a sense of urgency to earn money, you hopefully know that there are many ways to make ends meet right now – not just through a traditional “job”.

And most importantly, you need opportunities because the world of “jobs” has changed so dramatically that even if you did try to jump directly into a stable, full-time job after graduation, you would likely find it a long and challenging journey getting there. Worse, you might find that after the euphoria of getting the job, your heart sinks when you realize what you have actually gotten yourself into. Change, stress, little structure, and scarce guidance and support are the norms of today’s busy corporate, government, and even small business workplaces.

Gigs are an “Opportunity”… to do what?

If you choose to do gigs after university or college – at least for a while – you gain some tremendous advantages over those who choose to seek jobs first:

  1. Gigs = experience that you can put on your resume. Even short-term gigs add significant value to your experience by showing potential employers what you can do.
  2. Gigs = the opportunity to define your preferences. You have been in school almost all your life. How do you know what kind of work you like to do? And what kind of a setting would suit you best? And what kind of people you would enjoy working with? Try a variety of short and medium-length gigs and you will quickly define your preferences. Really quickly. Remember: Your parents’ preferences when they were your age were usually quite different than yours will be today. Why? Because they grew up in a completely different world than you have.
  3. Gigs = building confidence. You get to succeed at real world work, which makes you feel good. And you can make mistakes, too, without long-term implications: You gain resilience.
  4. Gigs = an opportunity to learn. Yes, learn. Not the kind of learning you did in university and college, but for gaining the mindset, confidence, and professional skills you will need to be successful in the dynamic, fast-paced, technology-enabled, team-oriented, and intense world of work today.

What your parents don’t realize and media and governments are not telling you:

Those easy-to-find entry-level jobs of the past where you could learn the “professionalism skills” you needed in order to step into a high-skill role don’t exist anymore.

Where did the entry-level jobs go? Well, every time you use your phone or laptop to do online banking, visit a government web site, book a concert ticket or flight, check the weather, or send a message, you are using the replacement to entry-level jobs. Automation, in the name of cost savings, efficiency, and improved customer service has removed most of the traditional opportunities you had to gain the mind frame, confidence, and skills you need. Entry-level jobs that still exist today are being eliminated as quickly as organizations can automate them.

Now, you must leap a big gap between university and what employers need from you. There are few stepping-stone entry-level professional jobs where you can learn how to meet employers needs.

And no, a job in a fast food restaurant is not an entry-level job that will give you the professional skills you will need.

Choosing to do professional gigs after you graduate university or college, a real example of which is the image for this article, can be a smart part of the rapid development of a successful career.

For many new graduates, “gigs” may not be an option: They may be necessary. A good necessary!

The author: Paul Kurucz is a former university faculty who now coaches graduates to more quickly and confidently leap the gap between their studies and successful careers.

Freelancing after University: Hourly pricing or “packages”?

Being familiar with jobs that pay an hourly wage, most university graduates thinking about doing freelancing “gigs” after graduation (short term contract assignments) first think about how much they should charge per hour for their work. For example:

  • Ghost write blog articles – “I will charge $15 per hour.”
  • Do social media postings for small businesses – “$18 per hour.”
  • Landscaping and lawn care – “$14 per hour.”
  • Photography for a friend’s engagement party – “$20 per hour.”

Offering hourly pricing is the biggest mistake I see most new freelancers make

Charging by-the-hour for your work, or accepting a by-the-hour contract that a client offers you, is seriously problematic. Here’s why:

1. You have no idea if the per-hour rate is an accurate match to the value you will provide. So what do you do? You default to what you would have been paid as a wage earner. Worse, you price based on what you think you are worth per hour.

What happens? You grossly undervalue your worth and the value you will offer. You under-price…often by 2x, 3x, 5x, or 10x too little. “I earned $14 working at a restaurant, including tips. I will charge $16 an hour to my clients because now I have a degree. Phewwww!! That was easy!”

2. You are thinking like an employee. A freelancer is not an employee. A client wants help with something, a problem solved, or something built for them. They do not want an employee. That is why they are hiring a freelancer!

What happens? If you price on a hourly rate, your client will be confused and uncertain because they don’t know how many hours the help, solution, or building of something will take. They aren’t thinking about hours and hourly rates. They are thinking about getting something done. Your job is to help them get this done, not confuse them! See the problem? A confused and uncertain client is not a happy client who trusts you and your work.

3. You think you don’t have enough experience. As per point 2., most clients really only want to know if you can get something done for them and how much it will cost to do so. That’s it. “YES / NO” and “$_____” – one single number. Your lack of perceived experience lowers your confidence and results into defaulting back into “employee” thinking.

What happens? “I will price at $12 per hour to compensate for my feelings of lack of confidence. That way, my client will not expect much from me and if I fail, it won’t cost them much.”

Result? A good client will automatically think: “$12 per hour !?!?! Ummm…no thanks. This person is like a fast-food worker. I will find someone else to solve my problem – someone who can clearly get it done!”

And the result for you? “Clients won’t even pay me $12 per hour!! Nobody wants me. I must be really worth very little to clients and employers. Back I go to the minimum wage job I did last summer!”. Pricing on an hourly basis can quickly degrade confidence in both yourself and in the freelancing path itself!

Successful Freelancing: Offer “solution packages” to clients

Instead of thinking about “hours” and “price per hour”, think “solutions” to clients in the form of “packages” that:

  • help them do something better, faster, or in a new way.
  • solve a problem for them.
  • build something for them.

A re-framing of the examples at the beginning, from a “package” approach:

  • Ghost write 12 blog articles that will engage your social media audience – $1,100
  • Build your business’ social media “followers” by 100% of current levels. – $2,500
  • Keep your lawn cut & edged and flower gardens weeded until September 30th – $1,400
  • Photography for your engagement party – $400

Can you immediately see that two things have changed?

1. You have offered clear solutions to clients needs. The wording is definitive of a resolution of something. The client will feel relief just when reading the proposal. “This person will be able to solve this for me. Good!”. They may not yet approve your package price, but better they are a relieved potential client than a confused and uncertain one, no?

2. Your prices are now closer to, and more indicative of, the “value” your client will experience as an outcome of your work on their behalf. They are happy because the price clearly indicates that you will take this work seriously and you can do a good job with it.

Can you see how much more money you will make by offering packages instead of charging per hour for your work?

In the first example – ghost writing – you might have taken 24 hours to write 12 blog posts. By charging $15 per hour you are “earning” $360. By offering a package of 12 articles for a fixed price of $1,100, you are now “earning” nearly $46 per hour for the same 24 hours of work. A 300% increase in your earnings! And if it takes a bit more than 2 hours to do each blog article because you don’t have much experience? Who cares! You can take longer because you are getting paid so much more on an hourly basis. By focusing on the solution and not the “hours” and “price per hour”, you will not only free yourself from pricing stress but also do a better job for your client, resulting in an increase in experience, confidence, and income for yourself!

Action: Do this right now

For whatever service/solution you are thinking of offering:

  1. Can you think of a “package” solution that you could offer?
  2. Are there other freelancers you can google who offer packages similar to what you could offer?
  3. Are there businesses offering packages similar to what you might offer?