March 29, 2016

Callings: Finding & Following an Authentic Life—the Book that Changed My Life.


“Since there is fear and suffering in life, whether or not we take on adventures, whether or not we follow our callings, we might as well suffer in the service of our dreams.” ~ Gregg Levoy

Every winter the Hubs and I rent a small cabin on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. We spend a few weeks taking wet stormy walks, soaking in the hot tub, playing epic board games, placidly staring into wave or flame and losing ourselves deeply in books. It is my version of heaven.

In the winter of 2011, I was balanced on the cusp of a major life change. I was morbidly unhappy in my job in the cosmetic industry. I was feeling pulled to do something bigger. I wanted to make a difference in the world. Anxiously, I was entertaining the idea of becoming a life coach but as much as I was tickled by the prospect, it also terrified me.

What if I didn’t have what it takes?
How can I leave a job that pays so well?
What if I’m not good enough?
What if I fall flat on my face?

I was incapacitated with doubt.

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work” ~ Gregg Levoy

In preparation for our escape to wilderness that year, I had gone to the library in search of fresh reading material. As synchronicity would have it, I stumbled across a book entitled, Callings: Finding & Following an Authentic Life by Gregg Levoy.

Callings, as the subtitle indicates, is a book about finding your way to a life that truly speaks to you. In his incredible tome, Levoy explains what a calling truly is, how to recognize yours and even how to invoke a calling. He looks at the myriad ways we say no to a call, as well as the painful ecstasy of saying yes. It was exactly the book I needed to read that year.

I can remember sitting, perched on a stool in the kitchen of our little rented cabin, reading every single word with rapt attention. Normally I make notes in my books or underline passages that resonate with me, but because this was a library book I couldn’t do that. Instead, I bought a cheap spiral bound notebook from the local grocery store and wrote out, by hand, every word that spoke me.

I ended up making 20 pages of notes.

It was as if Levoy could read my mind. He addressed every doubt that had been echoing through my head (and even some I hadn’t even considered yet). His words were wise and articulate but most importantly, his words were recognizably the truth.

“Resistance allows us to avoid the anxiety of saying yes and the guilt of saying no. Prolonged, it is soul withering and bone dissolving. This damned 7/8th ‘No’ can steal decades of your life.” ~ Gregg Levoy

The information he shares in Callings is clearly gained from walking the seeker’s path himself. Levoy has an intimate knowledge of the pain, fear, hunger and hope that accompany any search for meaning and purpose in one’s life. This book inspired me; it soothed me and it shook me awake.

If you have even a tiny question in your mind about the path you are intended to walk in your life, please read this book.

It is poetic as well as practical. It is the perfect antidote to the boundless ocean of poorly written, condescending and frankly uninspiring dreck that spills out of the self-help section in your local bookstore. Believe me, I own most of them!

He understands the yearning that so many of us have to live a different life. He has been there and he generously, eloquently and yet humbly shares what he’s learned on his own journey. He doesn’t cover up the frequently uncomfortable realities of the seeker’s journey with pretty but ultimately inadequate metaphors. He lays it out for his readers, but all the while keeps us, his readers, firmly planted in the driver’s seats of our own lives.

To give a sneak preview of the ride you are in for, here is a small sample of some of the notes I took that fateful winter:

“Society and nature tend to create guarded, timid creatures but ones that survive. We often end up trading our authenticity for what we perceive as survival, terrified to swap security for our heart’s desire.”

“Let yourself love what you love…respect your hunger and obey your thirst.”

“In dreams we go primitive. We remember everything we claim to have forgotten and when we wake we find burrs clinging to the bed sheets.”

“Doubt may be an uncomfortable condition but certainty it is a ridiculous one.”

“All the energy that is bound up in resisting your own potential is more energy than you’ll need to reach it.”

“Never forget that left field is still in the ball park.”

I cannot recommend this book enthusiastically enough. If you have questions about what you are meant to be doing with your life, read this book. I can’t promise you will find all the answers, but it will prompt you to ask all the right questions.

“Questioning is the prerequisite to change and innovation, without it there is no discovery.” ~ Gregg Levoy


Author: Jude Temple

Editor: Travis May

Image: Flickr/Alexander Lyubavin

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