The Job of Your Life with Karen Schaffer

Get out of your rut and find your passion

Posts Tagged ‘playful exploration’

The Yoga of Career Exploration

Posted by Karen on February 3, 2009

Spent this past Sunday giving a workshop on how the practice of yoga can support your career exploration. It’s a workshop I have held before, in the fall of 2006, and holding it again allowed me to observe how much I have integrated the learning from the principles for myself. The workshop was blogged about, which is a first for me. So…in all…awesome.

To give you a taste…I took four principles from yoga practice – Playful Exploration, Spaciousness, Self-Trust and Acceptance, and looked at the ways that this can form a new way to approach Career Exploration.

Playful Exploration: In the practice of yoga, we explore postures and movement. We see what is possible in our bodies, without striving. We hear something new a teacher says about the posture (or hear something we’ve heard a million times and suddenly “feel” it in our bodies) and we play with that direction to see what that does to our experience of the posture. I add the word playful because playful to me conveys the lightness of the exploration. It’s not heavy and full of judgment and assessment. We aren’t commenting on where we can go or how far we come or where we are compared to where we should be. We’re in it. We’re being the posture.

Spaciousness: I’ve written more about this now in The Job of Your Life 10th Anniversary Edition. In yoga, spaciousness conveys our experience of the whole yoga. Often people relate the most strongly with the “strong” postures – the downward dog, the warrior – when they are sweating and energetically holding. Then when they get to a counter posture, like child’s pose, they just relax without awareness. We dismiss it as “easy”, as the holding place between the more important postures that are really “doing something”. I invited the class to really experience the spaciousness, to honour it and recognize it’s importance. Even the spaces between the postures can be full of awareness and experience. Spaciousness allows us to savour and release the energy we create, to fully experience it. Without spaciousness, there is no awareness.

Self-Trust: Yoga allows us to explore and observe how much we trust ourselves. Are we willing to move slowly and with awareness in new ways? Do we hold ourselves stiff because we are afraid of getting hurt, or we have an unshakable belief that our “shoulders will always be tight” or “I can’t touch my toes”? Can we not do a posture that everyone else is doing because we know that it’s not right for us today? Self-trust is how to move safely in yoga. One trusts the instructor, and yet each class is a co-creation with your inner teacher. Self-trust allows us to make the decision to go forward because we trust ourselves to take care of ourselves when something isn’t right.

Acceptance: I accept where my body is. I accept where my body is in this class. I accept where my body is in this posture. I accept where my body is in this moment. Learning how to accept ourselves, have compassion for where we are at every moment…this is the practice of yoga.

My breakthrough has been in seeing how these areas apply so powerfully to a Career Exploration.

Most people come into a career exploration feeling heavy, serious, action-oriented, pushing for the answers and yet not trusting themselves to know if it’s really the right answer. As human beings we are generally not very good at being compassionate at the best of times. We get even harder on ourselves when we don’t have what seem like things that should be important or “simple”. Of course what we’re asking to be clear about is only the most profound life questions of “Who am I?” “What is my purpose?” “What are my unique gifts and how can I serve the world with them in a way that bring me joy?”. It’s not like ordering off a McDonald’s menu.

Of course society at large doesn’t help because we are not, as good North Americans, very tolerant of unanswered questions or anything that appears as indecisiveness. Hence the non-compassionate attitudes that often surround career exploration (as one person in the seminar said, “I don’t want to be running around “chasing my bliss” while telling my partner he has to do things he doesn’t like in the meantime”). We don’t want to be irresponsible in the exploration…we still need to keep up our end of the practical necessities of life.

And at the same time make space for a delicious, open, playful exploration.

Using the practice of yoga to learn through the body what the exploration of Self is…it’s a great way to find new avenues and secret pathways to your inner “answer”. And to have a much more peaceful and joyful experience while you’re at it.

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