Christmas has come and gone again, leaving in it’s wake a temporary happiness that comes with giving shiny new things, until they fall out of favour and end up in landfill, only to do it all again next year. For me, each passing Christmas has evoked a gentler longing for a simpler gift, like a scented candle, some wool to crochet with or just a sense of peace. This year however has borne it’s own unique and surprising gift, and not the kind you’ll find in any store.
Like many people, 2015 for me, came with health challenges, ongoing Irritable Bowel Syndrome, the kind that you hope will be resolved with a magical Christmas wish, like the gifting of that elusive key that will unlock the mystery cure . This year my unique gift wasn’t from a medical diagnosis but from a sudden knowing and insight into what might be the actual cause, and surprisingly, it’s not a physical malfunction, but more of a spiritual and emotional one.
You see for the past two years, I’ve been studying a post graduate course that has felt less like I was learning something worthwhile, and more like I was bashing my head against a brick wall. It’s not that some of the material isn’t interesting, but it’s deeply theoretical with few ‘real life skills’ that I really want and need as a spiritual mentor and counsellor. To make things worse, the course is now only available online, with a measly two day workshop mid semester, not ideal when studying counselling, which is all about human interaction and communication.
So, if this course ticked none of my heart’s boxes why was I doing it? Well because I’d fallen into the “Title” trap and therefore, the only box it ticked was my head’s box, the home of our ego, that insatiable and dominating part of me that said, “Don’t do the holistic diploma course your heart really wants, do the higher level degree instead, because more people will be impressed by this one, and if they’re impressed, you’ll feel special!”
And I fell for it. Ego convinced me to trudge my way through this course because it convinced me that when I finished it, I’d feel more important, more “special”, all those sneaky little tricks it uses to make us feel less than. It didn’t matter that I’d already been working successfully as a counsellor and that my clients were happy to refer their family and friends to me. No, for ego it wasn’t enough, and despite me often telling my clients about the ego trap, I myself had fallen in, hook, line and sinker.
Don’t get me wrong, I love studying and formal qualifications of all kinds have their place, as long as we do them for the right reasons. If spending all that time and effort brings us a sense of joy and accomplishment and satisfies higher goals, then we know it’s the right path, but if it’s filled with dread and resentment, and importantly starts to affect our mental, physical and spiritual health, then we really need to examine our motivations.
And so my Christmas gift this year was the gift of clarity, the ability to see that I’d been putting my heart’s desire aside, because my head made it all about perceived ego value, not heart value. And, whereas my old course took so much time because my heart wasn’t in it and therefore resulted in chronic procrastination, doing a course I love will be it’s own motivator, helping me complete the course quickly, giving me another gift, the precious gift of time, time to pursue my other creative interests like writing, crochet and design.
The silly thing is, I really don’t “need” any more formal qualification because my clients always leave feeling better than when they arrived and that is aim of successful counselling and mentoring. Plus, not once have they asked about my academic credentials, it was my own ego trying to sabotage my hard-won sense of self worth.
Sadly in our culture, it’s too often about BIG trophies and about having the most impressive qualifications, the biggest office and pay packet etc. and less about truly loving what you do, even if it comes with a smaller, quieter office, and a more modest pay packet.
So my Christmas gift this year was the magical key of clarity, helping me see that rather than pursue the ego path that has been toxic to my health, I can choose the heart-path. As a bonus, it frees me to pursue my creative interests, those that nourish me and help foster good health. So if you are grappling with a battle between your head and your heart, take a moment to breath and see which option feels like you are losing oxygen, and which one fills your lungs with joy and a sense of lightness.
Like me, you may discover that the magical key you were hoping to find to solve your dilemma was in your pocket the whole time.