In 2011, I left a good job with Apple without knowing what I wanted to do next. I was motivated to make a change because I wanted to position my spirituality at the center of my vocation. However, I didn’t know how I would do this. I had some vague notions about possible career paths but nothing solid or concrete. Most of my ideas centered on academic study. I was passionate about didactic study of spiritual theory, so it seemed logical to pursue this further.
Academia were not a good choice for me. Most academic programs focus on traditional religions, their history, development and cultural norms. I was interested in the writings of Eckhart Tolle, David Hawkins and others. The ideas I’m passionate about are not taught in mainstream university programs. I wanted to study the underlying currents all religious traditions seem to have in common. Across religions, certain themes or storylines regarding the human condition seem universal but get buried in elaboration or interpretation. I wanted to explore and develop these underlying themes, but I didn’t think I could do this in mainstream academia.
One of my dearest friends suggested I explore counseling and psychotherapy as a career with a strong spiritual component. I’d worked with several counselors over the years and had a solid understanding of psychology through introspection and reflection. Also, I had been involved in the Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) community for a few years at this point, and this gave me a sense of what professional counseling would be like.
At my friend’s suggestion, I contacted another friend, who was also a counselor, to collect more insight on the profession. This friend also had several decades of experience as a counselor and graciously described the spiritual side of counseling to me.
During our conversation, something unusual happened. This friend has some psychic abilities; she has several guides who communicate with her when called upon. During our conversation, she let me know one of her guides was insisting she tell me to explore energy healing, bodywork, nutrition and exercise. She didn’t know why her guide was suggesting this, but the message was coming through loud and clear. I was surprised, because, prior to this, I was never seriously interested in these topics. She agreed with me; she had never heard me express an interest in these topics either. However, her guide was insistent she make this suggestion to me, so she passed it on.
I took the suggestion seriously. I found a local Reiki master who offered training and signed up. I received two levels of training and attunement, and practiced on friends. I enjoyed giving treatments and received positive feedback, but I didn’t really take to it. To me, Reiki seemed too far outside the mainstream to make a living, and the effects were difficult to predict or describe. I didn’t see much diagnosis or treatment of specific illnesses or symptoms. I continued to practice sporadically, but set aside energy healing as a serious consideration.
During a family visit in Denver, I made an appointment with an academic advisor at Naropa University in Boulder. Naropa offers a contemplative psychotherapy program that integrates Buddhist teachings and theory into counseling. I wanted to learn more about the program to help me decide whether counseling was right for me.
The day before my advising appointment, I drove up to Boulder to run an errand with my father and locate the campus. While in Boulder, I stopped to locate a metaphysical bookstore I found online. I went to the address at the Pearl Street mall but couldn’t find the bookstore. I walked back and forth along the block where it was supposed to be, looking on both sides of the street, but I couldn’t find it for the life of me. After a few minutes of searching, I left in frustration, and we returned to Denver.
I had my academic advising at Naropa the next day. I learned about the various professional counseling programs, discussed financial aid, and toured the campus. I was very impressed with what I saw and heard, and I decided to apply to Naropa as I left the appointment. I figured I would apply to a few other counseling programs at different schools to hedge my bets, but professional counseling seemed like the right path for me.
As I was leaving Naropa, I decided to look for the metaphysical bookstore on Pearl Street one more time. I went to the spot, walked to the same location as the day before, and the door to the bookstore was right there, clear as day. I had no idea how I could possibly have missed it the day before.
After browsing for a few minutes, I was startled to notice a woman sitting at a table behind me. She had been sitting quietly just a few feet away from me since I walked in, but I had no idea she was there until I glanced in her direction. She had been meditating, and I think her stillness made her invisible. I asked why she was meditating in a bookstore, and she said she was offering tarot readings, $10 for 10 minutes.
I purchased a reading. She said we could use Tarot cards or not, and I said we could dispense with the cards. I described how I was looking for a new career, and, earlier that day, had settled on entering a counseling program. However, another path, energy healing, had also been suggested to me.
She took a moment to consider these two paths, then described what she saw. When considering counseling, she saw a dark red color. She had the impression I would be successful but feel constrained or boxed in over time. When she considered energy healing, she described seeing a white tree that was blossoming and expanding, stretching out in all directions. However, the tree did not have deep roots.
I left the bookstore with my mind made up. After deciding to enroll in the counseling program at Naropa an hour earlier, I dropped the idea. After describing my experience to my sister, she asked if I was making my career choice based on a couple of psychic readings. Sheepishly, I admitted it seemed that way.
A part of me has been reluctant to write about these experiences and make them public. Many people in our society are skeptical of psychic phenomena or discount synchronistic experiences. I’m concerned I won’t be taken seriously as a professional if I describe the unusual, seemingly mystical events that pointed me on my path. For many people, this is not a smart way to make life choices. However, I think it’s more important to be sincere and authentic about how I got where I am and the kind of world I live in. At times, my world can be mysterious and surreal, and the mainstream concepts of a purely material world of linear causality devoid of spirit don’t always hold sway. In many ways, I feel like I’m responding to a call and being led on my journey. I think it’s more important to describe how moving through the world in this way is possible than to worry whether someone will read my story and conclude that I’m cracked up.
Shortly after my experience in Boulder, I visited my acupuncturist back in Austin. I have a special relationship with her, and, in many ways, she’s been like a spiritual mother to me. I share my personal struggles and difficulties with her in every sphere of my life, and she offers perspective and guidance in a way that is nourishing, supportive and artful. I mentioned the twists and turns I was taking along my path, and she loaned me a copy of Nourishing Destiny, by Lonny Jarrett.
Nourishing Destiny describes some Taoist theory at the heart of Chinese Medicine in a way I’ve never heard anywhere else, including four years of schooling and practice in Chinese Medicine. This theory describes how humans, as spiritual beings, are bound by a contract with heaven when taking a life in the human dimension. This contract establishes a unique, innate talent or gift every human is required to cultivate, develop, and bring forth into the world to benefit others. If the individual keeps their contract with heaven by developing this gift or talent, they are blessed with prosperity, happiness, good health and longevity. However, humans inevitably experience a series of emotional traumas of different kinds that warp or twist their views of themselves, of what they are capable of, and what is possible for them. This leads them away from their destiny or the expression of their unique gifts. This also represents a violation of their contract with heaven, resulting in a life of struggle, hardship, poor health and shortened lifespan. It is the role of the Chinese Medicine practitioner, or acupuncturist, to help people heal these traumas and find their path or destiny, thus experiencing prosperity, abundance and longevity.
After reading this, my response was, I want to do that! Five years later, I’m a licensed acupuncturist.
Even though I’ve achieved my goal of becoming a professional acupuncturist, there’s more to say about my spirituality being central to my vocation. If you’ve enjoyed my story so far, I hope you’ll continue reading part three where I’ll elaborate on healing, following your destiny, and the spiritual center that ties everything together.