Finding Your Voice for Vocation


It’s been a little over a month since I returned to the US. I have met with beautiful experiences whether it has been with perfect strangers in the subway or special, breakthrough moments with my parents. When I came back, I promised myself I would hit the ‘publish’ button each week and send my flowing thoughts, reflections, and lessons out into the vast digital landscape. It is a promise I haven’t kept very well. With the other writing I have been doing, it’s been easy to let this slip. After a brief hiatus, I now feel the importance of painting this blank canvas with words that feel most alive right now.

Lately, listening for my voice of vocation has been most alive. Parker J. Palmer, one of my favorite authors wrote a book called Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. In it he doesn’t shy away from his shadows and expresses his quest with a raw humanness. It is a rawness we aren’t taught to express, but thanks to creativity and the internet, we are continuously creating dialogue for such vulnerability to exist.

“My life is not only about my strengths and virtues; it is also about my liabilities and my limits, my trespasses and my shadow”

I began listening for my voice of vocation when I was 21. It was when I realized I could live “divided no more”, as Parker J. Palmer describes in many of his writings. I had been running away from the truth of what I knew I had to be doing and what I thought I was expected to do at the time.

How we are to listen to our lives is a question worth exploring. In our culture, we tend to gather information in ways that do not work very well when the source is the human soul: the soul is not responsive to subpoenas and cross-examinations. At best it will stand in the dock only long enough to plead the Fifth Amendment. At worst it will jump bail and never be heard from again. The soul speaks its truth only under quiet, inviting, and trustworthy conditions”

What I felt called to be doing and what I felt I was expected to do was only a constraint I was placing on myself. I thought I could continue living a divided life, one which I thought seemed to satisfy the desires of those around me. As someone working within the realm of social justice and activism, it was important to remain aware of that inner voice. Instead of acknowledging that inner voice and acting on it, I did something many of us tend to do.

It is so much easier to deal with the external world, to spend our lives manipulating material and institutions and other people instead of dealing with our own souls.

Although I felt an early calling to serve, I used the social work as a scapegoat for the faults I knew I held inside. I was young and this awakening only came from years of listening to Vedic scriptures recited by my father. Sundays we dove into verses from the Bhagavad Gita and it wasn’t only until recently that I understood these years of study coupled with my post-graduate experiences traveling around the world led me to acknowledge my truth.

“Consciousness precedes Being, and not the other way around, as Marxists claim. For this reason, the salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human modesty, and in human responsibility” – Václav Havel, first president of Czech Republic

Listening to one’s voice for vocation comes through a lot of trial and error, but it also comes through stillness. We continuously scour the internet and take courses to become better leaders. My call to serve eventually led me to leading many others. I skipped an essential step when I became a “leader” as the external world would see it. The secret to becoming a better leader, a “ladder” as the Service Space community has taught me, was to look within and deepen my awareness.

“The power for authentic leadership…is not found in external arrangements but in the human heart. Authentic leaders in every setting- from families to nation states- aim at liberating the heart, their own and others’, so that its powers can liberate the world”

I took many steps forward, only to revisit these steps and learn from them. This is what happened with me and through these experiences I have come to learn from the perils of our current governing systems. Many of our leaders have also skipped this essential step to self discovery while many others have undergone this (often times painful) journey of inner transformation.

“Material reality, Havel claims, is not the fundamental factor in the movement of human history. Consciousness is. Awareness is. Thought is. Spirit is”

I still read articles such as the one I am writing right now, seeking answers. I read stories of others because they allow me to glimpse into the strength and resilience we hold as humans.  By no means were these a “how to guide” in discerning life’s purpose, but rather allowed me to see how our inner states project outer manifestations. As humans we have a tendency to be self-destructive and blame others or outer conditions. Only as I continue to become aware of these tendencies and work through the emerging patterns, I am able to discern my voice of vocation.  Meditation has allowed me to open that space of inner stillness, face these internal demons, and embody the peace that lies in the core of who I am, of who we all are.

“The soul is like a wild animal – tough, resilient, savvy, self- sufficient, and yet exceedingly shy. If we want to see a wild animal, the last thing we should do is go crashing through the woods, shouting for the creature to come out. But if we are willing to walk quietly into the words and sit silently for an hour or two at the base of a tree, the creature we are waiting for may well emerge, and out of the corner of an eye we will catch a glimpse of the precious wildness we seek”

So, in conclusion to this post and also Parker’s incredible words of wisdom, I thought I would leave you with a couple of questions:

  • Are you living a divided life? If so, in which way?
  • What is the first step you know you need to take in order to begin living which embodies your highest values, your truth?
  • Is there an essential “something” you feel you’ll need to give up in order to live an integrated life?

This Wednesday I embark for my second 10-day Vipassana meditation course. Directly after the course finishes, I will be traveling to New York to attend a seminar called The Space Between Stories with one of my favorite authors, Charles Eisenstein. I’m sure I’ll have a lot to write when I return. 

Rina Patel1 Comment