Whatever your problem around money, work (or anything else for that matter), six simple questions can help you discover a satisfying solution. The solution may not always come quickly, but it will be rich. Here are the questions:
- What hurts?
- What would it look like to be whole again?
- What would it take to be whole again?
- What can I learn from this challenge?
- What allies and resources are available?
- How am I called to serve?
Turning Challenges into Opportunity Can Be a Powerful Exercise in Practical Spirituality
Questions 1, 2 and 3 clarify current reality. They help you generate a new vision and the creativity you need to make it real. Question 4 opens all your mental resources and anchors your power of intention. Questions 5 and 6 connect you to a source much greater than yourself.
A friend I’ll call Joe first thought his answer to question 1 was only, “I get a pounding headache at work.” After meditation on the question, he discovered, “My worst headaches come when I am working with a boss who reminds me of the worst aspects of my father.” Further reflection showed him exactly how his body tensed in response to stress. He also wondered if his habit of skipping lunch when he felt pressured for time might be part of the problem.
All this changed Joe’s original answer to question 2 from “I just want the headaches to go away,” to “I envision responding to stressful situations with an alert mind, pain-free body, and peaceful heart.”
Reflection on questions 3 and 4 inspired Joe to deal with his issues around his father, not project them onto the boss. At the same time, he knew he also had to practice better boundaries and personal caretaking.
Question 5 led to an intuitive flash: “Talk with my friend Betty (a nurse).” She taught Joe that whenever he skipped lunch, he depleted the amount of blood sugar his brain and body need to work well. Headaches are a common side effect of low blood sugar.
Soon Joe’s workday headaches were gone and the problems with the boss were eased. His performance improved, and so did his relationship with his boss.
Instead of going home from work exhausted or dulled by painkillers, he went home with a spring in his step and more time to be with his family. He eventually got a better job with a more appreciative boss.
Question 6 led Joe to the simple conclusion that by taking better care of himself and giving his best to any task, he was best able to work compassionately and purposefully. He used some of his increased time and energy for fun with friends and family and some for increased service to the community.
Every spiritual tradition is loaded with practical spiritual wisdom.
My all-time favorite wisdom teacher is Brother Lawrence, a 17th century Catholic monk who spoke of practicing the presence of God. Whether you are sweeping the floor, making an omelet or working with today’s high-tech equipment, do everything gratefully, as if it were for God. Bring your full self to the task, right here, right now.
I’m often stunned at how powerful this simple practice can be. Once my husband and I were helping his mother rake leaves. It seemed utterly natural to give thanks for the opportunity to be with this wonderful woman and pray for her continued health and safety while we worked.
Sometimes we laughed and joked; other times we were silent enough to hear leaves being chased across the pavement by our brooms. This is the kind of joy that can be so easily missed when we treat tasks just as something to be done, not as an experience of service with the potential for joy. Just remembering the joy of that morning makes my heart sing again.
That joy led to three more questions:
- What joys do I now feel around work and money?
- How can this joy benefit me and others?
- How can I learn and grow by expanding the blessings in my life right now?
As always, many blessings, Pat McHenry Sullivan
This post was adapted from an article I wrote several years ago for my column on practical spirituality that ran for about a year on myprimetime.com.