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Denver Post

The Denver Post

The Spiritual Job Search

By ELLEN LEVENTRY
Sunday, February 10, 2002
 

Like many Americans, Marla Konowitch lost her job soon after Sept. 11. But the 40-year-old Boulder resident didn't immediately set out to find a new career. Instead of frantically sending out resumes and cover letters, Konowitch concentrated on her chakras.

Chakras?

That's right. By clearing and aligning her chakras - according to Hindu tradition, seven energy centers in the body - with the energetic forces that make everything in life possible, she believes she will be able to discern what career she really wants and find her best fit in the work world.

If the thought of using ancient Hindu wisdom instead of hotjobs.com to find a livelihood sounds a bit "out there," it shouldn't. "People breathe a sigh of relief when I explain that this work is not about chakras, it is about you," says Rick Jarow, author and creator of the "Ultimate Anti-Career Guide" workshops.

At a time when every morning's business section announces layoffs, and faith - especially in the economy - is shaky, growing numbers of Americans are turning within for answers. Instead of visiting employment counselors, they're hiring spiritual coaches and attending workshops like Jarow's in order to find new jobs.

The spiritual job search may be the perfect match for those frustrated by the recent job market. "When people are in a job search and they hit a wall with traditional approaches, it's a particularly good time to open up to meditation, transformation and spirituality," notes Allie Roth, a New York City-based holistic counselor who has worked with Jarow in the past.

"The spiritual job search begins with nurturing your soul, reminding yourself who you are. That's what makes you feel good, makes you feel like you have control, rather than feeling like a victim."

A spiritual approach, say holistic counselors, helps clients think outside the box and take into account experience that doesn't appear on their resume. "There's nothing that doesn't apply," says Tami Coyne, New York City-based author and spiritual job counselor. "Any skill you have applies to the workplace."

Motherhood, she says, is a prime example of experience commonly left off a resume but which involves marketable skills such as time management, conflict resolution and delegating responsibility.

Christine Raymond, executive editor of Spirituality.com, sees more and more victims of layoffs and the recession combining spirituality with their job hunting. "We have over 150 articles by people who have turned to spiritual means, including building spiritual resumes."

Tama Kieves of Awakening Artistry, a Denver-based coach and author who left a successful law practice to pursue her dream of writing, believes once people see the value of spiritual job-seeking, they'll make it a part of every search.

"Right now, it would seem weird if you meditated before a job interview, but in the future it will seem weird that you didn't," says Kieves, author of "This Time I Dance! Trusting the Journey of Creating the Work You Love / How One Harvard Lawyer Left It All to Have It All." (Awakening Artistry Press, 2002.)

Estimates show that books, travel and music related to spirituality and religion make up a $40 billion industry. Take a look at the career section of your local bookstore and you'll find titles like: "An Inside Job: A Spiritual Approach to Finding Your Right Work" (Unity, 1999).

Littleton-area employment coach Suzanne Bourland Simpson, who uses Christian scripture and visualization techniques in her practice, saw an increase in calls immediately after Sept. 11. Laurence Boldt, author of "How to Be, Do or Have Anything" (Ten Speed Press, 2000) and "Zen and the Art of Making a Living" (Penguin, 1999), who advertises holistic counseling on his website, has received more than 600 inquiries in less than six weeks.

"It works. It works," affirms Carolyn McDonough, who has worked with both Roth and Jarow. After suffering from a life-threatening illness, McDonough consulted with Roth, who helped her turn her own healing experience into WellNet, an online meditation and wellness exchange. Boldt estimates as many as 85 percent of his clients have success stories like McDonough's. But don't think the spiritual job search is all about chanting and waiting around in the lotus position. "It's not sitting on a mountain and just visualizing success," says Roth. "It is about taking action, but taking action from center, from who you are."


Konowitch, who received Jarow's "Anti-Career" tapes as a gift a few years ago, admits that when she first listened to the program, it seemed a little far-fetched. But after being laid off from her job of 14 years with Continental Airlines, she took a second look.


"So many people out of work went like banshees to find a new job, and it's hard in this society to take a break without people looking at you with their own fear," she says. "It's really hard. Every once in a while I'll panic and think, "I need to go be a Realtor.' But that's not what I want to do."


Jarow, an assistant professor in the Department of Religion at Vassar College, began doing his Anti-Career workshops in 1988, just before the recession of the early '90s. He had noticed that people were developing rich inner lives that weren't carrying over to their work lives. He developed the program to help people find their true calling, the work they love, not just the next bullet point on their resume.


"The economy will always go through cycles, but we have something in us that is greater than that and that wants to be more than a servant to faceless institutions.


"If one is just looking for a job, that is tantamount to going through the bazaar with your begging bowl, your diploma, as so many people are doing in this job market. It demeans the spirit. So the first question is, what will make it all right for me, what is important, what do I need to do with my life?"


Konowitch believes the tapes have supported her decision to be patient and look for the job she really loves. Prior to Sept. 11, she noticed a disconnect between her work life and her more spiritually developed life away from work, and began attending meditation retreats and doing coursework in hakomi, body-centered psychotherapy. Since her job loss, she has deepened her meditation practice, is taking courses in holistic leadership and is waiting for a position that will help her combine her extensive work experience with her interests.


"Choosing to go this direction with tapes and chakras isn't mainstream, but I didn't want to go to a career counselor and take an assessment test . . . the same route everyone else goes. These tapes give me the courage to forge my own path."


And that's a good attitude to have, says Roth.


"When people come from fear that there is nothing out there, that the economy is terrible, that there are no jobs, they aren't going to see the whole situation."


Like the traditional job search, the holistic approach can take several months. Unlike the traditional job search, however, it involves a lot of inner work.


"This is not an airy-fairy process," notes Jarow. "We are hard-headed and practical, but also visionary and spiritual. That is why we work with the principle of "alignment,' work on the whole person - sense of self, relationships, focus, network, vision, sense of where you belong, and the market as well."


And that's work Konowitch is willing to undertake. "I've done a lot more personal work since the first time I tried the program. It takes a lot of discipline and work. It's hard, but I'm willing to do it because I believe it's going to ultimately fulfill me."


In particular, she finds working with the second chakra to be a big help in her pursuit of a career. "The second chakra is a lot about self-esteem. When you find yourself out of a routine and not working, the whole world feels a little unstable. Doing the work helps me realize that I really can go out into the world and explore what I want to do."


And while she is sending out resumes and pursuing interviews, Marla sees the real progress as being more personal than professional.


"Measuring progress in this program is not linear, it's not conventional. It's more about an internal feeling of happiness, contentment and freedom. The temptation is to measure it by dollars or more conventional methods of success, and this is trying to look at it from a different way."


And that's exactly why books such as Boldt's "Zen and the Art of Making a Living" are being used by academic institutions. According to Stacy Geck, assistant professor of clinical at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business, Boldt's book was included on the syllabus for her class because "The book offers business students a challenge to think of their career path from a different angle: spiritual rather than just financial."


"Every day is the right day to do it," says Coyne."  "You can't blame terrorists or the Fed for not doing what you really want to do. That doesn't mean you shouldn't support yourself.


"It would be foolish to counsel somebody to not make ends meet. But you can become really depressed if you think you have to take something, anything."


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