Brian E Pearson
What is Your Work?
Once a month the men gathered, a dozen of us, more or less. We poured ourselves a coffee, caught up with one another, then sat in our circle--and got down to work.
Our work was focused, and intentional. Our question, each time we gathered, was the same: "What are you working on?" There would be a sustained silence, and then someone would speak up. We gave them the floor and our silent, undivided attention. Sometimes the "work" would be serious, like bad health, or a disturbing personal interaction. Or it might be mild, like a passing thought, seemingly innocuous. But always, as we heard the speaker talk about their work, and we responded by sharing similar work we ourselves had done, things suddenly went deep. We never left without feeling our burden was lightened, because our journey was joined.
Men, we all agreed, are socialized to go through life as lone wolves. Ask a man how he is and, invariably, he'll be "fine," even if he's just lost his job, or his wife left him, or he feels utterly alone in the universe. And because he's always "fine," his fears and anxieties go underground. There they fester, poisoning him from within and spewing out unexpectedly at anyone close by, which is usually the people he loves.
The work we don't do ourselves, we project onto others. I feel small, so I put you down, so you'll be smaller than me. I feel afraid, so I'll make you feel it too. Our unattended work makes the world a more fearful place, for everyone. So, better out than in. Better to own our work, to "man up" to it, knowing it's what makes us human. Also, it's what makes us capable of healing the world, rather than hurting it.
Such soul work is not for the faint of heart. It's adult work, requiring courage. And it's relentless, because every day it's delivered into our hands anew. But it can be shared. Everyone's work is unique. At the same time, it's absolutely, recognizably, human. It is, literally, everyone's work. That's why the men in that group felt supported when they revealed their secret struggles. No one had been there with them, but everyone had been there.
There is no way to navigate the Unknown Path without doing your work. Some say that soul work is our true purpose in life. Those who believe we have more than one life to live, say we come back to do the work we avoided doing the last time we were here. It's how we grow, eventually, into the full stature of who we were made to be.
But what is the nature of our work? How would we recognize it? What is its name?
Next Week: Naming our Work