Listening to Our Callings


"Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do it.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

Harold Thurman Whitman



That which we are being called to, is continually calling us to bring forth our unique gifts into the world. Whether it seems that we are still "finding our way", or whether we have already discovered a more clearly defined sense of purpose, much can be gained by listening more closely to the voice of our callings.

In the language of Focusing, a calling can be understood as a felt sense of the next steps that the Universe, Spirit, or Life itself is wanting to take through us, into the world.

Therefore, offering Focusing attention to this felt sense of a calling puts us in contact with very powerful energies and guidance.

The process described below involves a simple series of questions that helps us to connect more deeply with our callings --that which "makes us come alive". While the questions can be explored alone, they are even more effective when used in listening dyads or listening circles. No special training is needed. Of course, people who have a background in meditation, Focusing, or other inner work might find that they can apply those skills to deepen their exploration.

Any of our "callings" can be understood as a powerful stream that we can follow back to a deeper Source, even as that stream flows naturally outward into our own unique expressions and actions in the world. Even when our "calling" is something that we have in common with others --for example, a 'practice' such as art, meditation, or Focusing- we each have a particular way in which that practice expresses itself through us.

Whenever we follow a calling "back to Source", we have found that several things tend to happen. To begin with, we are deepening our connection to the larger "Source of Life" that moves through us. At the same time, we are honing our particular expression of that calling: we are becoming clearer about the unique way in which Source is seeking to express itself through us in the form of our calling.. Last but not least, we begin to naturally discover ways in which we can apply the gifts of our calling to other areas of our personal and professional life.

We encourage you to take your time, moving slowly with each question before moving on to the next. Once you have explored the questions on your own, we welcome you to share this process with your own groups --meditation groups, support groups, listening circles, etc. We look forward to hearing about your experiences!
 Our contact information, as well as a few other suggestions about sharing this material with others, follows the description of the process.


1. Finding a Stream

Begin by choosing a practice that 'calls' to you. If you are in "search mode", this could be as simple as something you are drawn to, and truly enjoy doing.

Think of something that you love, perhaps something that feels to you as though you were "born to do this"...
One simple caveat: for the purpose of this process, please avoid choosing something you feel you 'should' do, regardless of how beneficial that practice may be. Not all practices that we choose to engage in are 'callings' for us, even though we may find them extremely worthwhile endeavors..

For example, in a meditation group where we led this process, one woman chose the practice of drawing as one of her 'callings'.

2. Following the Stream back to Source

This step involves spending some time with the following questions,

What is the subtle essence of the practice? What about this practice really calls to ME? What am I connecting with in my being when I am doing this practice?

If I were to distill the essence of my own inner experience of this practice into two or three basic themes or gestures or images, what might they be?

What is the internal sense of this practice, for me? - Not so much the externals - but what am I doing INSIDE, when I am doing this practice?

When it was her turn to share, the woman who was exploring drawing as a calling spoke about how she experienced the essence of drawing. She spoke about free-form drawing, and how much she enjoyed the state of 'letting go of control over the outcome. Instead, she would naturally find herself in an exploratory state of mind:- How does this color look when I put it down on the page? What happens when I shade a line this way?
 She also spoke about how, when doing life drawing, she enjoyed a 'deep looking' at whatever it was she was drawing; seeing in a different way, at light and shadow and patterns, and how much she enjoyed that way of looking.

3. Applying the Gifts in Other Areas

Once we have some sense of what the core aspects of our calling are, for us, then the next step involves discovering how we might apply the essence of our calling to other areas of our lives. Some of the questions we can ask as we explore this step include: ,

-What might it look like if I were to practice this "essence" or this "core" of my calling, even when I am doing something else?

-How might these basic themes apply to other aspects and situations in my life?

-What else in our lives also connects with this essence that we feel as the "core" of our calling?

-If I aligned my life with this essence in the center, how would that be?

This step often happens as a natural outgrowth of the previous one, and requires little prompting.

For instance, toward the end of the second step, the woman in our example above began spontaneously to talk about how she might apply the same state of mind she so enjoys when she is drawing to other areas of her life where she was facing some challenges.

4. Offering our Calling back to the Whole

This last step is an opportunity to explore how we might deepen and personalize our approach to praying for world peace and well-being.

For this step, begin by inviting in an awareness of the world as a Whole, including all of the attendant challenges our species is facing.

Then ask,

What might it look like, if I were to offer "the essence of my calling" to the world as a whole - as my own particular form of prayer?

Unlike the previous movement from step 2 to step 3, the movement from step 3 to step 4 does not tend to happen "of its own accord". In fact, sometimes participants are startled at first when hearing the question. Yet after a minute or two of "being with" this inquiry, a very rich and meaningful exploration can ensue.


When sharing these questions in a partnership or group setting, we recommend following some basic, well-known principles, such as creating a space where each person can speak, without being interrupted, judged, or 'given advice'.

As mentioned above, whatever kinds of inner work and listening practices we are familiar with, can be used to deepen our exploration as we 'listen inside' for our own answers to these questions. For example, someone familiar with Focusing or deep listening, can use these tools as they explore "art" or "gardening" or "being with children" as their calling.

At the same time, if we feel a sense of 'calling' about our meditation practice or our Focusing practice, it can be very fruitful to choose that practice itself as the subject of this exploration. In that case, we would be asking, "What is the essence of meditation, for me? or, What am I really doing inside, when I Focus?" "What is my 'inner experience' of this practice? Our experience has been that these questions serve to deepen our experience of that practice, and help us discover ways to apply it more easily to other areas of our life.

We welcome any feedback you may wish to share with us: Rosa can be reached at, and Bruce at This material is freely available for you to use or adapt when leading workshops, teaching Focusing, or working with clients. Please do contact us with regard to other uses.

with all best wishes,

Rosa and Bruce

Created on ... March 27, 2004