I'm currently re-reading a book I bought a few years ago, Soulcraft: Crossing into the Boundaries of Nature and Psyche by Bill Plotkin. It's a beautiful piece of work that I highly recommend for those who want to go very deeply into their life's purpose and personal development.
One of the concepts Plotkin discusses is the idea of our "survival dance" vs. our "sacred dance." This comes from Harley Swift Deer, a Native American teacher.
The Survival Dance
Our "survival dance" is what we do for a living, our way of supporting ourselves economically and physically. We must first develop our survival dance as part of our drive to self-reliance.
The survival dance can be a paid job. But it could also be creating a home and caring for children or living in a monastary where our spiritual and physical labors contribute to community.
The survival dance is the first dance you must do upon leaving home and you must establish one before you can turn to your sacred dance. It is the survival dance that teaches you the social, psychological and spiritual skills that prepare you to seek out your sacred dance.
The Sacred Dance
Our sacred dance is something else altogether. Say's Plotkin:
Once you have your surivival dance established, you can wander inwardly and outwardly, searching for clues to your sacred dance, the work you were born to do. This work may have no relation to your job. Your sacred dance sparks your greatest fulfillment and extends your truest service to others. You know you've found it when there's little else you'd rather be doing. Getting paid for it is superfluous. You would gladly pay others, if necessary, for the opportunity.
Another way to think of your sacred dance is as dharma--the intersection of your unique gifts with what the world needs from you in this moment.
In my experience, when we look around and see people who are perfectly content in their own skin, people who seem to have an endless well of passion for their work, even when it's hard or frustrating--these are the people who have found their sacred dance.
We are not jealous of their success, as much as we long for what they've found.
Back to Soulcraft:
Swift Deer says that once you discover your sacred dance and learn effective ways of embodying it, the world will support you in doing just that. What your soul wants is what the world also wants (and needs). Your human community will say yes to your soul work and will, in effect, pay you to do it. Gradually your sacred dance becomes what you do and your former suvival dance is no longer needed.
I've found this to be true, too. So many people I know have found their sacred dance and have found that the more they embrace it, the more they work to make that sacred dance a reality in their lives, the more the world rises up to support their path.
This isn't to say that there isn't hard work and frustration along the way. There absolutely is. But when you are dancing your sacred dance, you feel in your bones that the hard work is for some essential good in the world that you must express.
There's a difference between working hard at your sacred dance and working hard just for survival.
I believe that too many of us put too much effort into holding on to our survival dance. We become deluded into thinking that we are here merely to survive. We look for ways to make the survival dance BE our sacred dance, but that usually won't be the case. Survival is not the same as living your purpose.
So. . . have you found your sacred dance? What can you do to start looking?