First appeared in The San Francisco Examiner Career Section, 6/98

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Embracing Paradox Can Help You Beat The Clock

Have you heard of the old TV game show, "Beat The Clock"? Most of us live that way, unconsciously holding our breath as we dash from home to office to gym to supermarket, never pausing until life hands us The Big One: a crisis that throws us into reevaluation, catalyzing dramatic change.

It may be a positive transition, such as getting married or receiving a degree–the Chinese characters for "crisis" and "opportunity" are the same. It may be an illness or emotional awakening. Anything can act as the clarion call to our deeper selves. If you're starting to feel some strange symptoms of disharmony in your life, congratulations! You may be right on time for a career change.

Does this seem paradoxical? Consider that learning to embrace paradox– to become comfortable with a "both/and" way of being rather than the accepted "either/or" choices we're used to–is one of the keys to greater clarity and satisfaction, not only in your career, but in your life as a whole.

Expanding Time

The compressed, stifling lives we lead don't embody time as the ancients knew it, or time as indigenous peoples still enjoy it today. That clock on the wall is a construct invented for a linear, one-right-answer society, but believing time is something outside ourselves that we can buy, save or measure is like believing the Earth is flat. Time is essence: the changing of the seasons, the phases of the moon, the biological cycles of both women and men.

People who live in tune with these natural rhythms experience time as creative possibility, by honoring the paradox inherent in living. Life is orderly and messy (anyone with a small child knows this), pragmatic and unpredictable, spiritual and material.

As we expand into this broader sense of time, we come into a place of knowing the right time to act. The Greeks had a wonderful word for it: kairos, the crucial time of opportunity (remember, this can be heralded as crisis!). Kairos means that what might not have been right last year or last week may be perfect in the next moment. If you've been stalled at the crossroads for a while in your career quest, it may be that you've been too focused on "career" and not enough on "quest", the inner search for your true purpose and potential.

So we see that time, learning to live with paradox, and something as seemingly mundane as job hunting are all intimately related. By taking the time, when faced with the unfamiliar, to slow down, to breathe into the mystery and to look through a larger lens, with the eyes of wonder, we are able to sense the kairos, the right moment in which to be creative, to seize the opportunity.

Here's an exercise you can use to expand your thinking. The questions come from an indigenous calendar that uses thirteen moons (lunar months) of 28 days each.

Since this calendar is synchronized with Earth cycles and human biology, living the questions it asks retrains your mind. Visualize entering a 28-day cycle of inquiry with each question; let the question permeate your life during the entire month, so the responses you receive arise from an internal resonance.

Moon 1: "What is my purpose?"
Moon 2: "What is my challenge?"
Moon 3: "How can I best serve?"
Moon 4: "What is the form of action?"
Moon 5: "How can I best empower myself?"
Moon 6: "How can I organize for equality?"
Moon 7: "How can I attune my service to others?"
Moon 8: "Do I live what I believe?"
Moon 9: "How do I attain my purpose?"
Moon 10: "How do I perfect what I do?"
Moon 11: "How do I release and let go?"
Moon 12: "How can I dedicate myself to all that lives?"
Moon 13: "How can I increase my joy and love?"


As a "midwife for the soul" Amara Rose offers life purpose coaching, talks, CDs, e-courses, playshops, and an inspirational monthly newsletter, "What Shines." Please visit to learn more. Contact Amara at, or call: 1-800-862-0157 within the USA.

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