He looked across the desk at me intently, brown eyes sparkling, in a playful challenge.
"What makes your heart sing?"
He leaned a little closer, elbow on the desk, his jaw resting on his palm, relaxed. Anticipating.
"What makes your spirit soar?"
There was a pause.
A sense of space opened up between us.
Like the space that hangs silent over a lake.
Full of enormous potential. A space waiting to be filled. A life waiting to be fulfilled.
I sat, dumbstruck.
I gratefully realised out loud,
"No one has ever asked me this before."
- - -
It was my final interview at the Army Officer Regular Commissions Board in Wiltshire.
This was the final hurdle in a series of challenges to see if I had 'what it takes' to be offered a commission as an army officer.
Over the previous couple of days I'd:
As he looked at me, his eyes meeting mine, the moment froze.
Somehow everything I knew and had experienced passed through my mind in that instant.
Just Being there was an extreme strange twist of fate. I'd never even thought of being in the army until a month before. A background of economics and politics at Uni, environmental economics, accidentally falling into PR, then marketing. All so-so and winding up in an immune crash as my soul tried to point me away from this non-calling.
The army seemed oddly fun from my small dabble with it. It was the people. Everyone I met there in the recruiting challenge was incredible. An inspiration to my uninspired, bored corporate mind.
At 26 years old I was astonished as I realised this potential employer was the first to care about my dreams, my aspirations, my who-I-am. In fact, he asked the only question that mattered.
And one I had never asked myself.
In that moment I realised that what I sought in life wasn't success.
(Well, not on its own).
There was something else, something currently intangible, shining ahead of me, leading me on like the strongest guiding star.
Its voice was in my heart.
In my spirit.
It was something BIG.
I couldn't yet speak the language, but I knew it could teach me what I yearned for.
Adventure. Excitement. Joy.
I can barely remember what I answered. Something about travel, probably, and wanting to work with people. I don't think it really matters.
What does matter is what I learned in that moment, and have treasured ever since:
that THAT question is EVERYTHING.
So here's what I'd love YOU to do.
Right now, take a moment to breathe...
and then just ask yourself the gorgeous, life-changing questions
"What makes my heart sing?" and
"What makes my spirit soar?"
Just cradling these questions in your mind and heart starts to awaken a slumbering heart and spirit.
And your heart, and spirit and spirits (more on them another time!), hold the keys to what you were put on earth to do.
You may not know the answers yet, but they will start to form in you. Like some magical cloud drifting across your subconscious until your consciousness can start to see it clearly. Signs from the Universe, Spirit, God, Spirits (whatever words work for you) will appear if you start to play.
And this is the first key - just play with these thoughts.
Repeat the question to yourself. As you're in the shower, driving to work, washing up, sorting out the children's clothes, sitting in a lecture, walking the dog, flicking through channels.
Mentally doodle the answers. Grab a journal and start writing a stream of consciousness. Talk it over with a good friend and treat them to the same questions.
You don't need clarity. That will come (and I have many ways to share how).
Stir the inner longings of your heart.
Wake it gently, and trust it to remember its dreams.
Joanna Shipley - Heart Whisperer. Helping you to listen to the whispers of your heart and spirit.