Success: A Deeper Understanding
Penny Cohen, LCSW
When my ex husband left twenty-five years ago I panicked. I was the traditional housewife and mother with no college education, no means of support and little sense of myself. The women’s movement was in full force. Liberation meant having a career and being financially independent. Like many of my divorced women friends I thought financial success would bring happiness.
In an effort to find a meaningful occupation, I began taking self-discovery workshops. The first two were in Transactional Analysis and Communication. That’s where I mastered new methods of speaking, thinking and living. I learned to talk from the “I,” express my feelings, assert myself and take risks. I went through periods of ecstasy and elation letting go of childhood conditioning, breaking old patterns, discovering new interests, and feeling my own strength. I gained self- confidence and self -worth but still had no career direction.
Continuing my search, I took New Age workshops that promised means of developing intuition, opening the creative channel, and finding purpose. Each, I was taught, can be achieved by relaxation and meditation. Stream of consciousness writing was encouraged after meditating, something I disciplined myself to do daily.
As I continued to meditate and write, my thoughts came out in the form of poems. The poems were answers to questions about divorce, marriage, love, relationships, life and God. I wrote hundreds of profound little ditties automatically.
Some ideas were my own but others seemed to emerge from a deeper level. The workshop leaders said when you truly find your inner truth your purpose will come to you.
Since the poems surfaced automatically, and the process of writing became a totally absorbing passion, I thought this was my purpose. Sharing my transformation with others could be both challenging and worthwhile. I decided to write a book.
Not knowing where to start, I followed the advice of some of the teachers: “In the doing comes the knowing.” “Be patient.” “Have faith.” ”Creativity comes with commitment.” I disciplined myself to be at the typewriter the same time every day. Some days I’d stare at a blank page and just type different titles. Other days I’d write, “I don’t know what to write.” Then spontaneously, the words began to pour out. That inspiration stayed with me the three years it took to complete the book.
While writing I felt totally connected, focused, and directed. Survival was not a worry. Everything I needed came to me serendipitously. I married a man who truly loved me and supported what I did. I was totally at peace within myself, and my writing. Success, I was sure would come when the book was published.
To my dismay, a year after completing the manuscript, I was still getting rejections. With each new rejection I became more discouraged. While I was writing, my women friends were busy building careers. One had a thriving consulting firm. Another owned a gift shop. I was nowhere, feeling like life left me behind.
Still having this drive for financial success, I took a position as an executive recruiter. It was a good job with great financial opportunities. I worked hard and did well. However, I wasn’t happy. My days dragged and my energy diminished to lethargy.
Discontentment catapulted me into taking a deeper look into myself. While I was writing doing what I loved I was totally at peace and somehow my needs were met. While working for the “big bucks” I felt miserable. With my current situation I didn’t have to earn a lot of money to survive. My husband was happy being the breadwinner. We were happy together. What was I pushing so hard for? What was success really?
With my husband’s encouragement, I reassessed my priorities and began following the demands of my heart. I kept pursuing my new interests in esoteric philosophies and took workshops in Parapsychology, Buddhism and Shamanism and then was drawn to study Kabbalah.
My passion grew to learning about the mind from not only a spiritual perspective but also a psychological and practical perspective. Pondering how to reach and apply spirituality and higher creativity in daily life, at age forty-eight I returned to school, obtained a Bachelor and Masters Degree in Social Work and four years later started a private practice as a Transformational Psychotherapist. I presented seminars internationally at professional conferences, universities and organizations on relationships, communication, stress management, creativity, spirituality and Kabbalah. My focus changed from wanting success to wanting to serve.
Ironically one evening after attending a spiritual book club meeting where occasionally I would offer how something would be viewed Kabbalistically a woman whispered in my ear, “Write me a proposal for a workbook on Kabbalah.” She was an acquisitions editor at Sterling Publishing. I wrote a thirty-page outline that was accepted: Personal Kabbalah: 32 Paths To Inner Peace and Life Purpose (June 2005). So ironically, I’m a published author and have a thriving practice. However, I do know now it isn’t the drive for money that makes me happy, but the commitment to be true to myself, do what feels right, and focus on being of service.