Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: I had the privilege of hearing you speak at the Ethical Society of St. Louis in October 2009. I have read a lot of your material and know we have to find our dharma in this life. In 35 years of working, I have been laid off—through no fault of my own—five times and now cannot seem to "attract" a job. I have to live with friends, and no matter how many applications, letters and resumes I send, nothing seems to happen. I am truly confused on what my dharma is. Others seem to have known since they were children, but I have yet to find it at this late age. Can you help? Thanks!
— Julie H., Ballwin, Missouri
I deeply sympathize with your plight, which is shared today by millions of older workers. Finding your dharma doesn't have to be confined to finding a satisfying line of work. While the word "dharma" tends to be used that way in Indian society, where by tradition the family dharma passed the same kind of work from father to son, in modern America we are accustomed to the very opposite. Desiring freedom of movement and the right to change jobs frequently, conditions have led to job insecurity—it's the price we pay for high levels of creativity, entrepreneurship, social mobility and the absence of a safety net.
Realize, first of all, that being out of a job is due to these social factors. Plenty of workers who loved their jobs and felt they had found their dharma have also been laid off. There is no personal spiritual significance to this, even though it says a great deal about collective consciousness at this moment. What you need to do in such a crisis is avoid blaming yourself or feeling victimized. Dharma is found inside, but when external events are distressing, it's hard to go inward without confronting feelings of anxiety and hopelessness.
Therefore, I'd advise you to focus on inner healing, not on finding your dharma. That can wait until you are feeling better. Stressful as it is to be unemployed, you still have the means to be centered and secure inside. Seek out help in this regard. Even without funds, there are public outreach programs, religious organizations and friends who can help you to find comfort. Look hard enough and you will find someone who can guide you on the path to self-confidence. Once you feel you are safe emotionally, which takes focus and patience, then looking for your life's fulfillment is the next challenge.