Building Cathedrals, the Secret of Meaningful Work!
There is no difference between important and less important work –work needs to be meaningful for you and aligned with what you want to create in your life!
One day in 1671, Christopher Wren observed three bricklayers on a scaffold. He asked all of them the same question, “What are you doing?” to which the first bricklayer replied, “I’m working.” The second bricklayer, responded, “I’m building a wall.” But the third bricklayer, when asked the question, “What are you doing?” replied with a gleam in his eye, “I’m building a cathedral to The Almighty.” Christopher Wren is one of the world’s most famous architects, who was commissioned to rebuild St Paul’s Cathedral after the great fire which leveled London in 1666.
Are you a cathedral builder?
Is there important and less important work?
Let us imagine a reality story. I am hungry and I open my fridge. This fridge has been made and ended up in my kitchen through the efforts of countless hands, many of which do so-called not important work. Work many of us don’t want our children or the children we care for to end up doing if they are to succeed in life.
And this is only the fridge; what about the food, the kitchen, the table and the chairs, the plate and cutlery. It is endless—so many people are involved and needed in the process of feeding me when I am hungry.
We can explore this a bit further.
Is important work what you would still do regardless of payment, approval and recognition?
Our joy is directly related to how meaningful our work is to us, not to the outside world. What growth does our soul accomplish? How alive are we through our work?
Maybe what we want most for our children is that they are alive and connected to their souls.
Meaningful work may result in the highest good for all. Meaningful work may affect our environment and our children, and it is in itself not the purpose of meaningful work.
How do we become cathedral builders?
We are back to our beginning statement.
How do we become a cathedral builder?
We first need to identify what is meaningful for us. We need to discover thoroughly what we desire to create in our lives. Not what anybody else expects us to create, or what society or our culture expects us to create, not what we so far thought we desired. This process of identifying what we truly deeply desire in this moment is not easy.
The next step is to support internally what we desire. This step requires self-love. Self-love is allowing us to be alive through supporting our deepest desire.
When we have achieved these two internal steps, we are ready to externally redirect our resources in order to manifest what we desire and what makes us feel alive. These resources consist of different amounts of money, attention, energy and time.
We learn to become cathedral builders by tending to our State of Being.
The story of the three masons
Let us come back to Christopher Wren’s story and fill it with some more imagination and clarity.
A man at St. Paul’s cathedral comes across three masons who are working at chipping chunks of granite from large blocks.
The first mason seems unhappy at his job, chipping away and frequently looking at his watch. When this man is asked what he is doing, he responds rather shortly: “I’m hammering this stupid rock and I can’t wait ‘til 5 when I can go home and watch TV.”
He created a job that clearly does not give him joy. The invitation for him is to first start by finding out what his dream is, what he actually desires most now in this moment to create. Find out what makes him feel alive.
Do you recognize yourself in this first mason? I sometimes do. I try to be done as soon as possible with the work at hand and be able to continue what really makes me feel alive and inspired. I admit that my results are not always as I wish them to be, I often stumble on the road.
A second mason, seemingly is more interested in his work, he is hammering diligently, and when asked what it is that he is doing, answers: “Well, I’m molding this block of rock. I construct a wall together with other masons. It is our task at hand so that others in the chain can fulfill their job. It’s not bad work, and I’ll sure be glad when it is done.”
This man has joy in his work and sees his job as a chain in a bigger whole. Often this is how we divert our resources from what gives us energy to what will support others. When we find out what makes us feel alive, our next task is to support this, and in order to do this we need to have self-love. And not be ashamed to love ourselves. What we desire to create might become the highest good of others though it is not our aim.
Are you like this second mason? More aligned with what you are supposed to do, should do in order to fit into society? For a big part of my life, I have been like this second mason, doing what I was supposed to do and being rather satisfied by this.
A third mason is hammering at his block fervently, taking time to stand back and admire his work. He chips off small pieces until he is satisfied that it is the best he can do. When he is questioned about his work he stops, gazes skyward and proudly proclaims: “I am building a cathedral!”
This man does meaningful work. What he does and where he directs his resources, his time, money, attention and energy is giving him joy and fulfillment; he is alive and inspiring.
When are you like this third mason?
The girl on the photo is beautifully showing us a representation of a third mason. She is engaged in a community building process in Kufunda village, Zimbabwe. Her task is to free the cowpeas from the husks. She dances on the cowpea harvest.
Using ourselves as a laboratory
Holacracy is a real-world-tested social technology for agile and purposeful organization. Its creators know that your soul has to shine through in the roles you fulfill. One of their ideas is to set up a company-wide Role Market Place, where they invite the employees to rate the roles they fulfill in an organization. This tool is also useful to rate any role you fulfill in your life.
The scale assists you to rate your different roles from -3 to +3. You use the following questions:
- If you find the role energizing (+) or draining (-)
- If you find their talents aligned (+) or not (-) with this role
- If you find your current skills and knowledge conducive to (+) or limiting in (-) this role
What makes me a cathedral builder when I am cooking? I am not a chef and yet I love to play, combine and create dishes with fresh ingredients with an abundance of different flavors and colours. I can rate myself +3, and sometimes when I have the feeling I have to prepare dinner, this can sink as low as a -3.
What makes me a cathedral builder when I clean up? The ability to feel where the energy is stuck and create order where there is more flow and harmony in our house. Then I have +3 on the rating scale.
The easiest way for me to feel like a cathedral builder is when I am writing and playing with the insights I receive.
Crafting this article makes me feel alive and happy. I write, edit, and experience in my body what is unfolding in this present moment. I am fully present with what is happening now, all of me is available. I am energized, my talents are aligned with this role, and my current skills and knowledge are conducive to this writing.
When I add this to my experience of cooking and cleaning up, it makes sense that my work is meaningful when I am as fully present as possible in the moment. With all of me present, any work is meaningful and playful.
I discover how tending to the life pulse is a major assistance for being fully present. You can read more in the article The Life Pulse Mystery. The life pulse is the cosmic principle that governs all life in the Universe, the magic pulse in the Zero Point Field that lies at the base of any manifestation. Awareness of the life pulse is a premise in order to be able to build cathedrals. This can go from a simple moment of silence, a stasis to gather momentum for a new wave of expansion, or a moment of silence in connectedness to honor all that outgoing moment has offered you. Building cathedrals is also taking time for introspection and reflection. This is the contraction, the inward movement of your life pulse.
What work will be meaningful and which work will nobody want to do anymore when there is no payment of any kind?
What do you want to do with your resources?
How do you want to spend your precious time, energy, attention and money?
Your State of Being is the most important task to tend to, and only that which sustains your State of Being is worth doing.
You can rate your presence in each of your current roles through these simple questions:
- Does this role energize you?
- Are your talents aligned with this role?
- Are your current skills and knowledge fully contributing to this role?
Three times yes, and you are a cathedral builder in this role!
If you liked this article, please share with your friends and leave a comment.
VEERLE DE BOCK is a physician, healer, facilitator, trainer, coach and author of the trilogy, Becoming What is Changing. She spent nearly three decades of her life as a physician specializing in geriatric care, including a 21-year career as department head in an Antwerp regional hospital. In 2003, she began her study as an energetic healer, teacher, process facilitator and supervisor at the Barbara Brennan School of Healing, and since 2007 has been leading many other trainees to master these same skills. In 2010 she was trained in the practice of Dynamic Facilitation by Jim Rough, which she now incorporates into her workshops and training sessions. In 2012 she decided to devote her work exclusively to writing, facilitation and coaching. That same year, she devised a new integrative practice of facilitation she calls ‘Guest House Facilitation’, that helps teams learn how to listen and utilise both the inner and outer processes within their organisation, to see it as a dynamic and living organism, and to reconnect to its intrinsic purpose and intention. Her book, Becoming What is Changing: Exposition, is the first part of a trilogy aimed at managers, team leaders and responsible employees who wish to bring this kind of transformation into the workplace, so they can create an environment where people are happy, satisfied and continuously growing.
Contact Veerle about the book, or to discuss coaching/hosting for your organisation at: