Taking the High Road

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By Tanis Helliwell

I would like to introduce you to a concept that I refer to as the high and low roads of work. When taking the high road, we are concerned both with what we do and how we do it. The high road is connected to the soul. It means using our jobs as vehicles to create something for the betterment of ourselves, others and the world. High road work alleviates physical, emotional, mental or spiritual suffering in the long-term. High road work is based on the principles of interdependence—that what hurts one of us hurts all and what helps one of us helps all. Sometimes in high road work we help others directly, such as being a social worker who helps the homeless or being a scientist who finds cures for diseases. Other times we help indirectly by supporting individuals and organizations who are doing high road work. This is true of office managers, administrative assistants and accountants.

Low road work, on the other hand, more often serves the short-term personality needs of individuals and organizations and does not, of itself, feed the soul. Some low road work might alleviate short-term suffering but create more long-term suffering. This is true of pornography, making weapons and selling narcotics. But it’s important to emphasize that not all low road work has a negative impact on ourselves or others. Some low road work, in fact, might be important and necessary.

For example, you might work as a waitress, a plumber or a lawyer for only one reason: money. You know that this is not what your soul calls you to do but you are doing it in order to support your family. Low road work meets your financial and security needs—which satisfy your personality—and without it you might not be able to afford to do any high road work. This could be raising your family, coaching a soccer team, fundraising for community projects. All volunteer activities.

Most of our jobs, in fact, contain aspects of both high and low road work—aspects that satisfy the soul and those that satisfy the personality. The waitress, of which I just spoke, might be doing that job only for financial reasons but her way of doing it could be high road. By treating her customers with kindness and interest she can make their experience a pleasant one and ensure that they feel good about themselves and others. It might be helpful to view work on a continuum with some work being one hundred percent high road and some one hundred percent low road and with the great majority of us somewhere in the middle.

Some low roads may be desirable for society at this time. Law enforcement and the military, for example, have two roads. The lower road caters to people’s need to be protected from crime in our country and to protect our country from encroachment by others. This need will be with us for some time and there will continue to be jobs in this area. But high road jobs within these professions are growing. We have seen this in the last ten years as the military has taken a more active role in peacekeeping and disaster relief.  In the United States the army recently created a corps of environmental engineers who assist with ecological restoration.

There are two main ways we can do high road work. First, we might be “called” by our soul to the high road of a certain occupation. The word “vocation” means to be called to a specific work and these jobs create good in our world. Second, we might transform our workplace by the example of our high road conduct by being compassionate, joyful, wise, ethical and courageous in speaking the truth. If we bring these qualities to our workplace we create good for our colleagues, clients and organization regardless of the work we do. Both paths are equally important and are high roads in work.

I’ve observed a growth both in the type and amount of high road jobs available within traditional occupations and also in people’s desire to take the high road regardless of the work they do. This trend accompanies people’s increased desire to do their soul work. It may be difficult to discern the high road in some occupations but in the way we do any job we can walk the high road.

Brenda is a housecleaner—often considered a low road job. She would prefer to be a healer—typically a high road job—and has taken many courses towards her goal. Yet to date, Brenda has been unable to support herself in this way so in the meantime she is bringing the spirit of healing to her present work. She uses organic products and takes pride in her ability to create a pleasant atmosphere for those whose homes she cleans. Brenda goes out of her way to make herself useful including hanging pictures, moving furniture and ironing clothes. She even bakes cookies and baby-sits her clients’ pets when they are away. Because of how she does her work, Brenda is a “home healer,” which is the high road of soul in her profession.

All of us can examine our work in this light to discover if the way in which we work is creating a better environment for those with whom we come in contact or not. How we do our work is as important as what we do, just as long as what we’re doing is not harming others. We take the soul road by celebrating people, building up their self-confidence, encouraging them and keeping our promises. We can do this even when we cannot offer them interesting, challenging work of itself. It is possible that you never be able to do your ideal high road job, but you might be the bridge to high road work so that others following you will benefit. This would be a great service to others. For example, you might be in a committed relationship raising three children and realize that, if you were single, you’d want to work with the poor in third world countries. It would hardly be considered the high road to abandon your own children to do this. Instead, you could support foster children and send money, letters and clothes to help while a the same time taking good care of your own children.

Also, the amount of risk we will take in order to do high road work may change over time. If we have enough money and have done low road work for some time, and no longer find it either challenging or soul satisfying, we may take greater risks to work on the high road in our occupation. Some individuals will not be satisfied by practicing high road behaviour in an otherwise low road job. Their soul will call them to high road occupations as well. Let’s examine several occupations—finance, law, medicine, education and natural resources—which collectively employ great numbers of people. Presently, I see in all of these occupations many hopeful signs and growth of high roads that deserve recognition.

Accounting, Economics and Finance

Environmental audits and resource-based accounting are the high roads in accounting. The low road is traditional cost-based accounting, where a company is seen to be doing well if its sales outweigh its costs. I understand that we need to make a profit or we won’t stay in business, but taking the high road in business means ensuring that profits are not our only motive for working and not our only criteria for success. Cost-based accounting is not concerned with how many non-renewable resources the company uses up in order to make its profits. To measure success, using the high road of accounting, we need to calculate how much pollution is produced and energy consumed in order to make our products and how much energy will be needed to re-cycle our used computers, cars, televisions and paper when their useful life is past. Only by doing this are we taking the high road in measuring the success of our company.

Our GNP is based on the low road of economics. Hazel Henderson, a well-recognized high road economist, says, “GNP values very highly bullets, tanks and cars; and it values at zero the environment, clean air, clean water, etc. It also values at zero our children, managing household activities, serving on our school board….. In so many countries of the world, the contribution of unpaid workers is far larger than the GNP.”

High road economist E.F. Schumacher in Good Work sums up the problem with the GNP: The quality of life—not the quantity—yes, that’s what matters. GNP, being a purely quantitative concept, bypass the real question: how to enhance the quality of life.


There is a high road in law as well. Many years ago, I knew a criminal lawyer who explained to me that his job was to defend his clients and prevent them from being convicted of crimes even if he knew they were guilty. His work was not to seek justice but to win his case. The soul road of law is justice based on truth, not on deceit or falsehood. Eventually, this lawyer fell into using drugs to numb himself against the pain of his soulless work and ended up with an addiction.

His plight is not uncommon. When we do something that is not serving the highest good our soul rebels and makes us very unhappy. People might not be able to consciously attribute their unhappiness to the fact that their work is not in accord with their soul. They may have numbed themselves through drugs, sex, food, shopping and television—to name a few addictions—but satisfying personality cravings fails to satisfy soul needs. To do this, we must seek high road work.

I appreciate that this lawyer was doing his job and working within the parameters of the law, but I believe that our laws need to be revised so that lawyers are better able to follow the high road. In fact, law is founded on a high road principle that all people are entitled to a fair trial. In practice, there are many difficulties in ensuring this happens. Money too often determines the outcome as we have seen when the poor are unable to afford to take rich companies or individuals to trial for injustices and crimes.

Meanwhile, many high road paths within law are growing, such as environmental law, consumer advocacy and mediation. In mediation, for example, a couple who are divorcing work out a fair settlement which is acceptable to both of them. Under the traditional adversarial system and low road of law, both parties try to get as much as they can for themselves, and fairness is not necessarily part of the process.


There are also high and low roads in medicine. In some places in China, people pay their doctors to keep them well and, if they get sick, their doctor looks after them for free. That oriental medical system emphasizes health, the high road, and not illness, the low road. It is certainly easier for physicians to follow the high road when the system in which they are working reinforces it.

Currently Canada’s medical plans do not do this. Physicians are paid for the number of people they see. Therefore they are not financially supported if they take time to thoroughly discuss the underlying emotional, mental or spiritual causes of their patients illnesses. This leads them to dealing only with the bodily symptoms, which is often frustrating for physicians and patients.

The low road of healing focuses only on the body, while the high road or holistic healing is concerned with treating the body, mind and soul of the patient. The high road emphasizes prevention and non-invasive healing processes. In Vancouver, B.C. the Vancouver General Hospital has opened a clinic for alternative healing methods. There, practitioners of Chinese medicine, acupuncture and healing with colour and touch help their clients. This is a good example of how both roads of medicine can peacefully co-exist and support each other.

It’s possible to have a medical practice that combines both roads of healing. One physician I know works four days a week in his traditional practice and a fourth day at a holistic clinic. He is so busy at the clinic that it takes three months to get an appointment. Unfortunately, only higher wage earners can afford continual holistic treatment so this system of medicine is not ideal for a great number of low income patients.


The low road in education is trying to cram our children’s heads full of “readin’, writin’ and rithmetic’” at the expense of developing their talents and fostering in them a love of learning. In education, as with many professions, there is a need to incorporate both low and high roads to fully educate the whole person. If children can’t read and write they will not find employment, so teaching these basic skills is important. However, if we kill our children’s sense of joy and hope by not encouraging more soulful ways of learning, how can there be a possibility of hope for them and our world.

There are several systems such as Montessori and Waldorf schools that attempt to offer the high road in education but these are private schools and do not suit all students, and not all parents can afford the tuition. We need a flexible education system so students can find teachers and schools that will help them learn in the best way for them, and this does not apply to just elementary and secondary schools. 

Waste Disposal and Forestry

Most organizations, and not just the more obvious not–for–profits like Greenpeace and Earth Save, can follow the high road. Even getting rid of garbage can be high road work. A British Columbian company with offices in Massachusetts and London, England has developed a technology to transform common garbage into a clean fuel that captures 97 to 98 percent of the carbon dioxide. Winner of several awards, Dynamotive works to develop better industrial technologies that solve major environmental problems. It has created two products—Bio-Oil, which can be used as fuel on its own, and Bio-Lime, which can remove hazardous sulfur dioxide emissions from coal-burning plants that cause acid rain and the greenhouse effect.

Another high road option in the pulp and paper industry is to create “agripulp” mills. Arboken Incorporated, another Canadian company, puts out 10,000 tons of office grade paper annually made from farm products such as corn, wheat and oat straw.  There is also increasing interest world-wide in growing some crops, such as flax, hemp and kenaf, as alternatives to tree farming. Hemp, for instance, grows so fast—6-16 feet in 70-110 days— that herbicides are not needed and its natural resistance means that pesticides are not necessary either. Washington State University’s Wood Composite Laboratory has tested hemp for use in medium-density fiberboard and lab results show that hemp is up to twice as strong as wood. The French have been building hemp houses for years and hemp products, such as Canobite, Mehabit, Canosmose, medium-density fiberboard, Zellform, are now available in North America. Hemp as a crop is at least 400% more efficient than tree farming.

Are You Doing High Road Work?

Here are a few questions to help you identify if your work is on the high road.

1. Does your work diminish or increase you?

2. Does your work give you joy, creativity, meaningful learning, love?

3. Do others experience joy, creativity, meaningful learning, or love because of you or your work?

4. Does your work benefit the world in both the short and long term?

5. Which parts of your work are low road?

6. Which parts of your work are high road?

7. Are you satisfied with the combination of low and high road aspects of your work?

8. If not, what would you like to do differently?

Tanis Helliwell, a mystic in the modern world, has brought spiritual consciousness into the mainstream for over 30 years. Since childhood, she has seen and heard elementals, angels, and master teachers in higher dimensions. Tanis is the founder of the International Institute for Transformation (IIT), which offers programs to assist individuals to become conscious creators to work with the spiritual laws that govern our world.

Tanis is the author of The High Beings of Hawaii, Summer with the Leprechauns, Pilgrimage with the Leprechauns, Embraced by Love, Manifest Your Soul’s Purpose, Hybrids: So You Think You Are Human and Decoding Your Destiny.

For information on Tanis’ courses, click here.

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