Meditation is a tool used to integrate (overcome feelings of separation) for the individual while Karma Yoga is the tool used to not only resolve interpersonal issues but to make us productive and successful in teams both at work and at play.
Our drives for Automony and Connection
Comprising our sense of self is the drive for connection and the drive for autonomy. These two ‘selves’ are both competing and mutually supporting drives.
For the spiritual seeker both of these selves must be met and integrated.
Interestingly, the superheroes of the past like Captain America were loners, more autonomous. Those of today either have closer relations, more connection to others or work in teams like the Avengers. At the very least they have their sidekicks or girlfriend (boyfriend) like Batman or Spiderman.
The autonomous self is typically addressed through therapy (although couples therapy crosses the seeming divide) and meditation. Meditation eventually takes one further, because psychology ‘believes’ in a fixed, independent and ‘permanent’ self or ego, while meditation shows us that the ego is a construct.
The connective self is addressed through our interactions with others. Working with others requires training. Curiously, we train to have a professional career or to be an athlete or performing artist but for some strange reason no one trains us to work with others. The best we get is to either imitate or rebel from our parental/societal conditioning.
There are two ways we interact with others – through either manipulation or control. Co-operation is a blend of the two. For example, hinting to your friend that “there’s this really great Italian restaurant that your best friend recommended wouldn’t you like to go?” is manipulative and the statement “I am going to this great Italian restaurant, are you coming?” is controlling. Manipulation and control are not bad, they are essentials in being a human being, it is what we do.
We must learn and apply the understanding that the struggles of our life are based upon ego identification. Our struggles are about either not getting what we want or getting what we don’t want. Our struggles are about control and manipulation, the ‘weapons’ of desire.
Working Together and Standing Alone
Karma Yoga is the path of applied awareness engaged in activity that when performed mindfully reveals and liberates our sense of isolation and separateness while enriching our individuality and creativity.
The activities of karma Yoga are engaged in community or virtually, on one’s own or in teams but usually both. With mentors and trained professionals in the field of karma yoga we learn how to be more effective as an individual and in teams. We learn how to embrace trust without feeling vulnerable, how to meet conflict between individuals and not hide in an illusion of artificial harmony. We learn how to commit to avoid ambiguity, how to be accountable and overcome low standards, and how to pay attention to results and not let our egos and a ‘just get by’ status quo attitude seem like success.
One of the huge advantages of doing Karma Yoga and being a karma yogi is that it benefits everyone, including the planet and the environment. It enriches oneself and makes joyful participation with others rewarding experiences. Most importantly, it reveals that our ingrained sense of isolation and scramble to make a living are not the sole story. Dedicated to the path of Karma Yoga in community there is a huge strength in connection making us far more able to ‘stand alone’.
When the Karma Yogi enters the world they are in disguise, an alter ego, but actually they are the true super hero helping to ‘retool’ the world in ever more aware and compassionate ways.
If you missed it, check out the first part of this blog, Awakening through Action, Part One:You are a Superhero. Sign up to receive ongoing tools, tips and blogs about awakening in action.