Or Getting Paid to Undertake Spiritual Training

This is a continuation of  The Dharma of Work (Part One).

Practising Dharma at Work

Practising Dharma at Work

We propose that it’s possible to craft a virtual monastery amidst daily life, the workplace and career. In this context, spiritual training is conducive to our foundational Maslowian needs as well as our spiritual quest; though the virtual monastery may not be able to support our path all the way to awakening, it serves far better than mere maintenance. Approached with a holistic view, the business world may be treated and harnessed as an introductory field for spiritual development, in addition to a source of material support.

Awakening is the sudden realization that everything is interdependent: the nature of cycles, change and struggle aren’t really personal. All of which can also be observed and learned at work. Someone – the Sufis? A German philosopher? – affirmed that, ‘What you work with carries you to God’. This is at the heart of loving what we do, whether it’s our professions or a temporary job.

Any entrepreneur, partnership or self-employed person can relate to this, as well as any employee or laborer who chooses to be engaged at the workplace. If we re-frame work as ‘dharma training’, and if we see employment as a path of service (a.k.a. karma yoga) the frequent split between economics, society, the environment and transcendence becomes integrable.

Remember (if you’re old enough) the hallowed ‘good work ethic’? Alas this fine principle has been abused by employers, amoral capitalists and workaholics in the pursuit of self-interested wealth, status, or an illusion of unassailable security. Interest in our work is best when balanced with a sense of connectedness.

If humanity reclaimed our economic interdependence, and social and ecological responsibility, and if the guiding principles were from trainers and mentors who have integrated these elements, and if students and children were taught that traditional values don’t necessarily mean authoritarianism, we might find many of our major societal and ecological problems begin to shift for the better.

Movies and television can be excellent vehicles for entertainment and education. And, as with any medium, there are unintended consequences. Films often promise unrealistic lifestyles (i.e., the subway token collector with the enormous, beautiful apartment in a great neighborhood) and problems that are solved very easily by people who recover from mortal injuries between commercials. Alternatively, the main characters (and we) suffer through an hour and 50 minutes of misery to arrive at a ten-minute transformation that promises enduring happiness? We could benefit so much from learning from skillfully made films about ‘year two’, post-transformation, including the grind of the day-to-day that we all experience, and through which true spiritual training transpires.

Authentic guides and trainers inform us that life in general and the spiritual path in particular entail some struggle and heavy lifting. Similar to a sustainable economic system compared to get-rich-quick schemes, these realistic and sound plans can be brushed aside when others proffer easy fixes. Anything that will last is built on a solid foundation that includes some fundamental training: both economic and spiritual sustainability depend on this basic principle.

This fundamental training may be an indispensable part of a quadruple bottom line: economic, social, environmental and spiritual sustainability. Most NGOs and non-profit organisations include the first three but not the fourth, while many spiritual organizations have the fourth and may ignore or overlook the other three. For these kind of organisations economic sustainability may be the most challenging, even distasteful.

Money Magic author Deborah Price identifies humans’ relationship with money as a new evolutionary trait that we’re just learning to use. Interestingly, she often turns down working with spiritual groups as she finds them recalcitrant when it comes to money.

A classic Buddhist teaching consists of the bojjhangas, the seven factors of awakening. Three are considered active (interest, energy, joy), three are passive (calm, concentration and equanimity), and mindfulness, the seventh, acts as the ground from which the other six spring. You’ll notice that these same factors motivate our professional work, that is, if we wish to be fulfilled and otherwise successful.

We could consider money as energy, our engagement as interest, our attitude as joyous, our involvement both calming and concentrated, and our success based in equipoise about the results. Conjoin this with mindfulness while we undertake work that is compassionate, creative and sustainable, and voila! Our daily lives and careers are centered around the factors that support our spiritual awakening.

Article by Doug Duncan & Catherine Pawasarat

Continue learning about the keys to spiritual unfoldment through our daily work with our other articles on the Dharma of Work:  Part One, Part Three and Part Four.