It’s a common belief that work (what we do in order to make a living) and spirituality are incompatible. Work binds us to the material world, whereas spirituality frees us. This view is supported by traditional cultures, especially Eastern ones, in which turning attention to the spiritual path came only after a certain age when one’s life’s work is complete (“retirement”) or as a complete renunciation of the worldly life (monasticism). Women, in particular, if they were tied to the traditional role of child-bearer and homemaker, were even less likely to commit to a spiritual path.
But today, as an increasing number of people of all ages, cultures, and backgrounds turn to spiritual inquiry, there’s an evolutionary pull to find freedom within the marketplace of life. Of course, this shows up all sorts of inherited beliefs and inner conflicts.
You Don't Need to Make Any Sudden Changes
Many people I meet at my gatherings believe that the work they do in order to make a living is in direct opposition to their spiritual path. Many feel trapped by their job or career and feel they don’t have enough time or energy to be spiritual. Others avoid getting a job or following a career path because they’re too busy being spiritual. Most often there’s an underlying fear that awakening out of the dream of “me” means that ordinary life will become meaningless and they’ll be unable to function in the office, boardroom, factory, or the kitchen.
There is a strong possibility that if you glimpse who you are beneath the roles you play in the everyday world, the work you do is clearly out of tune with your innermost truth. But don’t take this possibility as an excuse to turn away from spiritual inquiry, just because it may rock your boat—nor as a reason to walk out on your job straightaway!
Instead, slow down and breathe. Take no action. Simply be silent inside and wait…rest in being. Be totally present and simply open to the naked truth as it appears within you. Give yourself permission to feel what has been covered over by a lifetime of shoulds and shouldn’ts, to touch the vulnerability of not knowing, to simply be still. The invitation is for you to rest in the simplicity of being and then to move from here.
Moving from the stillness and silence of being gives you the freedom to start wherever you are, without having to change, fix, or improve anything. Whatever your job description, responsibilities, daily tasks, and whatever your thoughts and feelings about it, simply be here, fully present. When work stops being a means to an end, it becomes the doorway to transformation.
When you are willing to stop looking for security, status, fortune, or fame from what you do, and instead you are simply but utterly present in what you do, work becomes spiritual practice. It’s not about bringing your spiritual qualities to work; you don’t have to be calm, loving, or even compassionate when boundaries are violated, you’re treated unfairly, or you’re bullied or ignored. It’s also not about having a job that fits in with your spiritual ideologies. It’s really not about the external form, which is likely to change over time. It’s about your inner state of consciousness. What you do does not matter, but how you do it does.
Acceptance Can Change Everything
Work invites you to be exactly where you are; to be fully present with all energetic waves as they appear in you. When you feel frustration, irritation, resentment, tension, or any other difficult feeling, don’t recoil or retaliate, stay in tender openness. Your willingness to simply be open offers the possibility of knowing the space within you, in which everything comes and goes. This doesn’t necessarily happen all at once, but if you were willing to be softly rooted in your belly rather than jumping into your head with the rights and wrongs of the situation, the power of acceptance is likely to transform even the most mundane, or seemingly unspiritual, of jobs.
Acceptance is not something you do; it is you…an openness. In this openness, your feelings, your boss, your colleagues, your job, and you all return to spaciousness. You may or may not speak or act from this spaciousness, but if you do it will have a very different quality (and most likely a very different outcome) than speaking or acting from the noisiness of egos defensive or manipulative strategies.
The first possible outcome is that you find peace within your daily work. Whatever you were doing, whether you’re sitting at a desk, standing at a till, driving a car, climbing a ladder, negotiating a business deal, or making a cup of tea, you sense the aliveness of this moment as it is. If you are very silent (nonreactive) within this sense of aliveness, you'll likely also experience a subtle stream of energy just below the surface of your conscious awareness. If you stay present within this stream of energy, you may find that it brings a lightness to what you do. You may also start to enjoy what you do.
Enjoyment has nothing to do with the content of what you do and everything to do with the space within which this content takes place. If you simply enjoy without grasping on to the enjoyment, the light of beingness flows into what you do. This is when transformation happens from within, and it’s likely that external situations will also transform to match your internal state of consciousness.
The second possible outcome is that it becomes very clear to you that you’ve been pretending to be someone you’re not, and now this pretense is untenable. As you sit inside this feeling (without recoiling or reacting) something moves in you, and you either find the courage to leave your job or you wait until an opportunity appears that matches your inner state of consciousness. It’s likely, as you wait and stay open, that an invitation that speaks to your authentic voice arrives seemingly “out of the blue.” Perhaps someone you meet unexpectedly makes you an offer, or you get promoted.
Whatever happens, it opens the door to new possibilities that were not available from the perspective of struggle or conflict. It’s not about manifesting a better job, a better boss, or a better salary. It’s about listening to life’s intelligence as it expresses itself through all appearances in your life, however seemingly wonderful or terrible.
Discover What's Beyond Your Work
If you devote yourself to the deeper impulse of intelligence as it moves through you, what you do will no longer be just about making a living. It will be about fully living. Whether you find peace in the work you already do, you take a leap into a new direction, or even if you leave your job and just wait in non-knowing, you are likely to be supported by a wealth of inner and outer resources you didn’t previously know were available. Even though you may have to make some personal sacrifices in the early stages, you may stumble and fall, or you may be stretched beyond your comfort zone, you will be fueled by a power that is not of this world but of something much more magnificent. You could call this enthusiasm or inspiration. It’s the same as saying vital aliveness or the holy breath. It’s at this point that personal and divine will become one and the same, and you become an instrument of God.
Excerpted from Embodied Enlightenment: Living Your Awakening in Every Moment by Amoda Maa. Used with permission.