Why I Work

I’ve been reading a lot of books and blogs recently about our attitude to work in the West and how it differs to other parts of the World and throughout history.  I thought I would reflect on my attitude to work and its place in my life:

Work As A Necessary Condition

At its most fundamental level I work to meet my basic needs of providing myself and my family with adequate shelter, food, water and heat (note that I do not include flatscreen TVs, cars or iPhones in this!).  Thankfully for me and the majority of those in the West this first stage of economic development has been won and it has been shown in numerous studies that once the basics are met then higher levels of income make no significant difference in levels of happiness or contentment.  Read ‘The Spirit Level’ by Nigel Wikinson or ‘Affluenza’ by Oliver James for more on this area.

Work As Meditation

Buddhists talk about transforming work into a form of meditation where you use the same concentration, focus and mindfulness in the workplace as the meditation hall.  Work should be done with skill, efficiency, earnestness, energy and with the intention to really master your profession (utthana-sampada).  I think this idea expresses itself best in what we in the West call ‘flow’, where your work gives you sustenance and joy.  The Dalai Lama has recently written a brilliant book on work as meditation called “The Leaders Way”

Work As Letting Go of Ego

A major component of many jobs is working with other people, sometimes across different countries and disciplines and this provides useful training in letting go of our egoism which is a substantial block to our mental and spiritual development.  To recognise that others have better ideas than us and that we are not always right is a great way of breaking down the self-centred ego.

In conclusion I work to live not the other way around.  Work provides for my basic needs and my higher ones such as the need to develop both mentally and spiritually as well as allowing me to connect with my fellow travellers.

I’ll leave you with the following quote from Marcus Aurelius’ ‘Meditations’:

“Concentrate every minute like a Roman – like a man – on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice.  And on freeing yourself from all other distractions.  Yes, you can – if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centred, irritable.  You see how few things you have to do to live a satisfying and reverent life?  If you can manage this, that’s all even the gods can ask of you.”

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