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After six months of exciting and sometimes agonizing work, I moved
into my new office in the recently remodeled basement of my 1918 home.


Right Livelihood as a Spiritual Practice

There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, the expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium. It will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is; not how valuable it is; not how it compares to other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly. To keep the channel open. - Martha Graham

How long has it been since you woke up on a Monday morning looking forward to the day's activities? When was the last time you noticed yourself missing your work when you were traveling or on vacation? Sound far-fetched? I thought so too, until I spent the time and developed the process for discovering my "original medicine" - that unique set of skills, abilities and talents that define the area of my greatest potential contribution to the larger world.

And the odd thing is that I always thought it was a bit "selfish" to pay attention to what I wanted and to simply do the work I love. I thought work was supposed to be difficult, challenging, a "duty" of some kind. I thought there was some kind of nobility or honor to working hard and fulfilling one's obligations whether you liked them or not.

So what does this have to do with spirituality? This depends on your spiritual beliefs. If you believe that life is suffering and that we can only find relief when we die and "go to a better world", then finding work you love is somewhat irrelevant. However, if you believe that our job here is to learn, to experience our connection to the divine in the here and now world, and to support others in having this experience, then finding your "right livelihood" is of central importance.

For one thing, if you are struggling 40-60 hours a week (or more) doing work you don't particularly like, your capacity to remember the divinity within you is probably quite limited. The people you come into contact with every day, whether they be loved ones, family, co-workers or clients, will probably not be seeing "the Buddha within" but rather a hassled, stressed and unhappy human being doing the best they can. Doing work that is draining makes it difficult to sustain a spiritual practice or to find enough within oneself to be able to even notice what others need, much less provide support.

In addition, there is the idea of contribution. We each have gifts. There are those of us who can balance a checkbook with ease and grace, and others who understand machinery of all kinds and can get them humming when things go wrong. Some people have a knack for soothing ruffled feathers and solving conflicts without missing a beat. Some put colors together with clothing, in rooms or in graphic arts with breathtaking flair. Where do these gifts come from if not some divine source (augmented, of course by learning and effort)? Who are we to let them lie fallow while we pursue some life design based on the desires of family, community or culture?

Among indigenous peoples there is a belief that if each of us were to discover and express our original medicine, Gaia herself would be healed because we would be in balance, with no desire to take more than we need. In my own work, I am moving toward this goal. My gift is to be a midwife to the birthing of original medicine in others. Each time I travel this path with another I am reborn. When the world reaches this state of balance I want to be here!!!

Exercise: Aliveness Chronology

Set aside about 20 minutes when you can write without interruption. Get a notebook or journal, pour yourself a cup of tea or a glass of your favorite beverage and get ready to discover something about yourself. You might want to take a minute or two to just settle yourself, breathe deeply into your belly and let the noisy thoughts of your day drift away.

Then begin this process. Starting with the first five years of your life, think of a time when you felt most alive, most yourself. A time that you still remember after all these years. Write about that moment (or event) with as much detail as you can - the smells, the tastes, the colors. What feelings were you experiencing? What were your body sensations? Who else was there? What do you remember about the way they looked? What they said or did? How you felt about them or how they seemed to feel about you?
Really savor this experience. Allow yourself to re-experience it/ take it in.

When you have finished, move on to the next five years of your life - five to ten years old. There may be periods where you have a hard time thinking of such a time. Sit with the not knowing for a while, but then, if you still can't think of a time, move on to the next time period. Include as much detail as you can for each episode. When you have finished your "Aliveness Chronology" all the way to the present, read back through the examples and see if you notice any themes. This is your first step in recognizing what it is that really brings you to life - what elements determine you "right livelihood".




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