We often ask this question of someone we’ve just met to get to know them. Predictably the answer people give is their occupation: “I’m a doctor,” or “a cook,” or “a machinist,” or “a mother of young children.”
But if we take their answer one step deeper, we can see that what people do also reflects their consciousness. Doctors are often concentrated, conscientious people; cooks can be creative and serviceful; machinists can have analytical minds that grasp how things work. And mothers of young children . . . well, they rank among life’s true heroes.
Once we were with Swami Kriyananda when he met someone new after one of his talks. The first thing he said to her was, “You must be an artist.”
“Yes,” she said with great surprise, “but how did you know?”
“You relate to the world visually, through your eyes,” he replied.
So, now I’m going to ask you, “What work do you do?” Don’t think in terms of the specifics of your occupation, or the need to earn money, but ask yourself, “Why do I do this work? What aspect of my consciousness led me to choose it?” Use this bit of self-analysis to help you find and fulfill your dharma.
Perhaps you’re a nurse, because you enjoy helping people who are in suffering. Try, then, to remember your inner motivation, and when you get bogged down in paperwork, for example, recall it to mind. This can help you continue to find meaning and fulfillment in whatever your occupation might be.
But let’s consider the answer to the question “What work do you do?” even more deeply. Have you ever had the experience in meditation that you try to quiet your mind, but all you can think of is everything that you have to do that day? So begins the daily battle between the soul calling you within and the restless mind pulling you outward.
After losing this battle too many times, I struck upon a very helpful attitude that strengthens King Soul in the fight. Replace the thought, “I must hurry through my meditation so that I can focus on my work,” with this one: “Meditation is my real job. I’ll give it my best effort and energy first, and then I’ll go about my other business.”
Honestly, this simple shift in thinking can make a huge improvement in both the quality of your meditation and the fulfillment that you derive from your work.
Paramhansa Yogananda wrote in one of his prayers: “After contacting God in meditation I will go about my work, whatever it may be, knowing that He is with me, directing me and giving me power to bring forth that for which I am striving.”
When I was a young girl, grown-ups would sometimes ask me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” With the innocence of a child, I remember replying simply, “Happy.”
Let each of us hold the thought that the real purpose of life is not to achieve some career goal, or make lots of money, but to find joy. Whatever job we do can add to this, but our true work is to make deep, regular efforts in meditation to discover the treasure trove of happiness within.
Your fellow worker,