28 August 2014
The world of work and the world of spiritual development can have little to do with one another. Work involves deadlines, challenge, pressure, politics, and sometimes boredom and frustration – the demands of the outer world. Spirituality involves spaciousness, stillness, joy, compassion, and sometimes facing difficult emotions and regrets – the call of the inner world.
How might we bring these two different worlds together so they support each other and are mutually beneficial?
First, I need to define what I mean by spirituality. Becoming more aware of who we are lies at the heart of the spiritual journey. We have all these ideas as to who we think we are, and we go and live our lives based on these ideas. But what if our ideas were just that? Just ideas, largely picked up from other people. And we go through life collecting these opinions, living on the basis of them, and believing them to be true. At the centre of the spiritual journey is the questioning of our assumption that we know who we are and what the world is about, and learning to trust our experience with an open heart and mind. This lies at the heart of meditation and contemplation. It enables us to deeply connect with each other and our environment, which in turn feeds our spiritual selves.
This ability to deeply connect has also been called our inherent ‘systemic intelligence.’ Albert Einstein put it very well: “A human being is a part of the whole, called by us ‘Universe.’ However we experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of our consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. "
What I am very interested in is how could our work, an activity we spend so much of our time involved in, be a method for this questioning of assumptions and movement into our systemic intelligence? What would work look like that placed this as a core reason for its existence? What would the behaviours be? What would the work environment look like? If work were not just about creating wealth for workers, owners and shareholders, not just about creating benefit for society and the environment, but above all about creating a culture which facilitated our movement towards waking up, what would this sort of work look like?
For me, an organisation like this would:
- have a culture that valued and enabled stopping – stopping to think, to reflect, to discuss, to re-focus, to let go of the past, to welcome in the future. It would be a culture of mindfulness.
- have a culture that valued and enabled the heart as much as the intellect. There would not be fear of including discussion of feelings – positive and negative. Honest expressions of gratitude, kindness and compassion would be valued. Expressions of fear, uncertainty and anger would be heard and held compassionately – feelings that require skilful attention and care.
- have a culture where our understanding of our deep interconnectedness with all things is acknowledged, valued, and encouraged. It would be understood that awareness of ourselves as part of the whole, as much as that can be achieved, is where real wisdom in decision making is to be found. Individual differences and difference of opinion would be welcomed as part of a systemic process of decision making.
- acknowledge that we often get caught in a smaller, contracted self – and so there would be practical way for encouraging self-responsibility, conflict resolution, and an openness in heart and mind.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on how work and the spiritual journey might support each other.
Thank you, Stephen