We celebrated the joy of working on Monday of this week. Often, I wonder if working is really a joyful experience or if it is something that we all just have to put up with so that we can do what we want to do. Is work a joy or is it a labor? Is work meant to be joyful? Is work supposed to be filled with stress? Are people working, as some Christian interpretations of the Bible say, as the result of our disobedience towards God? Our human ancestors, Adam and Eve, did not do what God wanted. They ate the metaphorical fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and all humans inherited the consequences of that sin—death, pain and suffering.
What does the biblical “fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” mean in the yoga tradition?
In yoga, the knowledge of good and evil is the knowledge of duality, separation and division. When one consumes the fruit of that tree, which is a symbolic expression of the brain and its brain stem, the consumer experiences the separation from the non-duality of reality. In other words, we are experiencing separation from the oneness of life. If, then, reality is God, then we are experiencing separation from God. This separation permeates all the other parts of reality; namely, our relationship with our true self, our relationship with our bodies, our relationships with others, our relationship with the natural world, with our work, and with all of life.
If we look around in our world today, that experience of division, separation and partisanship is apparent all over. Many people don’t feel in tune or one with their own bodies, their spouses, their families and friends. We experience that divisiveness even in our political leaders. Many of us view the natural world of the Earth as something to use rather than a living reality with which to relate.
So, too, our own work becomes laborious. We long for the weekend so we don’t have to work, rather than experiencing our work as part of the joyous way of living our ONE LIFE.
How can we make our work a joyful experience? Yoga says “Do what is in tune with your True Self and the talents and skills that you were given by the Source of Life, in other words, God.” When we do what our divine nature longs to do we remain in union with God. We no longer experience pain and laborious tedium because we are acting from our core, our Divine, Infinite, and Perfect nature.
But what if we are in a job or an occupation that gives us pain? Yoga says, “Change it!” If we can’t change it, yoga says, “Change your attitude towards your work! Look upon your work, not as labor, but as a service to all the people that you encounter, even a demanding boss.”
When we see our work as helping others or as providing ourselves and the others we love with meaningful products, or meaningful services that help them become happier or better people, the labor becomes uplifting. To change our attitude is often a great challenge! It is often hard to change our minds. It takes some effort. We can’t just say to ourselves or others that we are going to change our attitudes. That’s why yoga says, “Sit in meditation every day and realize the love and beauty inside yourself, so that you can see the beauty in others and the service in what you do.”
Although challenging, it is a simple daily practice that can change work from a painful experience that burdens us to a joyful service that lifts us up to an experience of union with our purpose in life; namely our goal to unite with LOVE, the Source of Life. All we need do is faithfully sit still and focus inwardly every day! Our inner divinity will show itself and we will be changed people. Our whole life, including work, will be a celebration!