RIGHT LIVELIHOOD – A Short Guide To Self Expression At Work

When the sun rises, I go to work.
When the sun goes down, I take my rest,
I dig the well from which I drink,
I farm the soil which yields my food,
I share creation. Kings can do no more.
—Anonymous, From China , 2500 B. C.

Right livelihood is an ancient Asian philosophical concept that proposes a perfect working relationship and flow between you and the world around you. Like the farmer who wrote the poem above, when you achieve right livelihood, you are in perfect harmony with creation. You have become ecologically appropriate.

Harmonious work is like breathing: In and out! In and out! On we go! There is a perfect, harmonious balance between you and the rest of the universe. What you give and what you get are balanced. All living creatures, from gorilla to mosquito express right livelihood.  We humans are the exceptions. On close examination, right livelihood is really a very practical set of guidelines for living. Here’s one interpretation of the components:

1. Your work fully expresses all aspects of your nature. It fits your innate talents perfectly. It expresses your temperament and personality fully, even those parts you do not see as positive. It provides the rewards that matter to you. It fulfills your goals. It occurs in an environment that is suitable and appropriate to who you are.
2. The subject of your work is something in which you have a passionate and abiding interest. It is deeply meaningful to you. It continues to appeal to you as the years roll by.
3. Your work continually nourishes you. It provides a natural route for your evolution. Its challenges stretch you to continue to learn and grow.
4. It does no harm to anyone. It is ecologically sound. It does not oppose appropriate stewardship of the earth.
5. It serves humanity in some way. You and I cannot judge what is appropriate service for another person. In the larger scheme of things, an IRS agent is just as important a part of the fabric of humanity as is a teacher, a mother, an entrepreneur. Perhaps without IRS agents, nobody would pay their taxes, everything would crumble, and Mad Max would take over.
6. It is freely accepted. You work because you choose to, not because you are compelled to.
7. You are “being” yourself.

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