Getting Real 8
kind of work should I be doing?
New Age thinking has encouraged the view that there are specific
occupations which are spiritual, meritous and that they are the only
fitting occupations for a spiritually aware person. In return for doing
certain kinds of work, rewards will follow in the form of membership of a
mysterious club comprising those with spiritual stature. The question
‘What kind of work should I be doing?’ is often put with this
expectation to the fore, and it usually indicates that a person is out of
touch with his or her own creative capacity and authenticity and is trying
to walk in borrowed shoes and not always with appropriate motives.
It is widely recognised that suitable
work for a spiritually aware person involves helping others in some
capacity. How could it be any other way when humanity is one? Service,
however, is an approach to life, not a specific profession. It is this
misunderstanding which in the past fifteen years has produced a
‘spiritually correct’ occupational sector, containing countless
under-employed, hard-up, disillusioned, and in many cases unsuitable, councillors
and alternative therapists.
What is at issue here is not the
alternative therapies, which are doing a certain amount of good, but
recent assumptions, which make the alternative therapies synonymous with
spirituality and service, and disregard motivation.
The spiritually correct sector includes
the therapists of various hue: the psychologists and councillors, the
healers and the complementary medical practitioners, astrologers, tarot
readers and mediums. Our work is considered spiritually beneficial because
it involves helping others and having an awareness of the importance of
the inner person. Significantly, membership of this category is not
extended to nurses, doctors, vets, carers, and members of the emergency
services who have been working on behalf of others for generations.
Presumably, this is because they deal primarily, not with the inner
person, but with the physical vehicle and the material plane (that aspect
of manifestation which seems to cause certain spiritually minded people so
much embarrassment), and they may not have consciously exposed a spiritual
In the past fifteen years, to be able to
describe oneself as a therapist or alternative practitioner has been
viewed all too often, a measure of spiritual achievement. The attraction
of doing this prestigious spiritually correct work has seen large numbers
of people turn their lives upside down, giving up existing professions, to
say nothing of financial independence in order to retrain in some
oversubscribed therapy. Of course there have been people with a genuine
vocational sense in the stampede. Indeed, the situation is depressing
precisely because so many of the people involved in crowding into the
alternative therapies sector do have such a strong vocational sense
and a genuine contribution to make but feel, as the result of thinking in
recent years, that this can be expressed only in certain, prescribed ways,
ways which have become service clichés, and which stand to compromise
authenticity and reduce the effectiveness of that contribution.
D.K. has defined service as the ability
to recognise a need and to know how to go about meeting it. Ultimately,
all spiritually active people have to be of service. But service is in the
recognising and meeting of a need as it arises, when it arises, wherever
it arises, and not pre-empting this by taking on the work which for
reasons of fashion has become prestigious, especially if this occupation
is then required to meet a host of personality needs. If this is any kind
of service, it is self-service.
And what are the needs to which
spiritually aware people need to respond? Why are some needs more worthy
than others? Our consumer societies, in which we are all participants,
have generated a host of needs: the need to create products and get them
distributed; the need to make available money and the means to buy these
products and services; the need to keep people in work. The Buddhists have
always emphasised the importance of right action i.e., engaging only in
those occupations, which are not pernicious in their effects upon others
or upon the environment. The wisdom of this is beyond question but it is
not at all easy to make these distinctions in our complex consumer
Most people, including the spiritually
active, use supermarkets and drive cars. There are, however, few
spiritually minded people who would view working in a supermarket or car
factory as being fitting work. Because, in the main, supermarkets and car
factories belong to large corporations which are considered inherently
unethical? Perhaps, but more likely because little recognition attaches to
such commonplace jobs; they tend to offer little scope for creativity and
are, frankly, boring. But does this invalidate them when it comes to being
of service to other people? Unfortunately, some kind of spiritual
snobbery, bordering on inversion, makes us withhold from the people who do
commonplace jobs the respect they merit for making life easier for vast
number of us, but give it to practitioners offering some recondite
alternative therapy at a fee that makes it accessible to only a very few
people The service industries are full of people working without any
recognition whatsoever but who, every day of their lives, help others in
some practical and essential way.
The fact is that it is probably
impossible to maintain a consistent and logical position in the matter of
what is right work from a spiritual point of view in an industrialized
society and that may be why enthusiasms and aversions, which usually will
not stand up to much close analysis, build up around certain kinds of
work. In an industrialized society the emphasis is probably more usefully
placed upon our own conduct in the work place and in the execution of our
function, whatever form that may take, rather than trying to establish
cause and effect at the level of superstructure.
When it comes to spirituality, most
things - the things that matter - come back to personal motivation and
A spirituality orientated person cannot
afford to disregard the well-being of his fellow man, but how he goes
about making his contribution is a matter for his own judgment, if he can
free that from conditioning and fashionable ideas.
The secret of optimum contribution is to
be found in individuality, which determines the nature of the creative
quota and gives substance to the view that it is spiritually desirable to
work in a creative way.
Being of service involves making this
creative capacity available for the benefit of others, and it is an act of
true service to offer it because one knows that it is of value, not
because it earns recognition. It is not the nature of the gift but the
intention behind the willingness to share it with others, which makes this
into an act of service.
In the final analysis, there is no one
kind of work, which a spiritually aware person should do. To make our
optimum contribution we need first to find out what we can do well and
then do it consciously and to the best of our ability.
To be of service does not require a
specific place and profession; it requires a willingness to offer what one
has to help others in some way, unconditionally but not indiscriminately.
Unavoidably, because we live in world shaped by likes and dislikes, fads
and fashion, political correctness and snobberies some people will find
themselves doing work which others admire and value and others will not.
To a person responding to a genuine desire to be of service, this should
be a matter of complete indifference. Having seen the need, he or she
simply sets about meeting it.