Reiki's 4th Principle for Daily Living: Just for today, I will do my work honestly.
In its widest sense, this principle asks us to be honest in every step we take in life. Work is not just paid employment, it is also voluntary work we do to help others, it is building a family, it is nurturing children. In a spiritual sense, it is every action we take, and every thought and intention that leads to action.
The Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Indian text which captures the essence of India’s Vedic philosophy, encourages us to make every action an offering to God. This would require us to act honestly and selflessly, with the highest motivation and a pure heart.
The Gita points out that every job has aspects that we do not enjoy or that we find difficult. But this should not stop us from doing it well. I take this to mean that so long as you have taken on a job, you should do it sincerely.
Don Miguel Ruiz, in his book The Four Agreements, puts this another way: he asks us to always do our best. In every situation, simply do the best you are capable of doing at that point in your life.
The Gita also tells us: “It is better to strive in one’s own dharma than to succeed in the dharma of another: nothing is ever lost in following one’s own dharma, but competition in another’s dharma breeds fear and insecurity.” (Chapter 3, Verse 35, translated by Eknath Easwaran) The Sanskrit word dharma is best translated here as one’s purpose in life.
In the context of work, it follows from this that the first order of business is to find one’s dharma, or true calling, or at least to find work best suited to one’s nature, interests and abilities. This does not mean that one must do the same job throughout one’s life. As we continue to live and grow, it is but natural that, in many cases, the nature of our work may change as well.
Many people find what feels like their true calling in middle age, or even later. But all of their previous life experience has prepared them for the work they will do now and so this earlier experience should not be seen as insignificant. It is important that at every stage in life we do the work we are most motivated to do. At the same time, we should be wary of work that harms others -- or ourselves.
The Dalai Lama warns us against “misplaced tolerance” of bad practices that in any way exploit us or our co-workers. In The Art of Happiness at Work, co-authored with Howard Cutler, he says we should resist and seek to change exploitative or unjust practices at work, including lack of respect for ourselves or our colleagues. If we are unable to bring about positive change, then we must consider moving on to something better.
At the same time, we should train our mind to be calm, so that we can take action to resist, change or quit without frustration, hatred or despair.
In choosing our work, he says, we should look for what motivates us. Such motivation can include the desire to help others, improve the world or some other higher purpose. For some people the motivation may be simply to strive for excellence or to work creatively, he adds. For yet others, it may be the motivation to support themselves and their family. Helping one’s family is also helping others, he points out, and is a valid reason for work.
So how do we find the right kind of work? In Transform Your Life with Reiki, Anil Bhatnagar offers several very practical and useful suggestions to do just that. Among these: identify your talents and your special strengths, find the kind of work that gives you a sense of accomplishment, discover what you love to do and consider what you feel strongly about.
“You must find your perfect work to find fulfillment in life,” says Bhatnagar. Once you have found it, do it with joy and full attention, he says.
This is surely not hard to do when you enjoy your work and get a sense of accomplishment from it. Routine tasks, difficult jobs or long hours of work become enjoyable and easy because you can see clearly that they are helping you to achieve your purpose.
When Cutler asked the Dalai Lama about his own work, he wasn’t sure what Cutler was talking about. His job is so much his calling that he does not even consider it work. That’s how easy it can be.