Right Livelihood or Making a Living

“The things we do for love are rarely the things we do for money.” Marcia Menter

When people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them that I transform lives. Usually that evokes a lifted eyebrow and an unconscious step back. I can see from their expression that I might be joking and when I tell them I teach yoga and nutrition they relax, as if they had been holding their breath. Then they chuckle a bit at my presumption. “Really, yoga and food, can transform someone’s life?” And with a shake of their head, they want to know, “But can you get rich doing that?”

Years ago I made a conscious decision to do what I love in life, to do work that fulfills my spirit and brings me into harmony with others. In these difficult times when jobs are being lost and corporations control their employees with insecurity and fear, let us consider what it means to work for right livelihood.

People often fail in their careers because they have been trying to live out someone else’s idea of what a life’s work should be. They go through the day feeling miserable in their job, unable to give 100 percent to the work and their co-workers, seeing their future mapped out before them in one long agonizing stretch of time. Joseph Campbell once said that if you can see your life laid out for you, then you know it’s not your life.

Do What You Love

Right livelihood is one of the eight noble paths—the attitudes and actions the Buddha laid out as forming the core of a spiritual practice. Right livelihood means that one must work in an occupation that benefits others and harms no one. Easier said than done for many individuals. When people are forced to work in conditions that are harmful to their health or to the environment because they need that paycheck, what is the alternative?

The Dalai Lama, when asked a similar question, responded that, “It may be necessary to fight against injustice outwardly, but at the same time we have to cope inwardly, with ways to train our minds to remain calm and not develop frustration, hatred, or despair. That’s the only solution.” Employing what he calls “analytical meditation,” the Dalai Lama instructs us to reflect deeply and at length on alternative ways of viewing our situations. Then we can take the appropriate action.

We tend to lock ourselves into thinking that there is only one way, and even if that way is destroying our health, we think we must stay with the job and do nothing. Take, for example, farm workers subjected to pesticide poisoning, or the carcinogenic chemicals that workers inhale in a number of industry jobs. We find ourselves in a paradox: Without employment we cannot pay the bills; without our health, we cannot work. This lesson extends well beyond an individual’s personal job concerns to a nation that needs to take compassionate action toward providing safe working conditions for all its citizens and for the environment in which we all live.

The job you do each day, the career you embark upon for the next stage of your life, the calling you answer to fulfill your destiny are all paths you follow to learn your lessons as a spiritual being. Using what you have come to know about yourself from the quiet observance of your thoughts, consider whether the work you do has a heart big enough to bring you joy and happiness, large enough to teach you how to become more compassionate and loving, and strong enough to support your day-to-day struggles in the workplace.

Read More:
Join a Group! It May Save Your Life
Find Your Passion

43 comments

Bmr Reddy
Bmr Reddy3 years ago

Thanks

Robert O.
Robert O.3 years ago

I wish I could do a job I love, but instead I've been stuck taking lousy dead job after lousy dead end job in order to survive and eke out a meager existence. Hopefully I'll be able to get myself out of that unfortunate rut and move on to do the work I was meant to.

jane richmond
jane richmond5 years ago

thanks

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener5 years ago

Thanks!

Warren Webber
Warren Webber5 years ago

I wish we didn't live in a world where having a job that you love is considered a very brave act! I hope that can change soon!

Courtney Bliss
Courtney Bliss5 years ago

This makes me more driven to get into graduate school so I can finally do what I really want.

Nancy Sasko
Nancy Sasko5 years ago

Thanks

heather g.
heather g.5 years ago

I was really fortunate in that I enjoyed my career for many years before deciding to immigrate. The working environment was not the same and so many people openly said that they worked only for their pay-packet - because of the corporate culture. I managed to survive - only just - by reminding myself of my wise mother's advice: If you can't change your circumstances, change the way you think about them !

NoEmails H.
beba h.5 years ago

I have been lucky to find creative work which is great for me as a creative person--definitely has not made me rich but at least the work is not something I dread. I worked in modelling, acting and now in marketing and have had lots of jobs in between.

Lupe G.
Guadalupe G.5 years ago

True enough that the majority of the world cannot afford the luxury of enjoying their job but they can try to make the best of it by taking pride & being the best at your job or making friends or finding something interesting (perhaps if they offer free workshops or gym use, etc.), it doesn't seem as bad. A job is not meant to be fun (that's why it's called a JOB), but if you actually enjoy your job, that's fantastic. Even if I ever got a job I loved, I would prefer to e out having fun than working! ; b