I got this question this morning:
I have been reflecting on what you were saying last night about jobs having the potential to become monastic. I was wondering…what do you consider to be the elements of work that is monastic?
Monastic work falls under several categories:
- Work that is geared to support the monastic community
- Work that helps teach a person about grace / potential
- Work that helps to teach a person how to release attachments
- Work that can be considered towards the divine
It is possible to take these elements and apply them to a work place. It must be stressed that in part the definition of how 1 – 4 will vary from person to person and from religion to religion.
Lets look at this from a Taoist perspective.
#1) In any job I performed over the last 30 years my first priority was always towards the making sure my coworkers were in good spirits and able to connect to each other in a meaningful manner. As a result in most of the jobs I took, I always worked also quietly to my Taoist principles. Helping my co workers find the strength to make it through absurd tasks or teaching how to bind together as a family to help transcend the work experience into something that was enjoyable, since it became a community effort. To play in humor and show potential, to flow around obstacles and instead show how together we are indeed a larger unity. To show it wasn’t just about the job (the destination of the product) but rather even more about the community, and as a whole how together we created something and what gets created is a reflection of us. To take the time to reflect and use the work itself to help each other succeed in our larger life.
This leads into number 2)
I made sure any job I was part of, had potential and was fun. I helped teach how even absurd acts in jobs can lead to potentials that could be useful. That in all jobs some form of potential is being built up and we can use that in our own life to examine how we live and make our own life better.
This leads into number 3)
At some point most work becomes meaningless, especially work geared only towards consumption. That the absurdity of only living to “consumption base work ethics” leads people to a crisis of personal faith. In this it becomes possible to release many attachments from “luxuries”, “Job Benefits” or “Consumption” or “chasing after goals”, that helps a person discover their own heart and gives them time to re-start and look at their life fresh.
It is no coincidence I am seeing more and more people suffering from mid life crisis in our culture. Many of the jobs in our culture ironically force people to a point of crisis by performing meaningless work. That can be a good thing since it also opens up the potential to release “meaningless consumption” and helps people start truly seeking a life based in their heart.
This leads into number 4)
To be divine is to be one with the essence of yourself and the larger world around you. In working thru 1 to 3 you discover connection and how we are all part of a larger universe.
So yes it is possible to turn any job into a monastic experience.
I can give many other examples of how elements of a monastic life could be duplicated in a job. The point being life is what we make it to be, and yes it’s very possible to turn any job into a vastly different experience than just work.