By Faraaz Tanveer
For most seekers, work has to be consonant with their values and an expression of their highest aspirations. little wonder then, that many leap into the unknown
One of the fall-outs of entering the path of spirituality or conscious living is that there is very little tolerance for dichotomy. Jogtrot jobs suffered for the sake of the paycheck no longer satisfy. The catalysing effect of spirituality goes deeper and deeper, leading us to question what we took for granted earlier. A restlessness consumes us, and a longing for authentic life goads us on. We are inspired to realise our highest potential, to give unfettered expression to our deepest self. Through these motivations, we freewheel into the unknown – leaving behind comfort, or societal status and approval. So is this suicide or a new life? Read on…
There is a huge graffiti which every commuter going in/out of London passes by, usually while stuck in yet another traffic jam: ‘WHY AM I STILL DOING THIS?’
This is the question that prompts many successful seekers to re-evaluate their priorities in life. “What used to be thought of as mid-life crisis is really a transition in which people naturally undergo a values clarification. They begin to look inside and ask: ‘Who am I? What is most important for me in this life? What is my purpose? How can I serve?’ Our soul gives us a call for healing with the recognition that if we heal those things that hold us back and drain our energy, we’re going to have a lot more energy to use in those Guardian years,” says Craig Nathason, a corporate consultant who facilitates lifestyle and career changes.
The impetus comes in many forms.
For Past Life Regression Therapist Susheel Nair it was an unexpected revelation during a session in past life regression therapy (PLRT), which completely changed the course of his life. He used to work as a sourcing head for one of the leading apparel export companies in India. While undergoing the session to overcome his fear of a certain aircraft sound, he saw himself as a Scandinavian pilot of a KLM aircraft. While flying to Munich in 1951, along with 52 passengers, his plane crashed into a high-rise apartment building, running straight into a young boy. “I investigated this on KLM site and all that I had seen in my trance was a real fact stated on the website,” he reveals. That session changed his entire life. He left his job and took PLR therapist training along with his wife. Now they are both going to the well-known spiritual community, Damanhur, in South Italy to study it, and plan to start a similar community in India.
A transition doesn’t have to be dramatic every time. A gradual realisation of her spiritual longing and sincere efforts in the direction guided Noida-based yoga instructor Sangeeta Shaily from corporate HR towards yoga as a full-time vocation. “I met my guru, Acharya Girish Jha, in 2001. My husband used to attend his meditation sessions. His loving presence and simple wisdom inspired me to look within,” she says. Life Positive columnist, Shameem Akthar, is another of the many hundreds who are responding to the call of yoga. A successful journalist with Outlook magazine, she is today a compleat yoga advocate, writing books and columns about it, and teaching it as well. Says she, ‘Being in journalism pandered to my need for adrenaline rush. After realising the futility of trying to satiate that insatiable monster within, I realised the need for a powerful turnaround. But I must admit that it was not as if I made that choice. I remember resisting this turnaround for long. And even when I decided to be a yoga instructor, I brought with me that baggage of trying very hard, pushing myself over the edge.”
A lucky few find that their jobs are not incompatible with their spiritual values, and keep a foot on each stool, finding that one seems to enrich the other. Dr Sethi, a Delhi-based paediatrician and well-known Vipassana teacher, continues to juggle these two roles with ease. “I consider my work as an opportunity to serve, and to test my spirituality in the real world. As long as money is earned in order to enhance one’s ability to serve, and not the other way round, it is a great blessing,” he shares. He discovered his path when he first attended a Vipassana meditation camp many years ago. Since then there has been no looking back. He continues to lead meditation groups and provide free counselling in his spare time.
Gyandev, a spiritual consultant and therapist with Pune-based Kryon Source Education, who had a stint in advertising before moving into his present vocation, doesn’t like to single out any particular transition phase. “There is not just one transition phase… There are transitions happening on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Being into this sphere full-time is like being on a roller coaster… you are going up and down all the time. And every hurdle we cross enables us to assist someone else who comes to us with the same challenge later on,” he says.
Sometimes, the reverse happens. A change of jobs can lead one to spirituality. A desire to help his brother prompted Suresh Gogia, Founder-Director of Delhi-based Manotirth Spiritual & Charitable Society, to resign from his corporate job with British Airways and delve into the mysteries of the human psyche. He elaborates: “I resigned from British Airways in 1992 to cope with the stressful situation in my family arising because of my elder brother’s schizophrenia. To help my brother, and to better understand human behaviour, I met several psychiatrists and also enrolled myself as a volunteer with ‘Sanjivini’, a crisis intervention centre in South Delhi. On the request of my father, I also underwent a programme in hypnotism, to see if anything would work. All this activity exposed me to the agony and suffering of people undergoing mental torture because of lack of knowledge and support. I realised that mental imbalances can be avoided if there is adequate love and support. But unless that thin line is crossed, it becomes much more difficult to successfully establish a comeback. I was hooked. I wanted to do more and more to help people so that they would not land into situations similar to that of our family. And then, the death of my mother whom I idolised shattered my dream world completely and woke me up to the truths of life. Four years later, after the death of my father, I was now ready to move full-time into the world of spirituality as a vocation, because by now I had recognised that this was the missing link in the lives of people.”
The common thread running across all those who have made the transition seems to be faith in their own convictions and the courage to follow the inner calling. To let their work be a reflection of their core values. To let it reflect who they are. All these are strengths that the spiritual path offers. Coming to grips, in no matter how marginal a way, with the truths of life, and abiding by its laws, gives a powerful meaning to life and enables us to recognise its purpose. “Once you redefine your approach thus, a reservoir of untapped energy opens up inside. When means become as desirable as the ends, even the tedious aspects of your work hold a special value. You start welcoming life with a big ‘yes’ rather than a thousand tentative ‘nos’,” sums up Dr Sethi.
Having made the conscious shift towards a spiritual livelihood, what are the benefits they have gained?
“I have realised that spirituality and life are not two separate entities. Like body and mind. Any effect on one has an effect on the other. I do my work as a service to society and money is a recognition of that service. The value of your services can only be measured by the person who receives them. I have always been satisfied and grateful for what I receive and continue to be so,” shares Mr Gogia.
Susheel uses his newfound insight to structure his life more effectively and to look within for his own answers. He shares, “I have undergone a tremendous change in my approach towards life. For starters, I am no more the aggressive corporate person I used to be. Instead, aggression has been replaced with patience. I observe myself turn inside for answers to problems I face, or an adversary I encounter, which strangely is becoming more and more of a rarity. I am able to stay above the negative feeling when it does strike, and before it can influence me into haste, I diminish its power through identification and self-repair.”
Dr Sethi, while juggling his dual roles of a practising doctor and a spiritual guide learnt an important lesson regarding the role of money in his life, “I checked my primary motivation behind earning money. Did I serve in order to earn money, or was my earning aimed at facilitating better service? Over the years, I have discovered that when service is the primary motive, action is holistic and without resistance. Once the outward flow of energy is thus activated, an inflow of wealth is guaranteed. Then work is no longer a tedious chore, but an opportunity to share one’s gifts with others,” he says.
Facilitating others in their path of self-discovery also brings Gyandev closer to his own self. His personal quest is seamlessly complemented by his professional endeavours. “Incorporating the spiritual insights in day-to-day life is the challenging as well as the exhilarating part. Take, for instance, the word ‘truth’. We all call ourselves seekers of ‘truth’. But one day I realised that in real life, I was neither speaking the raw truth nor was I willing to listen to it. There was a part of me that just wanted to dilute, manipulate, and, if possible, escape the whole thing. There were suppressed conversations, half-expressed emotions, and a desire to avoid unpleasant truths that others had to say about me. That’s when the thought hit me: If I can’t speak the truth, if I can’t listen to the truth… this thing about being ‘a seeker of truth’ is all superficial. Reading or giving discourses on truth and honesty is one thing, but living it is another thing altogether. Living our ‘gyaan’ is an ongoing challenge for all of us. My effectiveness as a ‘transformer’ depends entirely on my ability to live my truth in my daily life. So I am continuously learning, evolving, and letting go on an ongoing basis,” he says.
There seems to be a pronounced and conscious shift in the outlook towards life and work. A journey towards self-discovery shaping all other endeavours. And money seems to seamlessly find its place in the scheme of things. Byron Katie puts it succinctly:
“The heart can sing, can’t it?! That’s why you wanted money in the first place. Well, you can skip the money part and just sing. It doesn’t mean you won’t have money, too. Can you do it for richer or poorer, as the world sees it? Yes, and all you’ve done is begin to tap into yourself – that’s all that has happened. You’ve just answered a few questions from deep inside you. Who would you be if you never believed the story, “I need money” again? You’ve believed that if you didn’t think you needed money, you would never have it. But the truth is that having money never had anything to do with thinking you needed it or not.”
When we trust in the abundant flow of life enough to let go of limiting concepts, money has to follow. That is the natural law. When we understand and base our decisions on this understanding, action becomes fearless and decisive. We realise we already have the security we wanted from money. It’s a lot easier to make money from this position. The money comes because it’s with the appropriate keeper.
Having aligned their heart and head and hands in their true calling, many seekers make a paradoxical discovery. There are few jobs that are not really spiritual. It’s the motivation which counts.
“A spiritual livelihood is one that is in integrity with who you really are. Even working at a call centre is a spiritual livelihood if your heart and mind are aligned to it. Working at a call centre is an excellent way to serve people. A livelihood ceases to be spiritual when the focus moves away from the work itself into other things like fame, prestige, money, or power,” says Gyandev.
Mr Gogia has a simple definition of the term. He says, “Taking charge of your own life without blaming either God or the world is ‘spiritual livelihood’ in my opinion. Whatever you do, do it well. That, I feel, is the essence of spirituality. It does not matter where you are, what kind of work you are doing…what matters at the end of the day is how honest you were in what you did. Then you can sleep well. This attitude has always been with me. Whenever I have felt that I am no more able to do justice to the work I have either chosen or been assigned, I have moved on in life taking it as an indication of the will of God.”
It is the intrinsic rewards of work that make it ‘spiritual’ for Dr Sethi. He shares, “Too often we judge our work with only the measurable, extrinsic rewards it offers. But the intrinsic rewards are far more valuable. Karma Yoga is the science of aligning one’s work with goals based on these intrinsic rewards. They include peace of mind, joy, a feeling of accomplishment and of making a difference to society at large. In the right hands, work can become a potent tool for self-realisation and purification. It is not the physical action but our attitude towards it that determines its fruition. This is the foundation on which I base all my actions.”
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