October 17, 2014

What We Do is Overrated.


Do you want to hear a conversation stopper?

Here’s one. I’ve used it before—and it works every time:

You’re chatting with a dude you’ve just met—at an airport, we’ll say—and he asks you the proverbial question: “So what do you do?”

Answer: “I don’t do anything: I am.”


No, I’m not a pundit, guru, or Zen Buddhism practitioner. I’m just a fella who thinks for a living.

What if you’re disabled, injured or incapacitated in any other way? What do you do then? Nothing? Just because you can’t work, produce, or bring home the bacon, does that relegate you to the socially inept or—even stigmatized—status of “Well she doesn’t really do anything; but she’s a lovely person and very sweet to be around”?

Or what if, like me, you think, write, spiritually direct and facilitate the occasional program for a living, but don’t actually “hold down” a professional nine to five job replete with office, PC, clients and customized dress code? Does that make me a social misfit dreaming and “doing my thing” on the margins? Off the mainstream radar, so to speak, drifting aimlessly in my own incidental and inconsequential twilight zone?

Let’s look at this.

The problem:


As I see it, many decent unsuspecting folks—and others who play the system—overly identity with their job, professional persona and careerist ambitions. It’s cultural conditioning, a hunger for loving acceptance, and ego impulses all rolled into one perfect fusion.

So what’s the corrective to this (as I see it) unhealthy, misguided trend?


In Buddhism there is a term “Turiyatita.”

It means the participant observer, the one who doesn’t identity with his physical body or public persona, but still totally honors the experience/mission of incarnation.

I believe that this is the goal those of us who are overly-consumed with our professional identity need to aim for.
What you do is overrated: it is who you are in the doing of what you do, that is pivotal to your spiritual growth. Therefore, it matters not whether you are a mega celeb, president, or a benighted soul eking out a living in the barrios.

What matters is the disposition of awareness you bring to every experience you create.

Is it a disposition of presence, kindness, and compassion? Or is it one of gratuitous self-aggrandizement? In the final analysis, it will not be your profession, fame, money or social standing that will matter—but the moral and spiritual legacy you leave behind that you will be remembered for.

So what are you going to do about that?


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Evelyn/Flickr

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