“Do what you want and the money will follow”

In December I left my high flying job in London and moved to the other side of the world, to follow my dream – to work for myself.

 

Whilst in London I realised that the work pressure wasn’t just economic, society defines us by our job title. My job role sounded amazing and I would constantly hear “wow you’re so lucky, such a glamourous job”, but deep down I hated it. One day it hit me that working doing something you love is the path to a satisfying life, so I handed my notice in, bought a one-way ticket to Singapore and started the journey of owning my own business. The yoga tradition offers a great deal of wisdom on work and how yoga can help with the work/life pressures.

 

From a yogic perspective, what matters most is not what work you do, but how you do it. The yoga teachings on livelihood offers a plan for making your daily work a yoga practice. Making it clear to you your values, and then bringing an attitude that allows all the actions to come to your work, whatever you do. These practices give meaning even to annoying tasks. They also open a path to independence that you can monitor throughout your daily life. There are five guiding beliefs for lining up your actions at work with your yoga practice. These actions are taken from the Bhagavad Gita, the great yogic text in which Krishna teaches Prince Arjuna how to live a life of yoga as he satisfies his duty as a warrior. They outline what is often called karma yoga, the yoga of action. Putting these principles into practice at work may not make you rich, but helps line up your on-the-job life with your on-the-mat one.

 

Do Work That Suits Your Nature

Bhagavad Gita’s key teaching is the bottom line for making work into yoga. If your job seems like an endless struggle, one question to think about is whether that job is for you. Work that fits your nature (in Sanskrit, your swadharma) is, ideally, work that you are good at, but it is also work that feels natural. So, though I was a good communicator and fairly “good” with people, the work forced me to push beyond my limits in a way that created endless low-level stress. I finally realised I was a square peg trying to fit into a round hole, and I needed to let go of the job. The first step in starting my own business was being able to figure out how to use my natural skills and make something that would be wanted in Asia. I was always creative and always loved seeing the things I thought of, coming to life. Owning a business was something I was always drawn to but I didn’t know if it could support me financially. I knew I had to figure out a way to make it work so that I could actually pay the rent! The next four principles will help me to achieve success.

 

Practice Skill in Action

Yoga is a skill in action. Krishna tells his disciple Arjuna that the yoga of action—in effect, the yoga of work—is the best path to freedom. He even describes yoga as a “skill in action.” The skill Krishna refers to is not just doing your tasks well, its deeper than that, it is the yogic ability to throw yourself entirely into a task. To exercise the yoga of action is to do whatever you do flawlessly, with full attention, and for its own sake. Chances are you regularly bring your best self to the mat, however in your daily life, whether you’re working at the office or making dinner, you may give yourself approval to be distracted. Approaching your work with your full presence and with your highest quality of attention helps you overcome your resistance and manage distraction. In other words, it lets you do the best job you’re capable of.

 

Surrender to the Outcome

“You have a right to the work alone, not to its fruits,” “Therefore, do not set your heart on the results of your actions.” Krishna says. When I first read this teaching, I wondered how it was possible to do something you care about without feeling attached to the results.

 

Here are why the above two quotes are the most powerful teaching on the yoga of work. Firstly, you never know how things will turn out. You don’t know if anyone will buy the hats what you make (with your new business) or whether you’ll have any students at your six o’clock yoga class. However, when you’re doing the work for the sake of the work itself, rather than for the money, you’re much less likely to suffer from anxiety about outcomes. You’re also less likely to feel frustration if things don’t go the way you hoped or planned.

T.S. Eliot described this balance as “Teach us to care and not to care.” This shows that it doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t get annoyed if things go wrong on the job, but when you remember that your agreement with life doesn’t indicate that you’ll always get what you want, you’ll find that even in the midst of trying to repair the damage from a mistake, you won’t feel like such a victim.

 

Do Your Work as a Service

You need to consider yourself a servant, and to think of all others as being the one to be served. Bhagavad Gita, verses 18-65, by Jnaneshwar states that a person living in a consumer culture, learning how to do your work as a service can be edifying. Service is not so much about the type of work you do but the manner in which you bring to it. To serve means that you do something not just for wealth or self-worth but for the sake of being helpful. The sense of service can be applied anywhere, making unlikeable tasks meaningful.

 

Make Your Work an Offering

“He who does actions, offering them to the Absolute and abandoning attachment, is free from error.” Bhagavad Gita. The last teaching that Krishna gives to Arjuna on the yoga of action takes it a step deeper. “Whatever you do Arjuna, make it an offering, and then the work itself will be a path to liberation”. Making your work an offering basically means bringing an attitude of dedication to your actions. When you do your work as an offering, it takes you beyond worrying about success or failure. Whatever you are doing, whether it’s important or not, you can offer it. By offering your work, your practice, and even your small everyday tasks, you align yourself with the world, and your work becomes yoga—the natural path combining yourself with the universe.

 

Luisa Vass YTT 200 (week day)