Surviving the Workplace.

Via on Jun 9, 2009

Nadia B. PictureWhen I graduated from law school, I knew for a fact that I did not want to be a lawyer.  The concept of being a lawyer was something that made me feel so uncomfortable.  Struggle was the feeling that permeated my body at the thought of having to do work that went against my spiritual principles.  I was a student of Buddhism for only two years and it spoke to my soul.  I just could not figure out how to be a lawyer and yet be true to what I believed.

About five months after graduation, I headed to India in hopes that I would find my answer.  I went to an ashram and meditated but nothing came to mind.  When I returned back to the States, I got a job at a law firm and really did not like going to work every day.  This went on for many, many months.

A few years after graduation, I was initiated into a Buddhist order and seriously considered becoming a nun.  I was pretty much on that track but I knew it was not the right path for me and returned my full focus to being in the world.

One day I saw a lecture about Milarepa (a Buddhist saint) by Robert Thurman and for some reason, I decided to contact Dr. Thurman via email with my issue and see if he had any advice.  Looking back at it, I am somewhat amazed at my nerve but when you are desperate, you will do anything to find an answer.

Dr. Thurman wrote me back two days later and he told me that there was nothing wrong with being a lawyer and a Buddhist at the same time.  I do not remember his exact words but he stated that I could use my career as a method to practice my beliefs.  It was not the answer I was looking for but I was happy that he had the compassion to write back to me.  However, as life would have it, I did eventually come to understand what he meant.

My struggles with my job continued until, finally, I realized that I just could not do it anymore.  I felt disconnected from myself and I wanted a break from it all.  So I quit my job, sold most of my stuff, closed some accounts and went off to live in India for six months.  My family thought I was insane.  As one relative said to me: “Nadia, most people leave India to come to America and you are doing the reverse, why?”  I just needed to drop out for a while and it was one of the best things I have ever done.

While in India, I wrote, did yoga, meditated, studied, did some sightseeing and had a better understanding of what I wanted my life to be like.  When I returned home, I did some work at a publishing house and eventually found myself back at work as a lawyer.

The law firm, although a new one, was really not much different from my previous job…the same kinds of people but the difference this time was my attitude.  I realized that although being a lawyer was not my passion, it gave me the ability to do what I so much love to do.  It enables me to write, to buy the books that I love to read, it enables me to pay my bills and I do help people along the way.

Once I saw the beauty of what my job gave me, the resistance to it went away.  Even though my attitude towards it has changed, I know that I do not want to be a lawyer for the rest of my life, but until I can do what I love full-time, I have no problem with my day job.

It is important to have a job that speaks to your soul and if you are fortunate to make a living doing something you love, that is wonderful.  However, some of us have to do two jobs in the meanwhile and that is fine.  Some people simply just do not love their job and lament about their misery every day.

The great thing about life is that it all boils down to perception. Here are some things you can do which may enable you to better survive the workplace:

1. Realize that nothing lasts forever and that includes being at your job. There is no law that says that you have to stay at your job for your entire life.
2. Your misery of having to be at your job really does not do anything to help improve the situation and will only make things more difficult.
3. You may not love the people you work with but that does not mean you have to be mean or unkind to them.
4. Realize that you do have the power to have a life that you love. If your job is sucking the life out of you, then do what you can to switch jobs. If there is nothing you can do, then see the benefits of what you have until you can switch to something that makes you happier.

Sometimes we get so caught up in what we don’t have, we forget to see the beauty in what we do have until it is too late.  The same applies to your career.

Being mindful is a state of awareness that should not only be used when meditating, but at every moment of your life.  Compassion and loving kindness should not be reserved just for when you meditate or for your friends and loved ones.  It should become a state of being.

About Nadia Ballas-Ruta

Nadia Ballas-Ruta is a former attorney and almost took final vows as a Vedanta nun with the prestigious Ramakrishna Order. She has traveled the world, lived in India and so much more. She currently is working as a freelance writer and photographer. The focus of her work as an artist is to help people recognize their inherent Divinity. She is also a regular contributor at Think Simple Now.

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16 Responses to “Surviving the Workplace.”

  1. Lisis says:

    Oh, Nadia! Number 2 is SOOOO important (and difficult to do). The feeling of being trapped, being a victim, having "the worst job in the world" can be so toxic, and yet it's tough to get out of that mindframe. I wonder why some people can and others just cannot escape that mental prison?

    • Nadia says:

      Hi Lisis,

      Great point and question regarding number two. Some people are inclined to see the positive and others are not. I have come to notice that when you don't have something to believe in, it is easier to lean towards the negative. Apologies on the brevity of my reply but to answer your question effectively I would need a lot of space. So I will leave it for a future post. Thank you for the inspiration.

  2. Tiko says:

    Wow…this article is the answer to a prayer I've been praying for the past two months. I feel I've just had an epiphany…seriously. Thank you!

  3. Lance says:

    Hi Nadia,
    Thanks for continuing to share the journey your on. I see so much passion in your writing, and it speaks volumes to your soul. And I can relate to having a job while also focusing on a true calling. We all do what we have to, to get where we desire to be. And you are. I hope that I am also. I'm definitely giving focused effort in that area right now, so reading here tonight strike a chord with me – one that I can relate very much to…

  4. Great post, Nadia! I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks for breaking it down into 4 points. I really need to work on these and I appreciate you bringing them to my attention.

  5. Paisley says:

    For many people having a job, any job is a cause for celebration and gratitude (I was fortunate enough to experience this). I believe it does depend on how you use the opportunities you are given that leads to a point where you can choose what you want. Your example of having an extra job in order to fulfil your calling is a most practical solution.

    • Nadia says:

      Hi Paisley,

      You are absolutely right that we have the choice as to how we handle the opportunities that we are given. I think we forget that sometimes.

      • John says:

        In any situation in life. We can only control ourselves and how we react to this situation. We cannot control anything else in life. Learning to control one self and how you react is something we all struggle with every day. If you want to be happy in life, only you can make yourself happy. No one else can tell you be happy. Hard lesson, but well worth the effort. Thanks for writing Nadia, you have reinforced this point, to find happiness in life is to look within.

        • Nadia says:

          Hi John,

          You are most welcome. Happiness is definitely within and it has always been within. I spent so many years of my life looking for happiness outside of myself so you can imagine my surprise (and joy) when I realized I had it within me the whole time. :)

  6. Nadia says:

    Hi Janice,

    I love your comment about how loving children and learning from them is a form of spiritual practice. That is so true and yes, number four is important. We can have a life that we love.

  7. Nadia says:

    Hi Lance,

    Thank you, my friend, for saying that there is passion in my writing. That means a lot. :) I am so pleased that you could relate to the post and I have no doubt that you will find a way to focus on your calling too.

  8. Xenu says:

    I went to law school and practiced law. For a long time, the "idea" of being a lawyer trumped the painful reality of being and working as a lawyer. Everybody else was impressed, my family loved that I was a lawyer, but I was miserable. I was tortured by the question of "right livelihood" because twisting the truth and manipulating procedure to win at any cost was killing me. After one particularly horrible work experience that I swore I would never do again, I received a paycheck for my work. Looking down at the number on the check, I realized that if there had been one or two more zeros on that number, I would do it again. That scared me. I realized I was prostituting my integrity, my being, for the security of a paycheck. Needless to say I quit being a lawyer, but I'm one of the lucky ones. If there had been more zeros . . .

  9. Steven says:

    Nadia, Many thanks for telling of your experience and opening up discussion here on this intimate subject.

    Xenu, Its like I was reading my memiors! Your thoughts and mine on the practice of law, particularly litigation, are the same. I too gave up law, for the reason that my integrity became more valuable to me that the bells and whistles that came with the job.

    May the Peace of God be All of Ours.

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