June 9, 2009

Surviving the Workplace.

When 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.

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