A few months ago, I came out of meditation with words echoing in my head, “Wake up! You have much to do, but you must be awake to do it!” I kept thinking about how I might do this throughout the day, and I eventually wrote the words on a sticky note and set it next to my computer at work. Maybe, it would work like an affirmation. So, this idea has been fermenting in my spirit for a while. I came to a realization this week that I think is related to this idea of “waking up.”
I work a very mundane job, very “of this world,” as a systems engineer. In everyday terms, I work with computers of varying sizes and complexities, all day. In the evenings, and on weekends, I spend time with loved ones, journal, blog, meditate, pray, read, create, and whatever else I can fit in. Perhaps it is because my day seems so divided that it is so easy to compartmentalize things. I don’t know. Maybe this is true for everyone. I see my world with really clear-cut segments: This is my work life. That is my spiritual life.
I keep hoping that someday, I will be able to earn a living in a way that is “more spiritual.” I have dreams of ministering to people, learning from them, teaching them, helping them heal, find their way, be all they can be. Then, it hit me: I might not recognize a more spiritual life if it reached out and poured cold water on my head!
You see, I was reading the book I reviewed for last week’s post, Stepping Off the Edge, by Sandy Nathan. At multiple points in the book, she says it flat out:
“Your life, as you complete the breath you’re on right now, wherever you are, is it for you. You can’t do anyone else’s life.”
Intellectually, or at least, in some part of my brain even if it wasn’t a totally conscious thought, I have always known this. How can one be on a life’s journey part-time? Somehow, though, it simply didn’t click until I read Sandy’s work. This worldly, mundane, techno-centric job I do right now … THIS is where I am on my spiritual path. Every helpdesk call, every server rebuild, every problem solved or escalated, each and every moment of my work day is my opportunity to reach for Spirit. I am not talking about proselytizing or expounding on my personal belief system. I am talking about living my connection to spirit. Do I interact with people in a way that shows love and respect? Do I approach problems with an open spirit resembling the ‘beginner’s mind?’ In short, do I approach my work as spiritual training?
I’m sure that many of you have seen the movie, “Karate Kid.” In one scene, the main character is told to wash his teacher’s cars, using a specific technique the teacher calls, “Wax on! Wax off!” This often-quoted part of the movie is so iconic, it has become part of our cultural vocabulary. As viewers, we totally understand why the kid gets frustrated. He wants to do great things, but he’s being asked to wash cars! Where’s the glory? Where’s the honor? Where’s the training? His dream is big. Working toward it should feel like a big deal, not like menial labor. Yet, he finds that the technique he is using to wash the cars is training his body-mind to respond instinctively with very effective movements, corresponding to basic karate moves. He learns that training doesn’t have to be glorious. Honor is in the eye of the beholder. Effectiveness is what counts when the day is done.
In the same way as the Karate Kid, I realize now that I am living the “Wax on! Wax off!” stage of my spiritual training. If I can’t find my spiritual center in these mundane days of technical troubleshooting, I certainly won’t be able to find it when I shift my life’s course into that of a spiritual teacher and healer. When I look at it from this perspective, my job is very good training. I help people every day, keeping in touch with my compassion and patience. I teach them how to use technology to their benefit, and write instructions for them to follow when I am not there. I try to help them learn to troubleshoot at a basic level, so they are empowered and feel more comfortable dealing with their new-to-them technology. I work behind the scenes to make their experience as beneficial as possible. Seen this way, I feel more confident that when the opportunity comes to change my focus from technology to Spirit, I’ll be ready …