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Excerpted from Work As a Spiritual Practice by Lewis Richmond. Copyright 1999 by Lewis Richmond. Excerpted by permission of Broadway, a division of Random House, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"What is your work? What is your passion? What is your aspiration, your dream, your calling?"

Lewis Richmond
Work As a Spiritual Practice
, Part 1

The Koan of Everyday Life

To find joy in your work is the greatest thing for a human being.

-- Harry Roberts: agronomist, cowboy, woodworker, welder, boxer, gun-sight maker, spiritual teacher in the Native American tradition, and Ginger Rogers's dance partner

"So. What do you do?"

How many times have you been asked that question and answered, without thinking, "I'm a lawyer," or "I'm an aerobics instructor," or "I'm a musician." But beyond small talk, that question suggests a deeper inquiry.

What, indeed, do you DO, here on this earth, here in your life? What is your work? What is your passion? What is your aspiration, your dream, your calling? Do you find joy in your work? Have you given up hoping that joy is something you might expect from work? Or do you love your work so much that you have no time to enjoy anything else? Why do you have the job you do? Is it just a way to make ends meet, or is it something more? What is the relationship between your inner self and your outer, public life on the job?

This book seeks to guide you on a path of spiritual discovery about the work that you do and offer practical ways to make that work more connected to your inner life. I don't know if what you learn will improve your job in a conventional sense. Who knows, it might make you upset enough to quit your job and find a better one! But it may help you in a spiritual sense.

I am a Buddhist, which means I am also a realist. In our society, work is not expected to be spiritually satisfying. For the most part, our jobs are designed to make someone somewhere a profit.

Listen to what one recent writer to Ann Landers had to say about his job:

Why should anybody give their best effort on the job? No one cares about the worker anymore. Growing up in the '60s, we were taught that giving your best would always ensure your employment. That's baloney. It's all a matter of random chance whether or not your job continues. I've been laid off twice through no fault of my own.

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