Do your work well. Do it with Love.
Yogah karmasu kowsalam
[Bhagavad Gita 2.50]
Suppose I build a machine.
The machine will do not just one activity as a robot does in a car assembly line, but many many activities. Not one variety of work as a lathe machine does but a variety of activities.
Unlike a robot or a lathe, the machine I design gets better at what it does the more it does it. I build it with skills to repair itself. I build in several fantastic features like flexibility, rigidity, selectivity, creativity and so on. Then I build in a novel feature, just for the fun of it. I put in a feature whereby the machine that I designed to do work actually resists work. To counter this resistance, I include a feature that loves work. Then, to ensure the machine doesn’t go haywire and out of control from these two opposing features, I build in a balancing feature.
Then I pull back and look at this machine. What do I see? I see myself.
Machine, god-made. [Source]
You see, I’m a working machine. I work through and through my life time. Except for the short bits of time I recharge during my deep-sleep hours every night. It is a steady onslaught of work, one piece after another that fills my life time. Every piece of work that comes my way breathes life into me.Seriously.Without work, I vegetate and pass away. I value work when I no longer am able to do it. Then the work laughs at me and just passes me by. By doing that it teaches me that it is not me who has been doing the work all these days but it is actually the other way around. The work is actually doing me. [Source]
I realize the value of something only in its absence. I take many things for granted as my natural and deserved entitlements. I do not appreciate them while I have them. I do not look at them to be what they truly are – blessings from Bhagavan. Truthfully, they are nothing less than that.
A piece of work that comes my way is the loudest blessing of the silence of Love. It hugs me tightly in its grasp and leads me in the dance of life.
Just see what a piece of work does. I could be preparing a five year strategic business plan, speaking, cooking, playing with friends, watching TV, playing the violin, sending a text message, taking the blood pressure of a patient or any of the other myriad things I do. What the work is doesn’t matter. But what it does matters. The piece of work infuses life and impels me to act. It impels my mental, physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual muscles to move. Voila! I become alive ! Without work, what will I be? A breathing corpse and no more.
So, the first thing I learn from work is that I must be grateful to it. It really doesn’t matter what it is. It could be sweeping the floor, reciting the vedas, comforting a crying child or running after a bus on the streets of Chennai. I must mentally worship it because it gives life to my life.
The second thing I learn from work is that I cannot escape it.
I have three natural impulses. Very much like what a car has. A braking force, an accelerating force and a balancing force. These three impulses compel me into doing the work whether I like to do it or not.
Three natural impulses[Source]
All are certainly being pressed unawares into action by their natural impulses
kaaryate hi avasah karma sarvah prakrutijaih gunaih [Bhagavad Gita 3.5]
The work itself along with my natural impulses will compel me to do it. The most difficult work in life is to do nothing. It is actually impossible to do nothing. Try doing nothing for a while and see what happens.
Work does me and I cannot escape it. How do I relate to work then? There is one “Do” and three “Don’t”s that work teaches me.
- Do your action – that is your right.
- Do not desire result at any time.
- Do not undertake an action desiring results.
- Do not be attached to inaction.
karmanyeva adhikaaraste maa phaleshu kadaachana | ma karmaphalaheturbhooh maa te sangotstu akarmani || [ Bhagavad Gita 2.47]
Do your action – that is your right. Life is a 24 x 7 gym where my mind can get strengthened and straightened out. Every item of work is an exercise for my mind to decrease selfishness, expand my heart and seek the welfare of others over my own. Every piece of work lights up the path of sacrifice and beckons me to follow this path. Till I become good at sacrifice and till my selfishness becomes zero, the waves of work will continue to lap on the of shore my life. Every work that comes my way is my right as an exercise to practice sacrifice. It is also my responsibility to execute this right properly.
Do not desire result at any time. Desiring results from my actions is one of the most wondrous traps I’ve fallen into. This desire is an amazingly mesmerizing mirage. It actually limits me from doing my job well. If I do a job well, I should get the result I want, right? But it doesn’t always happen that way. Sometimes I get the results I want, sometimes not and some other times I get exactly opposite of what I wanted. This teaches me two things. Results follow actions. But not always in the way I desire, predict and expect. The result of my action is not in my control. But how I do the work is very much up to me.
Do not undertake an action desiring results. It sounds crazy not to desire the result of my work, doesn’t it? I want to get an A+ and study hard. I desire to finish an assignment by the morning and work hard towards it. I do many such goal-driven actions in my life. These goals and my attachment to them generate the work for me. This work along with my natural impulses – not the desire for achieving the goal – compel me to work the way I do. I know the results will come from my actions. But when I sweat mentally worrying if the results will be the way I want, my concentration suffers, application of skills falters and tension sets in. With a tense, stressed-out mind I cannot do any action well. By desiring a certain result, I’m handicapping my work from achieving that. Instead, I must embrace the work and be driven by the work itself. I must apply myself fully to it and mentally decouple from the result. The moment I do that, I actually do the work better, more efficiently, with increased productivity and fewer errors.
Do not be attached to inaction. There is always stuff to do. Some are interesting, some boring. Biting into a jangiri is fun. Unloading the dishwasher is not. Which one should I do – the fun stuff or the boring stuff?
Ironically, there is more fun in doing the boring stuff. This improves my attitude, ability and approach to work. Lethargy and postponement cost time and happiness. Bias for action is a healthy thing in life. Bias for inaction is not.
Doing the work well saves time. By doing it well first time around, I don’t need to go for seconds. My skill-sets become sharper. My well being improves. And I actually end up achieving more.
In the field of US Presidential elections, the state of Ohio normally elects the winner. In the universe of work also OHIO delivers the winner – OHIO as in, “Only Handle It Once”.
The sun shines in selfless love for the well being of others. In doing so, it sacrifices itself. If I can emulate the sun in doing my work, then I would have learned how to do work well. I can then get a glimpse of true time management. I can peek into how time manages itself.
More on this in the next post.
With every breath I take, I live.
With every work I do as worship in gratitude and in Love, I become alive.