I recently became a bit overwhelmed at work. I had assumed personal responsibility for a client deadline that required a dedicated effort to accomplish. But other client requests and internal company needs kept coming in, mounting higher and higher. I got stressed and starting having negative reactions every time anyone asked anything more of me.
That of course turned into fatigue and unpleasantness dealing with my actual life. I started wondering if there was some sort of spiritual message in it.
Then I woke up a little bit more. I released myself from the personal responsibility for the deadline. All the troubled clouds disappeared, my internal sky became serene and blue again. I first saw the release of responsibility as a decision to let others bear the consequences of their actions, but then emerged into the awareness that the deadlines and consequences are both equally unreal and irrelevant. In a year’s time, they will have dissipated into their essential nothingness.
You see a lot of people posting stuff online about the fierce dedication and desire needed to build a successful company, accomplish a great feat, or do anything of consequence. As pretty as those ideas are, most of the consequences are not ones we should want. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)
In fact, I let go of nothing – because I had been grabbing fiercely to nothing, and for no reason.
Unnatural Boundaries in Work
There is a subtle line in intention between the work itself and the outcomes of that work. It’s easily confused. On one side is what you intend to do, on the other is what you intend to accomplish. The doing and the accomplishing are very different. Any work by itself is fundamentally a service to mankind and, through that, a service to the divine (or a disservice to both). The outcomes – the achievements, the results – are nothing more than the ego framework that we overlay on it.
Just as we can’t perceive the truth or the world if we overlay it with abstractions and interpretations from the lower mind, we can’t perceive our very own actions and work through that veil.
The unnatural boundaries are the imagined finish lines that we see in anything we do with a focus on the outcome. The true, natural boundaries are those that exist through provision and circumstance. When we simply do the best we are able in work, there is nothing more to be done. We can’t martyr our families, spiritual practices, creative outlets, time in nature, or any of our other blessings to accomplish more than our best. The arena of work-life balance is all about this fuzzy line, so difficult to sketch out on an ego mind-map.
In all work and academia, let us release all personal responsibility after having done the best we could – let us hand over the outcomes to God.
Other Unnatural Boundaries
The same sort of unnatural and natural boundaries exist in anything we wish to consider. If we edge into unawareness while eating, we continue eating after our hunger is satisfied – the lower mind’s physicality, the body, continues by itself. Our egos also regard our endeavors of parenting as personal conflict, and if we aren’t careful we can easily become dictators or spoilers instead of holy guides to our children.
And if we spoil our children, we have moments when we are exhausted and overwhelmed in family activities. And if we eat too much, we inevitably acquire illnesses. And if we work too much, we become angry and bitter – hungry ghosts wandering in that false reality that drifts like smoke under the true world. The fuzzy line is the boundary between the true and dreamt worlds, but it’s easy to miss if we focus on unnatural boundaries we imagine somewhere in the smoke.
In all activities, let us release our expectations and desires so that we may receive, sense, and follow higher spiritual guidance.
Releasing Personal Responsibility
I have found that the directions coming through our spiritual channels are profoundly simple.
You get hungry and the cupboards are bare. Ego says it’s time to hit a fast-food restaurant. Spirit says that it’s time to release some of your identification between your consciousness and your body. For there will come a time when your body will fail, shrivel up and blow away – and you can either pay some of the dues of that release now or pay them all when the time comes. This little adventure’s unnatural boundary ends with greasy fries, but the natural boundary is a careful, slow, mindful grocery store trip.
You decide to go buy a movie and you don’t find it in the store you visit, but outside there is a desperate-looking man pan-handling. Ego says it’s time to avert your eyes and hit another store. Spirit says that it’s time to release some of your identification between your consciousness and your ownership – that the homeless man is you, that you’re seeking refuge in mass media instead of awareness and presence. This adventure’s unnatural boundary ends with quiet discomfort as you watch the movie and eat popcorn on the sofa, but the natural boundary is the giving of the money for the movie to the desperate man – of healing yourself of this driving instinct into oblivion.
You decide that you’re going to hit a deadline at work no matter what, but innumerable changes and urgent requests prevent that from being possible in the natural order of your life. Ego says it’s time to gear up for an intense marathon and focus on work above everything else in your life, so that you’ll be successful. Spirit says that it’s time to release some of your identification between your consciousness and your work. For there will come a time when you will be unable to work in this particular way, when nothing more than consciousness and spirit exists for you as you transition out of this world. This adventure’s unnatural boundary ends with self-induced illness from stress and overwork, but the natural boundary is the full release of “career” and “professionalism” from your mind at the end of the work-day.
When we release our personal responsibility for the unnatural boundaries, we find ourselves still indebted to our natural selves and divinity. Through grace and spirit, we are given yet more time here to eat simply and naturally. We are given yet more time to reverse the negativity and bad learning we were given by being kind, loving parents. We are given yet more time here to choose a life fully lived instead of the oblivion of television, alcohol, and work. We still have responsibilities to do the best that we are able, to love and have compassion, to share laughter and happiness. But those aren’t really personal responsibilities, for it is the very fabric and nature that we were created to be. It is our natural order, and we are given yet more time to undo that illusions we’ve built over it.
You and I keep attempting to go beyond the natural boundaries – to establish new, unnatural boundaries out there in the fiction and darkness beyond the light of creation. That attempt is the karma and suffering we store for ourselves. But we can release it in an instant.
Let us do so.