“Work here and work done in the world are of course not the same thing. The work there is not in any way a divine work in special—it is ordinary work in the world. But still one must take it as a training and do it in the spirit of Karma Yoga—what matters there is not the nature of the work in itself, but the spirit in which it is done. It must be in the spirit of the Gita, without desire, with detachment, without repulsion, but doing it as perfectly as possible, not for the sake of the family or promotion or to please the superiors, but simply because it is the thing that has been given in the hand to do. It is a field of inner training, nothing else. One has to learn in it these things, equality, desirelessness, dedication. It is not the work as a thing for its own sake, but one’s doing of it and one’s way of doing it that one has to dedicate to the Divine. Done in that spirit, it does not matter what the work is. If one trains oneself spiritually like that, then one will be ready to do in the true way whatever special work directly for the Divine, ( such as the Ashram work ) one may any day be given to do.” – Sri Aurobindo
This quote from Sri Aurobindo is an incredibly important quote for deep contemplation and meditation on our lives in the modern world. One of the most common questions I receive is “How can I find joy or satisfaction in my daily life?”. This question is often asked in conjunction with the idea of “how can I balance my spiritual life and my mundane life?”.
Aurobindo’s point is an excellent example of how these two questions can be integrated into the actions of our daily lives. I frequently see individuals lamenting the mundane details of their daily lives while in the same breath asking me “how do you find the time to do so many things!!??”. The writings of Vedic culture have always influenced all aspects of my life. I have always striven to make every action in my life a sacred ritual to the Divine, in gratitude and devotion to the higher goal of Self-Realization.
Have I achieved success in this endeavor? Well, this depends on the definition of “success.”
My daily life is filled with endless mundane details: Waking up at 6am to get a run in before seeing patients all day at my clinic; answering emails; spending time working on writing projects; finding time to deepen my practice of Kung Fu; teaching Kung Fu; taking care of my rescue animals; working on charity projects which inspire me; keeping up with the endlessly growing stack of medical books / medical studies to read; spending private time in nature; spending quality social time with inspiring friends; coaching running; studying with my teachers from India; eating meals with gratitude; checking up on my mother and her daily life. The list goes on and on.
Yet none of this is exhausting to me. All of these activities are dedicated to my pursuit for the manifestation of the Divine within the mundane world. I feel lucky to have the vitality, health, and resources to be able to pursue all of these activities. All of these pursuits intertwine and interconnect, each one informing and inspiring the other. We must use the words of Sri Aurobindo to frame our daily lives and daily activities into a larger integrated perspective.
To see the daily details of our lives as boring or unimportant is a dangerous mistake. Every single aspect of our daily lives can be transformed into an opportunity to grow, to learn, to soften the ego, and strengthen the mind. For example, I see my daily pursuit of martial arts and physical fitness as a literal offering to the Divine, a sacrificial offering to the inner flame of Agni.
Does this mean that I don’t get tired or bored?
Of course not.
But the feelings of boredom or fatigue are fleeting, clouds in the sky of my life. Any time I find such emotions appearing, I always take the time to remember someone who is unable to run because they lost their legs to war or disease. How lucky am I to have a health body to actually feel fatigue!! I am reminded of this daily as I help patients navigate the complicated waters of disease and discomfort. I relish the pain and fatigue of training: it means I’m alive and active in a mysterious world of Divine revelation.
In the words of William Blake:
“Every morn and every night, some are born to sweet delight, some are born to sweet delight, some are born to endless Night….”
We must not waste or take for granted the numerous gifts we have: the luxury of boredom in a world of horror and war, the luxury of fatigue in a world filled with pain and starvation. The arrogance of the un-afflicted.
We must learn to see each moment of our lives, even the ones filled with fatigue, frustration or dissatisfaction as opportunities to grow, learn, adapt and help others. Some individuals will be born to a life of war, torture, pain and suffering.
I remind myself of this daily as well. I always recommend individuals to create small rituals in the morning and evening to take the time to express gratitude for the opportunity to have another day free from pain, suffering and death. We take for granted that there will be another day, another night…but maybe not. While this may seem morose or depressing to some, I find this of vital importance to constantly contemplate.
The pursuit of martial arts and Vedic sciences since a child has obviously informed my life but we do not need to travel to mysterious lands to comprehend the luxuries that are taken for granted on a daily basis in the modern world.
The next time you are tired or bored, remind yourself how lucky you are to have a physical body, to have another day on this mysterious planet, another day to talk to a friend or family member, another day to worship the Divine.