Work never seems to end. Just when you think you’ve completed a list of tasks and give a sigh of relief, you remember one more thing that has to be done. And then another, and another. It’s mentally and physically exhausting. The list of tasks keeps growing. If there is a stop, it’s only temporary and less urgent tasks are postponed to another day.=
When you convert your work into worship, the list may not necessarily get smaller, but the work doesn’t drain you. In fact, you seem to get an inexhaustible supply of energy and enthusiasm to do your work. How can you do this? Who are you worshipping through your work?
Worship is always of the divine higher power. You can call it God, the Universe, Nature, Source, or by any other name.
The earth, air, fire, the lakes, the rivers, plants and trees, the sun, and nature’s other gifts are free for us all to use. To facilitate our lives and daily interactions, we have been given five senses, a body, and a mind by this benevolent higher power.
The divine alone sustains our existence. So, it’s only natural, and it seems right, to do something in return with a feeling of gratitude.
When we remember the divine and dedicate our actions to it with a feeling of gratitude, this converts our work into worship. This is why it is called the yoga of action, or karma yoga.
A yoga refers to a spiritual discipline that unites us with the divine. In this case, dedicating our actions to the divine converts our actions (“karma” in Sanskrit), into a yoga. They then also become a means to grow spiritually.
5 ways to convert your work into worship
To convert your work into worship, here are five principles of Karma Yoga to live by.
1. Always perform your duties.
Duties come to us unasked based on our role and position in life. They are done primarily for others such as our duties at home and at work.
When we do our duties, we invariably help ourselves as well. For example, keeping a clean house makes life more pleasant and comfortable for all. Doing your job well helps the company which in turn supports you.
When we do our duties, it directs our energies which may be spent on some unproductive or mere time-filling activities, into productive work good for all.
2. Do your duties to the best of your ability, cheerfully, happily without complaining or resisting.
Our duties entail doing many tasks, some of which we may dislike. We often want to do only what we enjoy and try to avoid or delay doing what we find difficult, inconvenient, or unpleasant. We must not allow our personal likes and dislikes to determine what we do and how well we do it.
Having strong likes and dislikes agitate the mind and make us dependent on outer people and circumstances for our happiness.
Think of your duties as being sent by the Universe for your inner growth.
By dedicating our work to the divine, we overcome our personal likes and dislikes which brings peace and inner growth.
3. Do your duties without a feeling of ego.
Everything we have are gifted to us. Our physical and mental abilities such as being able to see, hear, speak, walk, think, and feel make it possible for us to do the work that we do.
Therefore, there should be no feeling of pride or arrogance when performing our duties. See yourself as an instrument of the divine, serving others through the work that has been brought to you.
4. Detach from thinking about the results or rewards of your actions.
Never insist on wanting to gain specific results from your actions because the results are always out of our hands.
Results come in the future, and they are dependent on a wide variety of outer factors out of our control. For example, you can plan and prepare for a great presentation at work, but a power outage may make it impossible for you to present when you actually get to work.
We only have the freedom to choose what we do and the attitude with which we do it.
The results can be the motivators of action, but we should not be thinking of them while we are working.
Thinking about the results while working gives rise to fear, anxiety or worry about the possibility of not getting what we hope for. These concerns distract us from the work at hand and take away efficiency while working.
5. No matter what results you get, accept them cheerfully with an even mind as blessings from the divine.
Since you have dedicated your actions or we can say, surrendered them to the divine, the results that you get are a blessing from the divine. They may not be exactly what you wanted, but if you are able to accept them graciously, without anger, disappointment or complaint, you will remain peaceful.
In fact, when you perform your actions in the karma yoga attitude mentioned here, you will find joy in the work itself. You won’t have to wait for the results to come to be happy. You are happy right now, while working. You are empowered because you are in control of the only thing in your hands—your attitude. This is the secret of success in any endeavour.
The benefits of converting your work into worship
When you think of your work as a worship of the divine, you will never get bored of the work. There will be constant inspiration. This is because the divine is the source of all beauty, goodness, peace, and happiness.
When you tune in to that higher altar, you are always uplifted in your spirits as you work. You are not motivated to gain happiness in the future. You are happy right now, while you perform your work.
On the other hand, when you do your duties only for people around you such as your boss, company and even your family, there is a danger of getting physically and mentally drained and bored. There is the danger of expectation, resentment, or a feeling that others are not helping enough, or you are being taken advantage of.
But when you perform your work as worship, you don’t wait for validation or appreciation from anyone. You do it all for God anyway. Whether you get any acknowledgement from people around you or not, you got your satisfaction from dedicating your actions to the divine.
Since you are no longer mentally agitated with thoughts about the future rewards of your actions, you are able to give your full attention to the work at hand. Your performance is greatly enhanced. Your actions become good and efficient. You’ll be able to accomplish the maximum amount of work in the minimum period of time.
Your efficiency also increases the chances of successfully completing your work without leaving any things undone.
Hankering for the results of actions makes you anxious and excited while you work and agitated with either joy or disappointment when you get the results. In other words, your mind is disturbed throughout.
When you convert your work into worship, your mind is neither disturbed while working, nor when you get the results. You gain equanimity and peace of mind. In the language of Vedanta, this inner shift in attitude purifies your mind and promotes your inner growth.
Karma yoga is the best way to work
Converting your work into worship starts with being very aware of the many divine gifts that you enjoy in your life right now. These are things that you take for granted; that you cannot live without.
Since all you have comes from, or is enabled by the divine, see yourself as an instrument and mentally offer your actions up to it.
This will uplift you, purify your mind, advance your spiritual growth, increase your work efficiency and inner happiness. Working in the karma yoga attitude is surely the wise thing to do.
*The teachings of karma yoga in this article are based on lessons in the E-Bhagavad Gita course offered by the Chinmaya International Foundation.
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