Work is the Tantric Guru

‘Nothing is work, unless you’d rather be doing something else’.

George Halas

Many years ago I remember reading Jean Liedloff’s thought provoking book The Continuum Concept and being struck by the story she told of a Venezuelan tribe that had no word for ‘work’. The tribe simply saw the tasks they needed to perform each day as something to be carried out with joy, this really gripped my imagination. They would laugh and joke, even when things clearly weren’t going their way.

This small piece of knowledge got me more deeply interested in language and the words we use everyday. I realized in that moment that the entire notion of ‘work’ is just a creation of our rather vivid imagination. I could see how this is a very useful concept in the commercial world we now live in. And of course, once we have a concept for something and everyone give it consensus, there really is no going back. However, we always have the ability to see the idea of ‘work’ from a new perspective.

This brings us to the notion that for some folk, work seems hard and painful and a difficulty to be endured; “Work is a necessary evil” as Mark Twain put it. Yet, others (aside from indigenous tribes) just get on with the given tasks of ‘work’ and pass through their day with relative ease and even joy. This leads us to a curious conclusion; that is that ‘work’ is really a neutral concept, it has to be, otherwise we would all experience it in exactly the same way.

Some may argue that the reason people enjoy their ‘work’ is because they are in the fortunate position of having a ‘job’ (another problematic concept) that they love. While the rest of us have to put up with our mundane occupation, which is the reason why this ‘work’ is so difficult to endure.

So what is really going on here? Essentially the tasks we must perform as part of our ‘work’ have nothing at all to do with the state of mind that we find ourselves in. Because, our state of mind is entirely dependent upon the content of our thinking in the moment; thus as we engage with the tasks required of us, they will appear difficult only if we think we would rather be doing something else. We can all fall into this trap of thinking and in doing so we rob ourselves of the precious moments of our lives. Those gems that pass and can never be retrieved or relived, only in our minds.   

Counter to this is the recognition of how the power of Thought creates all reality that we experience, and even the most mundane or laborious of tasks can be accomplished in a state of calm and fully awakened awareness. This may sound like some unachievable state of enlightenment, yet this is the state our mind returns to when our personal thinking (the habitual thoughts that run out their course through the mind) slows down or even shuts off temporarily.

So, it may be that we cannot get away from a concept such as ‘work’, now it is part of our way of living. Yet, we can begin to see that the way we feel, whatever task we must accomplish, has nothing to do with the task, but moreover, is simply a reflection of our state of mind. Even if this is a state of mind that we return to each day, and thus believe it ‘must’ be ‘real’, it is still an illusion of our own creation.

In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition ‘work’ is seen as the Tantric Guru simply because when one is truly engaged in a task, and fully focused on its achievement, the mind cannot run elsewhere. Thinking slows down and is drawn centrally to one point of concentration to the exclusion of everything else and thus a peaceful state of mind ensues.

Now you can relax, and do whatever it is you need to do. 

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