- in my meditation garden -
Today Americans celebrate the “Labor Day” holiday – an occasion for people to mark the unofficial end of summer with backyard barbecues and “holiday” sales at the local mall.
Interestingly enough, the original intent of designating the first Monday in September as a national holiday had virtually nothing to do with celebrating “back to school” time and the end of the vacation season. Originally, “Labor Day” was designed as an occasion for the entire country to celebrate the value of “work,” to honor Labor Unions and to recognize the contributions working people make for the building up of the the common good.
I wonder if most folks nowadays no longer celebrate “Labor Day” as a time for honoring work and workers because so many people today literally “hate” their jobs?
In fact, if some current research about work attitudes in this country are accurate, up to 70% of the people who get up and make their way into work on any given day will “hate what they do.” Many people feel as if the work they do has put them on a path to “burnout.”
I suppose there are lots of reasons why people report that they “hate their jobs.” Many say that the work they do is “tedious and unrewarding.” Many people find themselves in jobs that are very demanding (often forcing them to take their work home with them when the day is done), and yet people feel as if their demanding work is hardly ever appreciated and it makes little or no impact on the bigger picture of life.
So, many people just “grin and bear it,” they work for the sake of work, work to make money, work to put food on the table, work until the weekend or a holiday comes around when “real life” takes place.
My guess is that so many people find their work so unrewarding because they have “bought into” the popular myth that every one of us is always supposed to do be doing big, world-changing things with their life, and if we aren’t doing this we are frittering away our valuable time. People graduate from school and they are told that now they are supposed to go out there with their big dreams and big plans and change the world; but then when they land a job (any kind of job) and go to work, it’s nowhere near as wonderful or grandiose as they imagined it might be.
In the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, Jesus is quoted as telling his disciples:
Do not do what you hate.
Some may hear these words and imagine that Jesus is advising his followers to stop what they are doing if they hate what they are doing and go do something else. I actually think Jesus is saying: Stay with what you are doing and learn how to love it, stay in the moment and learn how to embrace it.
Instead of always looking for the bigger and the better, the more rewarding, the more significant things to do with our lives, maybe the goal is to learn how to love what we do, to embrace whatever moment comes our way.
As I think about it, to some extent everything we do is always life- changing, and sometimes the small things change life way more than the big things. When we are always engaged in looking for something more, we so easily lose what is already staring us in the face: life in all its fullness.
On this “Labor Day,” I call to mind a wisdom teaching attributed to the Buddha, a great meditation for this Labor Day and an even better meditation for getting up tomorrow and going to work or to school:
Quiet the mind
Do your work with mastery