A few months ago, I decided to take a hiatus from blogging. I did so, in part, to make final edits to my book, Faith without Labels: a Guide to Eclectic Spirituality. But this time out also allowed me to reassess what right livelihood means at this point in my life.
In his first sermon after attaining enlightenment, the Buddha provided detailed instructions for living a happy, moral life and ending the painful cycle of birth, death and rebirth (samsara) through the Four Nobel Truths and the Nobel Eightfold Path.
The Four Nobel Truths are:
- There is suffering.
- The cause of suffering is self-grasping ignorance.
- There is a way to end suffering.
- The way to end suffering is the Nobel Eightfold Path.
The Nobel Eightfold Path:
- Right Understanding
- Right Aspiration
- Right Effort
- Right Speech
- Right Conduct
- Right Livelihood
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
Quite simply, right livelihood can be defined as making a living without compromising one’s principles. For example, if you’re a vegetarian, being a butcher probably isn’t the right career for you.
As the beloved Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh wrote:
To practice Right Livelihood (samyag ajiva), you have to find a way to earn your living without transgressing your ideals of love and compassion. The way you support yourself can be an expression of your deepest self, or it can be a source of suffering for you and others. ” … Our vocation can nourish our understanding and compassion, or erode them. We should be awake to the consequences, far and near, of the way we earn our living. (The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching [Parallax Press, 1998], p. 104)
I attempted to make the transition to right livelihood a few years ago when I was laid off from my corporate job of almost two decades. I took a year off and wrote the above-mentioned book. I was blissfully happy because my days were filled with activities that brought me joy. I wrote wrote, blogged, built a social media platform for my book (Twitter, Facebook and this blog), went to the gym or walked six days a week…
Then, a couple of years ago, I took a job at a friend’s company. After all, bliss doesn’t pay the bills. While I enjoyed the work, my primary goals were helping my friend…and getting a paycheck.
Now it’s time to take another shot at finding my right livelihood and building the life that I want. As of January 1, 2019, I won’t have a job.
For the record, I’m scared to death.
And I can’t wait to begin my new life.
While I don’t have all the details worked out, I do know that I will (finally!) publish my book in the first quarter of 2019. I’m pursuing remote writing and editing jobs focusing on spirituality and animals. I’m knitting up a storm to stock my Etsy shop. And I’m looking into other ways to earn money without tying myself down to a conventional job so I can focus on what’s important to me:
- Spiritual practice
- Formal classes at the local Kadampa meditation center
- “Americanizing” Chinese-to-English translations of Buddhist texts
- Physical health
- Having time to do the things that I love:
- Studying spirituality
- Spending time outdoors
The above list is by no means exhaustive.
As always, I love to get feedback from my readers. I look forward to reading your thoughts and experiences with right livelihood.