The Process of Turning Work into Yogic Practice

The Bhagavad Gita proclaims that ‘yoga is skill in works’. The type of focused concentrated effort that comes about through a yogic practice is an essential aspect of completing any task skillfully. It does not imply, however, that all ‘skill in works’ is necessarily yoga, unless by that one includes the secret yoga of nature that prepares the being for union with the Divine through the long, slow process of evolutionary development. We can easily recognise that there are people who are extraordinarily skillful in their work, but the work is purely for negative or retrogressive activities for self-aggrandisement and the expansion of the ego. For work to be transformed into conscious yoga, there must be a conscious intention to turn that work into yoga, with the consecration of the effort and the application of the entire being’s energies and focus on that effort.

There is no type of work that is ‘better’ than another in terms of making the work itself a yogic process. There is frequently a misidentification of certain types of service as being expressions of yoga, with other forms of work relegated to a need to earn one’s living or support one’s family and community. This is an artificial duality that actually detracts from the ability of the seeker to turn work into yoga. That is not meant to denigrate the value of works of service or support of humanity’s needs for food, clothing, health, comfort etc.; yet the activities that support such generally positive results are not necessarily done from the yogic perspective with the inner dedication and attitude that converts even the smallest action into an expression of dedication to the Divine Presence.

The determining factor is the inner relationship of the individual to the work and an inner connection to the consecration needed to stay in contact with and focused on the Divine at all times. This process is progressive. The more one does it, the easier it gets to hold the remembrance and focus and stay ‘tuned’ to the Divine at all times.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “There should be not only a general attitude, but each work should be offered to the Mother so as to keep the attitude a living one all the time. There should be at the time of work no meditation, for that would withdraw the attention from the work, but there should be the constant memory of the One to whom you offer it. This is only a first process; for when you can have constantly the feeling of a calm being within concentrated in the sense of the Divine Presence while the surface mind does the work, or when you can begin to feel always that it is the Mother’s force that is doing the work and you are only a channel or an instrument, then in place of memory there will have begun the automatic constant realisation of Yoga, divine union, in works. … It is not at first easy to remember the presence in work; but if one revives the sense of the presence immediately after the work is over it is all right. In time the sense of the presence will become automatic even in work.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 6, Sadhana Through Work, Meditation and Love and Devotion, Work pp. 129-145

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