Think Spiritually, Act Materially


    Most of us are familiar with the slogan "Think Globally, Act Locally," which helps us to see the bigger picture while doing what we can to improve our world. When it comes to business and spirituality, there are many people who feel these two realms cannot mix. Some business people want little to do with spirituality, believing that attending to spirit will hurt the bottom line. Some spiritually minded persons have negative judgments of all things related to business and see working in that realm as "going over to the dark side."

    While it may be true that there is a chasm between many current business practices and spiritual awareness, this does not need to be the case. In fact, until we can transform business into a place where daily business practices arise out of spiritual values, we cannot manifest the loving, peaceful, abundant world we envision.

    Here are two questions I ask myself to help me examine the relationship between my spirituality and my workplace.

    Do I have negative judgments toward the way I currently earn a living?

    A few years ago, I left a successful practice of law to move into another career. At the time, many people asked me what motivated me to make what they considered to be a dramatic change. I had a "positive motivation" and a "negative motivation." The positive motivation was I wanted to learn how to be a better teacher and trainer, and a doctorate brought me those skills. The negative motivation was that I was "tired of fighting over other people’s money," which I saw much of the law to be about, especially working as an appellate attorney in eminent domain, contract and tort cases.

    Since leaving the practice of law, I have come to recognize that there are all sorts of people practicing law: greedy people, selfish people, unprincipled people, honest people, compassionate people, and people working to make the world a better place for all. Over the years, I have come to realize that no job, profession or workplace is peopled only by "bad" people. Every job, profession and workplace has people with spiritual values, as well as people who are only looking out for their own interests. The values of a workplace are determined by the culture created by the collection of people gathered in that place.

    Each of us plays a part in shaping the culture of our workplace. We can infuse it with spiritual values by engaging in positive change or we can figuratively "hold our nose" as we enter each day in an attempt to shield ourselves from its influence. Over time, the former will transform the workplace and the latter will maintain the status quo.

    How are my spiritual values manifested in my daily material life?

    My spiritual values include a deep feeling of connectedness to the divine, including all that has been created. This world view results in an attitude of stewardship, which is in strong contrast to our society’s current overindulgence in consumerism. Stewardship is about respect for the ways the world serves our needs and gratitude for the abundance that surrounds us. In addition, stewardship recognizes that business transactions carry a quality of justice – business can be conducted in a just manner toward all the players or in an unjust manner toward all or some of the players. And by players, I do not mean just the humans involved, but all of creation.

    This attitude of stewardship manifests itself in my purchase decisions. For example, I drink coffee. My ideal cup of coffee would be brewed in my own home from organic, fair trade beans from Central or South America using local, filtered water and a reusable or non-bleached paper filter. All of these characteristics are choices that I believe provide justice to all the players. Organic coffee shipped from our hemisphere using local water and minimally processed filters have a minimum impact on the environment. Fair trade coffee means that the growers, shippers and roasters all receive a livable wage for their toils. And, I have the opportunity to enjoy a fine cup of coffee at a great price!

    If I find myself away from a place to get a home brewed cup, my spiritual values direct me to a locally owned coffee shop, where I can often find many of the same choices I would make at home. In addition, local purchases carry more weight than just the value of my dollars. In local shops, I often have a more direct line of communication to the decision makers and articulating my values can shape the choices being made on my behalf. Large national chains often wait for a groundswell of opinion before adopting policies based on stewardship. Not only is my individual opinion more likely to be heard by the local coffee shop owner, she or he is in a better place act on it. Because coffee is something I enjoy nearly every day, I have had repeated opportunities to think about my choices and align them with my spiritual values.

    I cannot bring this sort of intention to all my decisions every day, but I can build a lifestyle and create habits which will over time align my material choices closer and closer to my spiritual values. With intention and persistence, I can live into a life where I "think spiritually and act materially."

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