Many people I work with – from all faiths and none, express a wish for their work to be of greater contribution to the wider world. This is part of a gradual transformation in how our culture thinks of work, money and the meaning of life.
While, as I’ve written elsewhere, Centre Edge principles are ethically neutral – being a description simply of how things are, how they work, rather than one of how things should be, it can nevertheless really help us to align our day to day activities with whatever is closest to our heart.
There is a traditional teaching that connects the Centre Edge principles, with the underlying intention to align our projects, activities and priorities with what will be best for the wider world, and it does so in a not too heavy handed moral way.
It is the teaching of the 3 xxx.
In terms all of us who have ever enjoyed a good story would recognise, it divides our activities into a beginning, middle and end, and suggests a way of thinking about them at each stage.
The instruction here, at the start of any project, activity, or even at the start of a meeting or a regular day’s work is to take a pause to remind ourselves of our deepest intention for the work we do. Our work may not seem like a big deal, trawling through today’s emails may seem rather mundane. Alternatively it could all be quite dramatic and significant, the day of the big presentation or product launch so many months in the planning. Either way the suggestion here is to remind ourselves – perhaps with a few choice words, a brief reflective pause, or perhaps bringing an image or vision to mind, of our deeper wish for the work in some way to be of wider benefit for the world.
No one wakes up in the morning wanting their contribution to only be for them, or wanting not to contribute in some positive way to the those around them. The fact that most of us don’t typically think of our work in such a way has more to do with a failure of cultural imagination, and a gradual materialistic narrowing of the vision society has for work today, than any failing in the hearts of people.
So, as a first step for any project, whether it makes logical sense to you or not, pause, and consider at the level of the heart your wish for this activity to bring benefit to the world.
Interesting things will happen when you start to do that.
In Centre Edge terms this is a moment of stepping across a Boundary – in this case of time. The first step into something new – the new project, conversation, meeting, even if it doesn’t seem very new (like the stepping into the office on Tuesday seems remarkably similar to stepping into the office on Monday, but actually is full of creative possibility each time), carries some inspiration of aligning whatever we do with our deeper intention.
Another way of thinking of it is that as we step across a Boundary – into the office, into the new meeting, into the next email, whatever it is, we align just for a brief moment perhaps, with what is at our own Centre, our heart, so as not to get so lost in the energy and dynamic of whatever we’ve stepped into. Connecting with that makes it more likely that we will not simply get swallowed up by, or overwhelmed by, the energy of whatever world we’ve moved into for the day. This is about marking a boundary of space (going into the office for example) by connecting with a more fundamental or deeper place / space which is our own heart intention.
The second point is provocatively simple and (personally speaking) often excruciatingly difficult to do, even to remember to do! Having remembered to enter into an activity with a clear heart intention, the instruction now is to relax, not to grasp at hopes and fears of things going one way or the other. It’s to stay open to whatever happens, as it happens, without turning it all into some kind of personal big deal or endlessly measuring it against our agendas. We are all very used to those sorts of personal big deals in work – things that push our buttons and trigger no end of reaction to personal agendas, hopes, fears and judgements.
Relax, allow things to unfold. Do what you can in response to what is unfolding, but not from the perspective of trying to make it all work on your own very personal terms. There are many traditional words and phrases used to describe such a state of being within action – ‘being open to everything’; ‘seeing everything as if it were a dream – important while it is happening, but somehow nothing very much once it is over’; ‘resting the mind while being clearly aware’.
In Centre Edge terms this is about expressing activity from within the sphere of experience centred on awareness itself, rather than the sphere centred on ego’s endless hopes and fears. It’s like there is a constant Gateway between two quite different modes of being in our day to day activity. Most of the time, perhaps nearly all of the time if we are honest, we tend to centre all we do, our thinking, judgements, reactions, stories around a strong sense of ‘Me’. That ‘Me’, like all things, is a Centre Edge structure, the structure created by the endless stories, views, likes, dislikes that we take so very solidly. When we are up tight, caught up in our endless hopes fears and judgements – chances are we are operating from this Sphere of Ego. No blame here – the pull is strong and we all do it – in fact to a great extent this game is what we believe we are. But can we see that’s what we are doing, perhaps all we are doing? And can we start to notice how little positive stuff actually results from that space?
The alternative is to conduct activities from the Sphere of Awareness itself. Rather than centred on ‘Me’ and my hopes and fears, rather we rest in a deeper sense of natural clarity and open mindedness and allow things to be as they are. It doesn’t mean we will be passive (though this is a common concern people have), but it does mean that any action or response is more likely to be based on, arise from reality rather than stories from the past, hopes of the future or fruitless attempts to manipulate the present.
Two Spheres, one Gateway, one choice. Over and over and over and over again. The same choice – to get uptight and follow my well worn script, or to risk everything (so it seems somehow) and well, um, relax into reality as it actually is. Personally, I can’t say I find it at all easy. But I acknowledge that the choice, the Gateway is present in every situation, a provocative and welcoming invitation perhaps.
The third step is somewhat mysterious to our Western minds, but interesting for us to contemplate in some way. In its most basic sense it’s simply reconnecting with our starting inspiration at the end of the activity, or the phase of activity – the end of the phone call, working day or email trawl. Having intended our work (including our relaxed, aware mode of working) to be of benefit (even if logically we cannot quite see how that could be), we then dedicate any benefit coming from the activity to the benefit of all.
In Centre Edge terms there are two key points here.
First we are consciously marking the end of the activity. Often in day-to-day life we sort of drift into one thing and then drift into the next. We may be spinning so many plates, or be so distracted that we almost don’t notice that the last thing has finished and a new thing has begun. So in Centre Edge terms this is about noticing and marking boundaries – in this case boundaries of time – between one thing and another. And as we cross the threshold again, stepping out of this activity, into the liminal space before we step into the next thing, we can take a moment to offer any benefit, power or positive impact from that recent activity for the wider benefit of all.
Secondly, and following directly on from this, it is a reminder again to think of our work not just from the narrow perspective of the Ego centred sphere (what did this do for ‘Me’, did it work for ‘Me’? ) and to expand our Boundary of consideration, even momentarily, to include self and all others. You can think of this in two ways (at least). You can think that the Boundary of ‘self interest’ (Ego centred sphere) expands to include others, all others, the sphere of ones interest and concern getting wider and wider, and eventually vast to include everyone else (who after all is just as concerned about how their day is going as you are). Alternatively you can think of it as a Gateway – a reminder once more to step out of the narrow Ego centred sphere’s preoccupation into the vaster sphere of Awareness. Interesting things happens whichever way you think of it.
The idea of a beginning, middle and end of any and all activities neatly connects with thinking of Centre Edge as describing some kind of journey. Stepping into something – an activity or phase of time, dwelling in it while we do our thing, and then stepping out again as that particular Sphere of experience ceases to be.
As one develops this idea, it becomes possible to think of even the most apparently mundane or boring activity or job, as in some way like a sacred pilgrimage with deep levels of meaning and possibly (since this is an empirical, experiential approach – we would need to find out for ourselves I guess) a way of genuinely benefitting the world in ways that we can’t initially imagine