Illustration by Mike Taylor

Life is easy for the shameless, cunning,
Corrupt, brazen, nasty, and betraying.
But for one who’s honest and insightful,
Trying to pursue purity, it’s hard.
Dhammapada 244–245

Why do so few people follow the path of mindful work? Because it’s hard. The Buddha levels with us. Living a life of integrity is hard work. Following the path of spiritual growth is hard work. Awakening and staying mindful in each moment requires constant honesty. It’s exhausting (though sometimes also exhilarating), but it expands through all your relations and creates a lasting legacy. The benefits of integrity and wisdom compound over time.

It’s easier to just give in to your worst impulses and let the least common denominator of the workplace drive you. Following a spiritual path at work is like trying to maintain a meticulously clean house while still living in it… along with a pack of teenagers! It takes time, attention, and energy. Living in a laid-back, messy house is much easier in the short run. Spend your energy on momentary and trivial pursuits; don’t invest in the future. The teenagers will agree. That tells you something.

You have to look at the costs and benefits in the long run as well. It’s there you’ll find that even though the cost of integrity is hard work, the price of giving in is your integrity itself. Without your integrity, you are merely a succession of meaningless moments, always vanishing. This is too high a price to pay. Still, it’s your choice. There is a cost and a payoff to living a mindful life, and there is a cost and a payoff to living a foolish life. The Buddha would tell you to do the math and then decide.

From Being Buddha at Work by Franz Metcalf and BJ Gallagher © 2012. Reprinted with permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

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