The word Life makes me think of acceptance, circles, the endlessness of our shades. The discovery, the destruction, the birth, the seasons. Work is a stark word. I used to associate it with a grey building with closed windows.
To transform the way work feels as it runs through my body is to me a spiritual practice.
Christy, Khuyen and I have never met, but we have been speaking about our strategies for love making to life, and work. We Skype on Tuesday mornings, from 8 to 10 am, sometimes to 11 am. It’s late where they are: Christy is in South Africa, Khuyen is in Vietnam, and I am in Colombia. Our conversations are a search for wholeness, with all the moments of falling and rising it implies.
We are plotting a new project and we are searching for clarity of purpose. In the process, Khuyen shared this picture and we contemplated it for a bit. What follows is my reflection, a description of what I see in it.
The Evolution of Work-Life
To experience work-life separation, must mean to perceive the joy, the pain, and the presence of life and that of work as two separated states. Work is excluded from life.
As if I could believe that in living, I don’t do the work, that in work I do not breath, hear the birds in the background as I type on my laptops, get up to pee, taste the freshness of cold water.
But while work can be an immersion, it still belongs to my earthly experience. I still touch with my feet the ground along which I flow, constantly orbiting a star hovering, as I am, in space. As if I could deny the force that moves the universe into expansion, and contraction. A breath. As if I could deny my belonging, with mutual care, vibrancy, and gratitude, to the fresh air that fits my lounges, to my ability to purify and heal, at every breath.
When I look at the picture of work spilling into life, I think of work filling me. Like a glass holding wine, inebriating, or like petroleum in the river of my life, intoxication.
My time exhausted, drunk. A reminder that I have to generate the resources that permit my life. Work in this framework is both a necessity and an act of violence.
When I am full of work, there is all work, no life.
There is no life when I am so identified with work that life seems to exist only beyond me, in a mythical elsewhere, excluded from my time and space.
When work is lifeless, life spilling into work might feel reassuring. After all, our life cannot pour out, the bottle does not get empty. And yet this idea of life spilling into work, in the way it has been packaged by shiny corporate firms that value our quality of life, is about life becoming instrumental to the work. Authenticity adds value to my work, wellbeing makes me more productive. A desperate response to all work no life. A mouth to mouth respiration to dead work.
In work-life-balance, I see again exclusion. Work is even further from life – I keep it out for sanity. An unattainable balance that is held precariously by exhausting work. Unattainable because work and life have a different consistency.
Work-life integration, the Tao – a symbol of acceptance and wholeness. But to me, work is not the other face of life.
Which gets me to Play. The full face of life, the wholeness. Life is what enfolds me, my boundary and also the connection with the existence beyond myself. Work is a joyful inhabitant of my experience. Work is the mouth and eyes through which I let light in, ingest nourishment, let out the vibration of my vocal cords. Work is instrumental to nothing, life is instrumental to nothing. Work is part of the composition of my life. And my life holds it, welcomes it. And I play.