Day 183 - Fifth Fold - Right Livelihood
Day Five on the Eight Fold Path...
Today is Right Livelihood...
Ok, what is that?
In the monastic sense, it is living from begging, but not accepting everything given and not possessing more than is strictly necessary. For the rest of us, it is earning a living which avoids causing suffering to sentient beings by cheating them, or harming or killing them in any way.
So I make my living being a divorce attorney and have spent a lot of time wondering if I am practicing right livelihood. My conclusion? Yes I am. It is the way that I have practiced it that matters. I have never cheated anyone, or harmed them and certainly never killed them...although I have felt like it at times.
I have seen my job as being of service to use my skill to help people navigate the very choppy and difficult waters of divorce.
Today, I am no longer practicing and instead am using different, more compassionate skills to assist people through the same ordeal. Today I am a Certified Divorce Coach and work in the same field in a different way. I also am the Executive Director of a boutique family law firm, so I get to develop policies and procedures which further help our staff get the job done in the most efficient and beneficial way.
After much analysis, I have come to a place where I believe that I am helping people, and despite the reputation that follows divorce attorneys, I have come to a place of acceptance. I feel good about what I do and how I do it. I believe that my livelihood comports with my work on the Eight Fold Path. And this is what I love most about my religion, I am the only one that has to be ok with that. What you think or don’t think, doesn’t change my assessment. I can be open to your perspective, but still reach the same conclusion. There is no higher authority than me living in my own skin on this one. I love that.
So is it all up to us?
Are there no guidelines as to what is or is not Right Livelihood?
Here are some that are definitely not Right Livelihood: trading in weapons, trading in living beings which would include animals, trading in alcohol or drugs or anything to do with poison. which might include pharmaceutical companies. It is interesting to note that raising and trading cattle livestock for slaughter is a breach of the “right livelihood" precept in Buddhist tradition, and Buddhist countries lack the mass slaughter houses found in Western countries...the whole country said no on that one...pretty interesting.
Whenever I think about people who work in such industries, I feel amazing empathy for them. I think of how I would feel if I had to earn a living in that manner. I think about how much I would lose my serenity and peace of mind. I know I couldn’t do it but think “what if I had no choice?” Luckily, for me, I have always had choices. Interesting though, I also have compassion for the people who work there that might enjoy the work. They have been able either with a lot of effort or none, to become inured to the awfulness. I think that I feel for them most. That they have been successful in separating out their feelings and their ability to do their work. I can’t imagine doing that or being forced to do that. This has resulted in me feeling blessed every day that I get to do what I do, which results in helping people.
So it matters what we do as much as the intention with which we do it. I love that about all of the folds on this path...what I think and what I do are equally important. Intention matters...a lot.
This precept always makes me wonder what I can do in my current job to be more in line with this principle? Where can I be more compassionate? Where can I endeavor to do less harm? Where can I release more truth?
I have found that an attitude of service is helpful all the time.
Where can I serve my clients?
The greater legal community?
If I look, I can find.