From working hard to working hardly
Most of us have grown up on a diet of working hard.
“I must study hard to get good grades.”
“I must work hard to achieve success.”
“I must work hard to make relationships work.”
“I must work hard to become a better person.”
There is hardly a time we are not working hard on something. Our mind is always thinking, hoping, wanting. Striving to achieve something.
On the other hand, nature is working. I wonder if it is working hard too?
“I must work hard to look bright and cheerful.” says the sunflower.
“I must work hard to produce the best quality milk.” bellows the cow.
“I must produce the maximum amount of mangoes this season.” adds the mango tree.
Nothing in nature seems to be working hard. It exists. Simply and naturally.
Even our body functions seem to be happening on their own. Breathing, digestion, circulation. I wonder if they get together each morning and say “We must work hard to keep this body alive.”
We humans are the only ones in existence who are privileged to work hard. We have built huge corporations and modern civilizations. We have stepped on the moon and harnessed nuclear energy. And yet something seems to be missing.
Something within us seeks peace, quiet and contentment.
While the mind is busy working hard for greater glory, the soul longs to just be. Have a moment of respite from the constantly working mind. Simply exist. Without the need to work hard at anything.
We believe if we stop working, give up control, let go of effort our life will fall apart. We have kept our world intact through our striving and persistence. We live like this, until our world actually falls apart.
The pandemic rid most of us of the notion, ‘we are in charge of life’. Stable livelihoods were lost, healthy people died and our idea of being in control got seriously challenged. Not only did the pandemic change lives, it changed mind sets.
It forced us to let go.
We learned to live without working hard. Without constantly pursuing deadlines. Achieving goals.
It was possible to live, just as nature does. Without effort. Yet in spite of not striving and struggling, life happened. And what did not happen, did not happen. We made peace with the natural rhythm of the Universe.
Having undergone this journey from working hard to letting go it made me realise how this conditioning of ‘working hard’ separates us from our naturalness.
Since childhood most of us are told to study hard. Get more marks. Achieve the highest rank. Win the race. It does not matter whether we enjoy what we are doing. The focus is on ‘studying hard’ and ‘playing hard’. No wonder the work most people do is focused around financial security and social recognition, rather than joy or fulfilment. Not surprising, I became a chartered accountant.
We discover our natural essence when we are doing something that gives us joy. The fulfilment lies in what we do, not in the outcome. Even if we are working hard, the effort is put into something that expresses effortlessly through us. It is natural and integral to who we are.
I am not an expert on relationships. But I do know that the best relationships are the ones that do not require much effort. It is easy to express oneself, and it is easy to be understood. There is a natural ease and harmony. One can be and let be.
Sometimes we get into a difficult relationship with a hope we will make it work. Or we overstay in a relationship in spite of the constant conflict and stress, because we believe “I must make it work.” People change, situations change and life changes. If we can let go of the old, we can find new ways to relate to the old. Or simply make peace with the new.
Most people interested in self-growth work hard on themselves. Trying to be a better version of who they are. Relinquishing self-defeating patterns. Cultivating empowering habits. Healing emotional wounds. They are always a work-in-progress. I was one of them, until I realised this part of ‘me’ that was working on another part of ‘me’ were both fabrications of my mind.
If we can just be, in a state of unconditional acceptance, something within us may heal, shift, change, without us having to work on ourself. The movement of nature is subtle and organic. If we nourish the plant of our existence with simple presence, it will grow on its own. We do not need to uproot it every day to check whether it is growing.
“Is there no value in hard work?” one may ask.
Yes, there is. Till the time we do not realise there is another way to live that is sahaj, simple and natural, hard work is a worthy virtue.
When one realises that Life is working by itself and I am not separate from Life, then hard work drops on its own.
But to realise that one has to learn to let go of the belief ‘I am in control’. Which is not an easy thing for the mind to do. Until it has suffered enough that it has simply no other choice but to surrender.
When it does, it realises it was never in control.
Life was living itself.