Healing, Health and Work

A Sunday Gathering Message from New Unity

We come together here from many places
We gather from our different life situations to seek something more than we find in the day-to-day
We seek greater connection than we find in the marketplace
More meaning than we find in the workplace
And more growth than we find in the commonplace
Let this light shine to illuminate all that this place can bring to life
For us and the larger world.


Readings

By John O'Donohue

May your work excite your heart,
Kindle in your mind a creativity
To journey beyond the old limits
Of all that has become wearisome.
 
May this work challenge you toward
New frontiers that will emerge
As you begin to approach them,
Calling forth from you the full force
And depth of your undiscovered gifts.
 
May the work fit the rhythms of your soul,
Enabling you to draw from the invisible
New ideas and a vision that will inspire.
 
Remember to be kind
To those who work for you,
Endeavour to remain aware
Of the quiet world
That lives behind each face.
 
Be Fair in your expectations,
Compassionate in your criticism.
May you have the grace of encouragement
To awaken the gift in the other's heart,
Building in them the confidence
To follow the call of the gift.
 
May you come to know that work
Which emerges from the mind of Love
Will have the beauty and form.
 
May your work be worthy
Of the energy of your heart
And the light of your thought.
 
May your work assume
A proper space in your life:
Instead of owning or using you,
May it challenge and refine,
Bringing you every day further
Into the wonder of your heart.


Reflection from Bodhi Hunt

If you'd looked at my CV before a couple of years ago, you'd have thought I was, well, sorted. Good GCSEs, A-levels in the sciences and maths, biology degree, and most of the way through a PhD at a top research institute. I was checking all the boxes in the “ambitious young career academic's handbook”. I should have been pretty happy with where I was in life.

In fact I was miserable, depressed and in the middle of slowly and messily burning out. You see, I'm not actually very good at being a bench scientist, a fact which I only discovered, could only discover, a couple of years into my PhD, because no-one's a very good bench scientist when they first start doing it. And honestly, it's fine that I'm not very good at it, because there are plenty of things that I am good at, but for the longest time I viewed it as an abject failure of me as a person. It was the first time I'd failed at anything that really matters to me, which is an extremely privileged position, but one that means that I had no clue how to handle it. And I was failing in an environment that fetishised success, as many professional environments do. Failure is simply not the done thing, it's a shameful, whispered secret where it's discussed at all.

I'll be submitting my PhD thesis soon, a year and 9 months after my original submission deadline, with the help of a supportive supervisor and colleagues, antidepressant medication, 3 rounds of therapy and the wonderful community I've found here. And I have learnt more, grown more, as a result of this failure, than I have through any of my previous successes. I have grown in ways that will make me better, not worse, at any job I choose to do in the future. I know my strengths, and my limitations far better than I would have done. I know the extent of my resilience, where that resilience runs out, and how to look after myself before I get to that point. And I know the value of failure.

Reflection from Lindsay River

Work – it took me so long to find the really right work. By the age of 43 I had been a drama teacher, a campaigner on poverty,  I had thrown years of energy into the women’s and gay movements, I had travelled, lived on the land, I had written a book, and I had spent ten years as a trainee and then a practicing homoeopath and homoeopathic lecturer.   Most of my patients did well (whether from the placebo effect or a mysterious as yet undiscovered effect of the remedies) and I was popular. I loved the work but the anxiety of it was eventually too stressful for me, with an ongoing mental health condition I have always been vulnerable. I went back to the voluntary sector, and then to feminist publishing. Each of these two jobs failed because of the economic climate in the 90s.

I had a terrible, haunting mid life crisis. I felt useless and unwanted and I wept every day over my employment situation, my failed relationships and the fragmentation I saw in the women’s movement of the time.

It did get better eventually. At the age of 49 I found the right work, the very right work – working in the community on older people’s rights and welfare. Then in 2003 I became Director of an organisation researching and campaigning on the well-being of older people who are lesbian gay bi or trans. I becameknown in the field, I did my best work, I had tremendous job satisfaction, spoke at conferences, wrote reports and worked with older people from my community. I am telling this story to give encouragement to anyone who has felt as frustrated and disappointed as I did in my late forties. My work after this brought me little financial success but it brought me what matters most, the sense of doing what I believed in and being good at it.

When I retired I thought I would write another book, and I might yet.  I thought I would do many things.  But I have lost my drive, my urgency.  Yet I think this is a loss that now brings me gain.  Really what I want most is time, time to reflect, time to enjoy and time for love: to be able to help friends who are under stress, time to be able to be still and be slow.  And thanks to the old age pension, I have that. I wish every old person in the world had the same.

Reflection from Nick Lewis

In 1989, Judie and I moved to Australia and I quit my job working as a labour lawyer. I got there with a one-year old son and nothing much to do. I soon discovered that doing little but watching my son was driving me crazy and I knew that I needed to find some sort of work. But I couldn’t work as a lawyer in a different country and didn’t really want to practice law that much anyway.

Then, one day, I read about the Australian Baseball League, which was just beginning its inaugural season. So I went down to their office and spoke to their Commissioner/General Manager and asked who did their statistics. He said no one and I began to do it. Within days, I asked how they selected the ABL player of the week and he said you do it.

I was soon producing press releases and public relations. Within weeks, I became the General Counsel and wrote the rules under which the league operated. I went on to become an announcer at games, a sportswriter, wrote two books and worked as an advisor when the playoffs were televised. One season, I was also General Manager of the Sydney Wave and another season I was in charge of on-field entertainment for the Sydney Blues.

The whole process of going from no job at all, to creating my own positions within this baseball community was incredibly empowering and affirming and changed the course of the rest of my life. It gave me confidence and a sense of my own value. It let me know that I didn’t have to stay in one job and that I could do things that interest me. I eventually quit law to study graphic design and later successfully ran for the Town Council. I would not be here right now if I hadn’t walked into that ABL office 27 years ago.

Reflection from Luke Tanner

Over the past 15 years I have been trying to get this job and at times worked very hard just to earn more self respect. Luckily for me about 6 years ago, a great aunt came into my life and had a stroke! This turned out to be my big break! I was unemployed at the time so I could afford to spend some time with her. I now work in care homes trying to transform the culture of care to something more joyful, loving and meaningful.

I love this work, it ticks a lot of the boxes I mentioned before, apart from the sex appeal one. But this kind of work is only possible because many people in this country feel that they cannot afford to support older people themselves. This lack of time has given rise to a whole new kind of work and industry, care work. “Care” is now a commodity to be bought and sold on the market, literally, I have known of Councils that auction individual care to the lowest bidder over the internet using photos of individual and a list of the care needs. I have discovered how easy it is for some work to become inhumane when it becomes waged labour and big business. I have blamed this situation on Capitalism, Consumerism, and more recently Neo, Liberalism, in fact recently I have come to blame a lot on neo-liberalism, without yet really knowing fully what it means. However I have also come to realise that this situation is in part the result of my attitude to work. I can easily find myself less and less available to the world I am actually a part of as I become more and more passionate about my job. It means less time for the people who are in my life. Yet I also know that the very small things I do for the people that love and need me mean a great deal to them. Perhaps this, is why it is so hard to do, doing these things forces me to realise how much i mean to them and this makes it a lot harder for me to be self centred and focus on the progression of my own career. Recently I have discovered that the more my work I do, whatever the job, the less meaningful my life becomes and the more I become part of the problem which i am trying to solve in my work.

This is why I feel working less could be more rewarding for us all, it enables us to start working for each other, for the people we know, instead of outsourcing this work and creating more commodities to be bought and sold on the market. Working less is only meaningful however if it is universally affordable to everyone. Many care workers, for example, work 12 hr days because they simply cannot survive on less. Luckily we live in a country where there is the wealth to actually make this universally and unconditionally affordable. Has anyone heard of the basic universal income?  Well it is an idea that has been around for quite sometimes but i have only just heard of it. This is an idea i think is worth looking into and even fighting for so we can a real utopia that works for all of us.

Closing words, by Andy Pakula

Unless we are born into wealth, work is a part of all of our lives. We speak of ‘work life balance’, reflecting the reality that work is often a necessary but unwelcome part of our lives. For most of us, work takes up the many hours of our lives that could be devoted to something that makes us more happy, more whole, and more human.

There are times, as we have heard, where work can be more. The challenges of work can teach us. The valuable and engaging work we do can add meaning to our lives.

I have been exceedingly fortunate in my own life to have opportunities that got me highly paid work that was not destructive of my body or spirit. I was even more fortunate then to be able to afford to go into work that is one with my life and helps me find meaning, purpose, and growth. Had I needed to support a family alone and without a prior high-paying career, I could not have done so.

The reality is that most people do not have the opportunity to do satisfying work and simultaneously earn enough to keep mind and body together - especially if they have others who depend upon them.

Worse, there are many who are unable to find any job at an adequate wage.

Many more in our world must perform work that destroys body and spirit just to survive.
The world is changing. Automation and advanced computing capabilities will change the world of work dramatically. Whether the world to come will be one of opportunity and freedom for meaningful pursuits or one that simply exacerbates the divide between the haves and have-nots remains to be determined.

On this May-Day, as we think about the world of work, let us recognise that most of us have choices and tradeoffs to make in the work we do. We can often trade money for time or for meaning. We should not make such decisions without great care.

And we must look at the larger world of work - recognising the oppression and inequality found in work today and the great potential for good or for ill in the future.

Let us be deeply mindful of our choices - for ourselves, for others in our world, and for those who will come after us.

May you find the work you need to support yourself and your loved ones
May your work be gentle to your body and your spirit
May all people have the opportunity to live and grow