Right Livelihood

by Simon Goland, October 3, 2010

Today’s Reflection is about a stone, of a particular kind.

The words are somehow not coming.

It has been almost a week since I came back from a 2-week adventure in Europe, signifying the end of the summer for me. A few days in Amsterdam with a friend, then a week with my parents in Riga, Latvia, and then back to Amsterdam for a conference of a wonderful and inspiring gathering of the Applied Improv Network.

Many beautiful moments and experiences, yet the one that I am currently sitting with, is an image and a picture of a stone. A gravestone.

Every person needs to get a diagnosis, at least once in their lives, that they are going to die, and that there is nothing they can do about it.” – Joel Solomon
Both my father and I were born in Riga, a long time ago and at a very young age, though not at the same time. We all left Russia in 1974, and up until a few weeks ago, have not been back. Even though Latvia is not Russia any more, it still is for us. Russian is still prevalent, both the language and the culture. I had very few memories of my years there, while my parents remembered a lot more – places, areas, and even some words. Riga is beautiful, with the charm of the old architecture blended with the modern influences of the West. It is an almost-confusing time travel journey, whereby one is not sure as to whether the time machine is functioning properly.

One day we visited the two different cemeteries where my grandparents are buried. Surprisingly, this was one of the parts I remembered, however vaguely. We found the gravestone of my grandfather, on my father’s side, put some flowers, and stood at the green and peaceful cemetery which looked like a forest, with a beautiful Fall sun coming through the trees.

See, I am named after him, and the experience I am trying to find the words for is looking at a gravestone with my name on it.

People are not really afraid of dying; they are afraid of not ever having lived, not ever having deeply considered their life’s purpose, and not ever having stepped into that purpose and at least tried to make a difference in this world. – Joseph Jaworski

Such an image is a good opportunity to question my Right Livelihood. In a course on Creativity and Right Livelihood I currently teach at Bainbridge Graduate Institute (www.bgi.edu), we describe that we borrowed the concept from Buddhism, where “right livelihood” means work that is compatible with one’s continued spiritual development. In the context of the course, as well as my own musings here, it is a shorthand for “making a living in an ethical way that expresses who you are, fits with your preferences and passions, and serves others and the planet.” It means vocation that brings out your joy and gives your life deeper meaning. Right Livelihood is not only about what you do, but also how you do it and who you are being in your work. Finding your right livelihood requires a process of making on-going choices about your relationship with work, your vocation, your calling.

For the past 13 years or so, this has been my learning journey, a source of many moments of inspiration, frustration, and everything in-between. I see my life as aligned to the calling and to what I am meant to do here, with a deep sense of meaning, fulfillment, and purpose that are present on an ongoing basis. Still, because everything always happens for a reason, I am finding myself being curious. What’s next? What’s behind the visible? Is that it? What’s the next thing that wants to choose me and ask me to follow the call?

Thank you Grandpa Simon. Perhaps the words came after all.

And the album of all the photos from the trip, should it be of interest, is here:

A sunny week to you all, inside and out.