During the time around the autumn equinox, in my particular path of blending Zen and Druidry I focus on the Buddhist aspects of Right Livelihood within a Druid context. I do this throughout the year, blending the Buddhist Eightfold Path into the eight seasons of modern Paganism, and have found it spiritually inspiring and enlightening. (For further reading into Zen Druidry, please see my latest book, Zen Druidry, available on Amazon and through Moon Books).
Right Livelihood, in essence, means taking on a way of living and working that does not compromise the other principles within the eightfold path, or indeed any of the Dharma Principles. However, it is much more than ensuring that your occupation is not harmful to others – for me, this accords to everything I do, my entire life. My livelihood is not just my office job, or my dance company, my writing or my work as a Druid priest. My livelihood is the way in which I live my life – my whole Druidry as a way of living, not just as a practice.
I have ensured that the traditional view of Right Livelihood is upheld in my life – all my jobs do not create harm in others, abuse others or the environment inasmuch as is humanly possible. Yes, three out of my four jobs require that I drive a car, and that is a compromise that I have to make, which I try to offset in other areas of my life. I used to work as a legal secretary, but was slowly having my soul destroyed by helping the rich dodge inheritance taxes. It took the universe to give me a great kick up the bum to get out of that job and dive into something more meaningful for my own self – other similar legal jobs may work for some people, it just wasn’t in accordance with Right Livelihood for me personally. I quit, went back to university and got a job straight away working for a music company and charity, got writing again, started a dance company and began in my priest work. I felt much more at ease with myself, knowing that I was partaking in Right Livelihood (or Livelihoods!).
Some of us may feel trapped in jobs that we do not like, but we need the money to support our families, or ourselves. However, that doesn’t mean that we cannot be on the lookout for something that would sit better within our hearts and souls, and it also doesn’t mean that we can’t offshoot this, say perhaps by doing some volunteer work, donating to charity, etc. I personally don’t have much spare time, but the time that I do have I try to use wisely – though this year I haven’t succeeded as well as I may have, having run myself a little too ragged. Organising charity events, performing wedding ceremonies, on top of my other jobs left too little time for me and my husband, and in that regard I failed at Right Livelihood, as there was harm and neglect on that front. I have worked too hard, and now physically and emotionally see the repercussions. Now, in the autumn of the year, when I can see the results of what I have sown in the springtime of the year, I can also reflect on how to do better next year.
Right Livelihood means living right – it’s not just your job. For me, within Druidry, it means establishing a life that has as little impact ecologically as is possible at the time for me and my family. It means investing our savings in solar panels, recycling and composting everything, using cruelty and chemical-free toiletries, working towards creating peace and inspiring others. It means walking the walk instead of just talking the talk. It’s bloody hard to do. It means being aware of everything around you, of the impact that you have on the world, from the interaction I have with my co-workers to how many kilowatt hours our household has consumed in the last year. It means sacrificing ignorance for knowledge, and the practical application of such.
Druidry teaches us about creating honourable relationships with the world around us, with all things if you are an animist like myself. Seeing the inherent value in all things means that no single thing can be taken for granted. Incorporating Zen means bringing awareness of my own self and how my brain works, as well as working on an awareness of the world at large by living as mindfully as is possible. Sometimes I am hugely successful at both – other times I fail spectacularly. At any rate, it’s a learning curve.
Throughout the darkening days until Samhain, my focus on Right Livelihood is a constant reminder to live well. Taking inspiration from nature, I learn not to take more than is necessary, or at least I am inspired not to – succeeding in this regard is damned hard in a fairly affluent Western society. I breathe into the growing twilight, the longer nights and learn how to simply be in the world, leaving behind barriers of separation as much as I can, within myself and nature, humanity and the universe. The rich scents of autumn tingle in my nose, the decaying leaf mould and woodsmoke, the chill winds and starry skies above inspiring me to continue. It is Inspiring me to create a life that is worthwhile, and in doing so, following a path of Right Livelihood.