Is there fulfillment outside of the rat race?
I used to ask myself this question very often, circa 2015. It was confusing, and I felt hopeless—a crazy person, asking impossible questions. The burning desire to find a way out of the rat race (of constantly demanding more of myself, comparing/competing with and pleasing others, that led to a burnout/ICU stay) kept me going.
Arriving Upon A Sense of Fulfillment
Over the following months, continuously asking myself this question observing myself and the world around me, led me to the answer. I redefined my career with a lot of anxiety but with immense clarity. On my terms, I arrived upon a sense of fulfillment, pivoting myself to my current career.
Evaluating Pursuits In Life
Last year, another question started occupying my mind. If I dedicate myself solely to spiritual pursuits (to which I’ve been drawn to more & more), would that mean complete separation from the material world? Would I have to let go of the career I now associate my calling with? What if I lose passion and drive for life as I know it?
Lessons from a Vipassana course and Goenkaji’s wisdom would flood my mind in those instances. Realizing for himself and then bringing to the masses the experience of “equanimity” (a centered, balanced mind), finding peace and harmony within oneself, amidst “Annica” (impermanence of life, the ups & downs) was the spiritual pursuit of his life. He has mentioned how that unexpectedly opened up passion and success in the material realm for him, though he remained detached and equanimous to their presence or absence.
Finding Fulfillment In Limitlessness
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna advises Arjuna that the Stithapragna, one with a stabilized wisdom fully satisfied by existence consciousness, finds fulfillment in their limitlessness. They go about their responsibilities in life with a smile. That leads to fulfillment in material terms, but they remain unattached to whether it manifests or not (“Karma Yoga”).
Detachment From The Rat Race
And as I study successful high-achievers who emanate deep wisdom and fulfillment in life, it seems that their detachment from the rat race while still being part of the material world has contributed to their spiritual and material expansion, even more than those who remain wedded to a life of burnout attached to the rat race and its fruits. People belonging to the former mindset enjoy the finer things in life. Still, they are likely to remain just as happy without their plush possessions because they’re deeply centered in their inner consciousness.
A pursuit of a tall order. A fool’s errand. Or spiritual bullshitery. Whatever one may call it, but that’s the intersection that’s calling me right now—a deep connection with the eternal consciousness while swimming in the material world—and supporting others in similar pursuits.
The conclusion I draw for the time being, with parts of myself consciously steeped in the spiritual and material world, is that it doesn’t need to be mutually exclusive. It isn’t an either-or. There doesn’t need to be a loss of passion and enjoyment of material fruits, as one withdraws from the rat race and constantly seeks to evolve in their spiritual journey.
Maybe there will come a time for either-or. The beauty of the 4 Stages of Life (“ashramas”) mentioned in the Vedic texts resonates with me here. For someone like me, and most of us here, on a Grihasthashrama period, the calling is a mix of the material and spiritual. Over time as one evolves into a more mature phase in life, the proportion of that mix can change, and the proportion can be to one’s discernment and choice.
Does this resonate with you? Want to share your perspective? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Thank you!
PS. By no means am I claiming expertise or finality, or this to be a definitive article. As a humble student fumbling around, I’d love to know if you’re exploring these themes for yourself. Let’s share perspectives and learn from each other. Please feel free to share as a comment or schedule a conversation with me today.