Lewis Richmond,
A Whole Life's Work:
Living Passionately,
Growing Spiritually

(Atria, 2004)

Lewis Richmond is a Buddhist teacher and author. In an attempt to reach out beyond the confines of what it means to be a Buddhist, Richmond has written A Whole Life's Work: Living Passionately, Growing Spiritually. The aim is to appeal to all readers, not just those who practice the same religion as he does.

While he borrows a lot from his Buddhist background, Richmond focuses on spiritual growth vs. religious convictions in improving one's working life. He does not simply mean our paying jobs. He is saying that our whole life is work. As Richmond explains, "our work is to find out what our work is."

"The implicit message is that there are only two important activities in life -- earning money and enjoying leisure -- and that the purpose of the former is to finance the latter. ... This book advances the point of view that though we may not be able to define it precisely, happiness has something to do with work." Furthermore, he writes, "...our deepest work as human beings is to discover ... what it is to be human."

The book discusses eight types of work we all perform at some point during our lives. These roles include the earner, hobbyist, creator, monk, helper, parent, learner and elder. Richmond describes these roles as "outer work." These jobs impact others. They leave a footprint, so to speak, on the outer world. Depending upon the timeframe, an individual might perform several of these at the same time.

Each mode of outer work also has a corresponding mode of inner work, including precepts, vitality, patience, calm, equanimity, giving, humility and wisdom. While we interact with the outer world, we still have to work on our inner selves. On the one hand, we are all individuals. But we are also one people on one planet. As individuals and as a group, we have the power to improve life as we know it (a very simplified way of referring to what Richmond calls "The Consciousness Project"), or conversely, we can continue on the path mankind seems to have chosen -- one of destruction.

To give an example of one outer mode of work and the corresponding inner work, I will quickly mention parenting and giving (something we can all relate to since even if we have not been parents, we at least had parents). Richmond explains that the role of a parent includes more than physically raising children. Parents "help lay the foundation for adult spiritual life." Parenting is done through giving. As a child, you equate giving to getting. In the end, you are looking out for your own gratification. This makes sense as your world revolves around you. As children mature in to adults, depending upon how they were parented, they will hopefully learn unconditional giving. If one has high enough self-esteem and knows his place in the greater world, then giving comes more from compassion than selfishness. Richmond goes in to a lot more detail as each mode of work (both outer and inner) is explained in an individual chapter.

Lewis Richmond has written A Whole Life's Work: Living Passionately, Growing Spiritually as a guidebook to aid all humans in making the world a better place. The hope is to cross religious boundaries and touch people at a spiritual level, helping readers rethink how they view their roles in the world. If your spiritual life needs some direction, this book might help.

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 4 December 2004

[ visit Lewis Richmond's website ]

Buy it from Amazon.com.