Mind your Business: Journey Through the Six Realms

Mind Your Business: Meditations on career, identity, and business.

by Shannon Bond

According to studies, organizational culture is the number one factor that determines employee satisfaction. And while job satisfaction across all employment may land at just over 50 percent, employee engagement is hovering close to 30 percent. That’s a lot of discontent. If you’re working through that kind of dissatisfaction and you can’t leave your position or don’t want to, it might help to see your days as a personal journey. On a journey, instead of observing one emotion or thought at a time, we know that we are full of many emotions and thoughts, often contradictory. With that real-world, in-the-moment idea in mind, it may be helpful to examine the six realms of existence.

First is the realm of the gods (or the deva realm). We are on a journey through the god realm when we feel invincible and euphoric but oblivious to the suffering or emotions of others. It’s the high after a successful presentation or that big promotion. Oh, how easy it is to forget about the failures that helped us along the way or how many people offered us a helping hand.

Then there is the demi-god realm. This is the realm of competition. It is the corporate climber in us. We may be competing with others or ourselves. In this realm, we focus only on our own success to the exclusion of others.

In the middle, we have the human realm. Here, we can find balance. It’s a middle ground that allows us to see ourselves and others. According to some, this is where mindfulness, compassion, and empathy can be practiced. We can observe that we are angry without being consumed by it. Or, we can revel in our success without forgetting where we came from.

Next, the animal realm is a state in which we’re driven by instinct and a desire to avoid pain and seek comfort. It is a reactionary state. We’ve all been here. In the moment, decisions are driven by a need for safety or comfort.

Number five is the hungry ghost realm. In this state, we are driven by our desire, whatever it may be. We want more. More of our favorite show. More time on that video game. More food, more money. More, more, more. If we just get the next thing, we’ll be satisfied and slow down.

The last is a state of overwhelming suffering known as hell or purgatory. In this state, we know only suffering to the exclusion of all else. Everything is negative, and no matter what the reality is, to us, it’s all going to end in ruin. We are the martyrs. Wronged. Or we’re suffering through a grave injustice imposed upon us by others. This is when that movie plays in our heads, and we don’t have a remote to stop it. That last conversation with our boss, that missed promotion, that failed presentation.

In mindfulness practice, we aim to observe our emotions and thoughts as they rise without taking action. But as we travel the realms in the workplace, the thoughts and feelings that arise are many, simultaneous, and often conflicting. By constantly observing the realm in which we travel, we accept a quest to know ourselves better. On this quest, the treasure we seek is the human realm. The one in the middle. That’s where we can release attachments. And with release, we can observe the reason for our discontent and take action to alleviate it.

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