Work-Life Harmony

– The Noble Eightfold Path | Livelihood –

I have been thinking a lot about how to talk about sex, drugs, and work, as they relate to the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. I felt I needed to bring more life to these topics, so I decided to have some conversations about them with others instead of recording monologues.

I’ll release these conversations over the coming months, so make sure to look out for them. You can also be notified of new releases by signing up for my newsletter at or subscribing to my podcast through whatever platform you use to listen.

Today, though, I want to talk about my own career and how I’m relating it to the Eightfold Path. I want to share my own struggles, my own plans and intentions, and also my promises to you, my audience, as I move forward. But before I do, let me talk more generally about how our livelihoods fit into the Noble Eightfold Path and the pursuit of love and freedom.

Livelihood & the Noble Eightfold Path

“Work is love made visible.” — Kahlil Gibran, On Work

Work life and spiritual life can often seem like two very separate and even incompatible things. But our work takes a central role in our lives and so it must play a central role in our spiritual journey. For many of us, it occupies more of our time than anything else we do. So, it’s essential we hold it and relate to it in the context of our deepest aim or aspiration.

In the context of the Eightfold Path, we want to ground our work in love. We want to stay in concord with life, aligned with our pursuit of wisdom. So, as we navigate our work life, we need to stay in tune with the fact that we are not apart from the rest of the world, that we are not apart from our colleagues, customers and clients, that we are not apart from the earth and her resources.

“To you the earth yields her fruit, and you shall not want if you but know how to fill your hands. It is in exchanging the gifts of the earth that you shall find abundance and be satisfied. Yet unless the exchange be in love and kindly justice, it will but lead some to greed and others to hunger.” — Kahlil Gibran, On Buying & Selling

As we go to work day in and day out, many of us come to feel like we’re not contributing in any way to the earth and her creatures, to our friends and neighbors, or to the future. We may even carry some ideal of what it looks like to do work that is “meaningful,” to live a life of service, and then end up feeling guilty or worthless at some point because we think our career isn’t living up to that ideal.

If you have ever felt like this, let’s see if we can shift our frame a bit to help unwind some of this guilt or felt ‘lack of meaning.’ First, when we consider our work in the context of spiritual life, try to remember that it’s not only what we do that matters but it’s also how we do it.

All work is empty save when there is love; and when you work with love you bind yourself to yourself, and to one another, and to God. And what is it to work with love? It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth. It is to build a house with affection, even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house. It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit. It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit.” — Kahlil Gibran, On Work

No matter what work we do — with some exceptions, of course, like sex trafficking — we can bring an attitude or a posture of service to it. We can work with love; we can give it our full care and loving attention. We can uplift and support our colleagues and customers. We can take a genuine interest in our employees. We can continue to seek out and encourage better business practices — better work-life balance, office culture, environmental sustainability, health and child care, etc.

We can also keep close to our hearts the service we are providing for our families, who require the financial support to keep a roof over their heads and food on their plates, to provide them with opportunities to get an education or to learn a trade, to take ballet or art classes, and thousands of other things.

Again, if we’re not harming anyone with our work, then whatever work we do can be an expression of generosity and loving-kindness.

“Always you have been told that work is a curse and labor a misfortune. But I say to you that when you work you fulfil a part of earth’s furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born. And in keeping yourself with labor you are in truth loving life. And to love life through labor is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret.” — Kahlil Gibran, On Work

Okay, one other element I want to explore here before we move on to discuss my own career is how to hold and relate to wealth in spiritual life. Some people, across many religions and even in Buddhist circles, make wealth out to be some kind of villain. Let me just say upfront that this view helps no one and it can even carry a kind of superiority conceit to it, a spiritual conceit that is full of hypocrisy and misunderstanding.

In the Buddha’s teachings, wealth gained with integrity is seen as a blessing that can be used for the benefit and welfare of others. And in fact, two very important and frequently mentioned people in the Buddhist scriptures, Visakha and Anathapindika, used their wealth to support the Sangha and provide aid, medicines, and other resources to those in need.

It is not unwholesome or unskillful to be wealthy or to acquire wealth. Wealth can be tremendous power for good in the world. Just think of all those who benefit from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Should we hold Bill and Melinda as spiritually inferior for making money? No. What matters is that we acquire our wealth with integrity and that we generously give back to life, give back to the earth, give back to our friends, family, and community.

“When in the market place you toilers of the sea and fields and vineyards meet the weavers and the potters and the gatherers of spices, invoke then the master spirit of the earth, to come into your midst and sanctify the scales and the reckoning that weighs value against value…And before you leave the market place, see that no one has gone his way with empty hands. For the master spirit of the earth shall not sleep peacefully upon the wind till the needs of the least of you are satisfied.” — Kahlil Gibran, On Buying & Selling

Aligning our livelihoods with spiritual life, in the end, is an expression of bodhicitta, the intention to awaken our hearts and minds for the benefit of all. So again, whatever work we do, we can do it with this aspiration in our hearts and minds, whether it’s expressed through our attitude at work, the work itself, or through our generosity to give back.

My Business Model & Promises to You

Okay, well, this is a good point to transition into my own work and how I plan to move forward. As many of you know, it’s been one hell of a journey. At university, I studied finance and economics, and then went on to study law in grad school. After graduating, I practiced as corporate counsel for about five years but was pulled in another direction the entire time by my real passion — philosophy.

I have devoured philosophy since I was a young teen. Most particularly epistemology — the study of knowledge, what it is and how it is created or grows. But really the whole range of philosophy — ethics, metaphysics, ontology, logic, politics, etc. So, even in school and during my career, I spent most of my free-time reading and writing about philosophy, and talking it through with my Snow Leopard as we hiked the Wasatch Range.

Then, when I finally met the full force of the Buddha’s teachings, I knew something had to give. My heart was removed entirely from the practice of law. So, I packed my bags, and soon found myself in Thailand sitting a silent retreat for a month, where I meditated eighteen hours a day, slept on a small hay mat, and had only a modest vegetarian meal in the morning and a milky tea at night. After this, there was no turning back.

My entire life, my relationships, my wellbeing, took a complete 180 as I married my meditation practice to my growing understanding of these Buddhist frameworks through which I could look at experience, through which I could look at myself, the world, and my place in it. The direct and immediate applicability of the Buddha’s philosophy to live a more awake, peaceful, and authentic life made it clear that my life would be spent in the service of philosophy (philo = to love | sophia = wisdom), in the service of wisdom, in the service of love and understanding.

“My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding.” — Psalms 49:3

So, here I am. After many years of pondering how to harmonize my spiritual aim of love and understanding with my needs, passions, skills, and family, I’ve decided to put my energy into three interrelated projects — 1) this podcast, 2) a wisdom and meditation app, and 3) a retreat center. So, let me just speak a bit about each of these projects, beginning with this podcast.

First off, let me extend some deep, deep gratitude to you for listening. I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to put something out into the world like this and have it be so well received. It makes me wish I had started sooner. But honestly, it has taken a lot of courage. As you artists, writers, and other creators know, when we put our work out into the world, we expose ourselves in a real and vulnerable way. It feels like taking our heart out of our chests and putting it on the table for all to do with it as they will. So again, thank you for all the support and encouragement.

I am increasingly appreciating the podcast world for creating a space for longer-form content. I really find this medium, along with audio book platforms like Audible, to stand out in the current information and media age. With so much of our information coming from social media channels, like Twitter, Metta, Instagram, YouTube, and all the rest, which really seem to fracture our attention, diminish our concentration, and pull us into the digital space, disconnecting us from our bodies and the world around us, Podcasts and audiobooks have an unusual intimacy and grounding element to them. They feel conversational and human. You can fit more than 4,000 characters, or whatever the tweet limit is now. You can feel the tone, presence, and emotion of the person speaking. And because it is audio only, we can also stay largely grounded in our bodies and environment. We can go on walks or to the gym, we can vacuum the house or fold the laundry, cook dinner, do the dishes, etc.

Anyway, as you probably know, the primary way to monetize a podcast is to allow space for advertisers. I don’t want to do this, though, for a few reasons. First, as a podcast consumer myself, I despise ads. They’re distracting. They get in the way of the content I am intentionally trying to consume. Second, I don’t know what products, services, and businesses I can truly stand behind. There are some companies that come to mind, like Audible, where I see no immediate scruples in advertising for them. But even then, I don’t know their business practices. I don’t know the leaders of the company. I don’t know how they treat their employees. I don’t know their politics. And I don’t want the full time job of vetting and staying up with every company that wants to place an ad on my podcast. Third, I want complete and utter freedom to say what is on my heart and mind. I don’t want to have to worry about x, y, or z pulling funding because of some position or statement I make. The world has become too politicized. Simply stated, I want to be accountable to myself and my listeners alone.

It is my promise to you, then, to keep my podcast ad-free. But to do this in a sustainable way, in a way that I can provide for myself and my family, I will need your support, which brings me to another topic I want to discuss — my financial model for both the podcast and the forthcoming app. The app, by the way, will contain meditations, dharma talks, journals, habit trackers, and conversations with spiritual teachers, psychiatrists, therapists, artists, poets, naturalists, psychologists, and ordinary people, like you and me, who can shed light on how to live a more peaceful and authentic life, one steeped in love and understanding.

Anyway, with both the podcast and the app, I never want money to be the thing that stands in the way of my content. So, I want to operate under a model of generosity. If you find value in what I’m providing, I ask you to please support me and my family in a way that doesn’t cause you financial stress. And if you can’t afford to support me financially right now, no worries. I will still make my content available to you, without any questions asked.

With the podcast, you can listen to all episodes, except for the occasional AMA, without subscribing. Just go to any platform and press play. And if you ever come to a place where you can afford to support me and would like to do that, simply subscribe through whatever platform you use to listen. The price is $5.99/month or $49.99/year.

With the app, the situation will be similar. You can go to the App Store or Google Play and download the app, which will have subscription options. If can’t afford the monthly or yearly subscription, though, you can email me to ask for a free subscription, and I will set you up with a free account. Again, with no questions asked.

And of course, there are also other ways to express generosity. You can share my work with your friends and family. You can leave reviews on Apple or Spotify or wherever you listen to the podcast. You can leave reviews in the app store. And you can provide links to my content in your social media channels.

Okay, well, that brings me to my last project. With the generous support of my dad, my partner and I have decided to open a kind of school — a retreat center, a sanctuary and place of growth, a place where people can come to feel safe and loved, a place where teachers and artists can come together to share their wisdom and beauty, where they can host retreats, workshops, and other experiences that soften our hearts and expand our minds.

We have purchased a 20 acre property on the edge of the Uinta National Forest, in Heber, Utah, an hour drive from Salt Lake City, and will begin building out the space this year. So, if you want to stay informed about events and retreats, please sign up for my newsletter at

Alright, well, I think that’s it for today. Let me just say thank you again for listening. I can’t express enough my gratitude for you. Without you, none of this would be possible. It is such an honor to share my journey with you, to stand together with you in awe at the magic and mystery of this precious human existence, with all its struggles and beauties. Truly, thank you.

Until next time,

John Driggs | Meditation Teacher & Founder of The Space of Possibility Podcast, Blog, & Retreat Center | Explore & Expand the Space of Possibility that You are!


“Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy. For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger. And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distills a poison in the wine. And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle man’s ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night.” — Kahlil Gibran, On Work

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