The Tao Te Ching underscores the importance of the inner work as non-action when it says: “Practice not-doing, and everything will fall into place.”  

Gazing and resting in awe. Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash.

Meister Eckhart talks often about “working without a why”–all awe is without a why, without a purpose.  “God does all the divine works just for the sake of working.” We should “love for the sake of loving, work for the sake of working [and] do justice for the sake of justice.”

The Bhagavad Gita also teaches us to work without a why. 

Set thy heart upon thy work, but never on its reward.  Work not for a reward; but never cease to do thy work….Work done for a reward is much lower than work done in the Yoga of wisdom….When work is done as sacred work, unselfishly, with a peaceful mind, without lust or hate, with no desire for reward, then the work is pure….The person whose work is pure attains indeed the Supreme. 

We should put our work in the context of the universe—indeed Hildegard of Bingen says that our work helps make the wheel of the universe go around.  How noble is work!  

The Bhagavad Gita tells us that all actions take place in time by the interweaving of the forces of Nature; but the person lost in selfish delusion thinks that he himself is the actor.  This blunt statement challenges anthropocentrism indeed.

Meister Eckhart shares this profound spirituality of our inner and outer work: The outward work can never be small if the inward one is great, and the outward work can never be great or good if the inward is small or of little worth.  The inward work always includes in itself all size, all breadth and all length.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Reinvention of Work, pp. 56-58.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: The Catholic Worker logo, by Ade Bethune. Uploaded to Flickr by Jim Forest

Queries for Contemplation

Do you see your work as “sacred” and attaining the Supreme?  Don’t you wish everybody did?  Do you realize that you are not the actor?

Recommended Reading

The Reinvention of Work: A New Vision of Livelihood For Our Time

Thomas Aquinas said, “To live well is to work well,” and in this bold call for the revitalization of daily work, Fox shares his vision of a world where our personal and professional lives are celebrated in harmony–a world where the self is not sacrificed for a job but is sanctified by authentic “soul work.”
“Fox approaches the level of poetry in describing the reciprocity that must be present between one’s inner and outer work…[A]n important road map to social change.” ~~ National Catholic Reporter

Responses are welcomed. To add your comment, please click HERE or scroll to the bottom of the page.

Share this meditation


Daily Meditations with Matthew Fox is made possible through the generosity of donors. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation

Search Meditations





Receive our daily meditations

9 thoughts on “More Wisdom about Work from Deep Ecumenism”

  1. Avatar

    I love these teachings from Eckhart. As a playwright, I often ask myself, “Why write these plays if I am not getting more productions? Am I not writing to make a positive difference in the world? Yes! So, how does that happen if the only ones seeing my plays are a few people who listen to readings of them? Maybe I should run for office instead.” But, I’m a writer. That’s my gift. And so, I remind myself of what I once told an artist friend: “We are not in charge of outcomes. We are only in charge of doing the best we can at any given moment.”
    “Work for the sake of working….work without a why….our work makes the wheel of the universe go round….when work is done as sacred work…the work is pure.”
    It’s a process of reminding myself of these notions over and over again. Thank you, Matthew for these words.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Michele, So it looks like you have answered your own question. In a similar way I write music, and have written hundreds of songs over the years, but have never been able to make a living off of them–and then my daughter just said, why don’t you just try to enjoy them yourself, so I started doing annual concerts of my music for just me and m y friends. You had it right when you told a friend: “We are not in charge of outcomes. We are only in charge of doing the best we can at any given moment. Work for the sake of working….work without a why….our work makes the wheel of the universe go round….when work is done as sacred work…the work is pure.” Thank you for sharing, Michele!

      1. Avatar

        Marianne Williamson responded to a woman in her audience puzzling over her artistic gift, questioning. “Always do what you love doing and get a job to support yourself”. When young parents we would like to have been savvy to that idea to guide our young children.

        1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
          Richard Reich-Kuykendall

          MaryKay, Thank you for your comment. I have a lot of respect for Marianne Williamson, in how she has presented the Course to the world in a more accessible way, and understandable form. Here, she makes a great comment on what do when you can’t make a living doing what you like: “Always do what you love doing and get a job to support yourself”.

  2. Avatar

    I’m an elderly woman, long retired from employment work. So I’m wondering how to apply these beautiful teachings to people of low income, people who have to work for reward in order to live, people who don’t have the luxury of just doing what they love, etc. I’m thinking that “work” here is not just about an employed job but can also refer to the “work” of living as a caring servant wherever we happen to be. That also fits with the ideas expressed in today’s meditation.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Dudley, In Matthew’s book, THE REINVENTION OF WORK, he makes a big difference between work and a job. So often, people have a job that they don’t like, but they have to do to make money in order to pay the bills and put food on the table. People often dislike their jobs because they are low paying and they keep them from doing what they would really like to be doing, such as_____________ fill in the blank. Work however, should be what we like to do, whether it be sewing, gardening, cooking, doing some kind of art “work”–or for those who still are in the work force, it means people who are doing the work they would do anyway, because they enjoy doing it.

  3. Avatar

    My work is remote, completely anonymous, underpaid and undervalued, while also being quite difficult. I often grumble about it. But in the course of my work I hear about personal stories of pain and suffering, and I feel compassion for these people – just privately in my own mind. Strangely, that caring feels to me like the most important part of my work even though it has no impact on anybody. Today’s DM has given me inspiration to consider if that may actually be the meaningful part of my work.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Claudia, I feel that anything that increases our compassion for people is a very good thing. So, whereas your work feels for the most part remote and completely anonymous, your feelings of compassion create a sense of connectedness to those who are suffering–because we are fellow-sufferers with them.

Leave a Comment

To help moderate the volume of responses, the Comment field is limited to 1500 characters (roughly 300 words), with one comment per person per day.

Please keep your comments focused on the topic of the day's Meditation.

As always, we look forward to your comments!!
The Daily Meditation Team

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join us in meditation that supports your compassionate action

Receive Matthew Fox's Daily Meditation by subscribing below: