Right Livelihood: Doing Good and Doing Well

by Andrea D’Asaro

The Shambhala teachings are inspiring Seattle sangha members in their professional lives and as volunteers, where they offer their skills and time each month towards running our center.  These members are making “right livelihood” choices, following traditional Buddhist teachings on living a dignified life and working in an ethical way.

Inspired by her studies at Naropa University, Terry Jaworski sees basic goodness as the centerpiece of her work as a psychotherapist and as head of Social Health and Well-being for our sangha.

“So many people feel they are deeply flawed and identify with their stories of how they are messed up. My hope is I can help people consider they are fine, just as they are, says Terry, who sees private clients at her Capitol Hill office, shared with her husband Jay Jaworski.

“In terms of right livelihood, I‘ve always had the inspiration to listen to people’s stories about how they experience their world. My livelihood as a therapist arises from my belief that everyone has basic goodness or intrinsic sanity and that we can share this with each other through our connection.”

“Emotions are like wifi; we can’t help but feel what others are feeling. We can learn to trust that everything we need is present in the moment. It might not be what we want or expected, we can be with whatever arises.”


Finding Community

Terry, a 37-year member of Shambhala, became a student at Naropa University when she heard about the Master’s program in Eastern and Western Psychology that included a 3-month Maitri program at Shambhala Mountain Center.

“I’d had enough of academics and wanted more direct experience. I really wanted to do the retreat. My meditation practice was zazen up to that point and I had no idea what Vajrayana Buddhism was all about. The first time I walked into the Boulder Shambhala Center in 1981, I discovered I’d found home. I went on to staff an additional 3-month Maitri program and am currently involved in coordinating and teaching Karuna Training in Seattle and Berkeley.

As a therapist, Terry uses Mindfulness-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and teaches Dialectical Behavior Therapy, which “share my belief that people are basically good and doing the best they can. The work entails learning skills to be in the present with one’s experience rather than being in a story about it. This is the challenge all humans face and places the therapist and client on a level playing field.”


Getting Unstuck

She notes that most people get stuck in the narratives they create to get a handle on the world, only occasionally touching into their feelings and heart. “In the big picture, we are fine at our core.  This can be easy to lose sight of. As children we may have made an association between feeling bad and believing that we are bad. This can remain as an unconscious belief we hold about ourselves. We forget we have basic goodness.”

As a member of the Center’s Governance Council, she is concerned with the “Me Too” movement in Shambhala as a whole and similar concerns in our local sangha. She recommends compassion for the parts of ourselves that feel needy or upset any time we judge or push away or isolate others in our lives.

“Consider offering the same care and concern you’d have for a friend who was having a hard time. Be curious and stay with the thoughts and sensations. Feelings are stories that want to be told, so listen and notice the reaction in your body. Hold it gently and just be with it. Thoughts will arise, notice them and come back to attending to the feeling. This is how to be kind to you and this is how we care for our friends,” says Terry, who draws on Pema Chodron’s book, Taking the Leap.

“It is possible to just feel the uncomfortable feelings and be with each other’s pain. This capacity, to just feel and be, is what we as a community have to offer the world.”


What’s your Right Livelihood?

For readers who are curious about “right livelihood,” Terry suggests looking at what you value, and base your direction on that. “What opens your heart, feels congruent, or attracts you? What feeds you and makes you feel you are contributing? When your work is aligned with your values, it’s easier for your windhorse or energy to flow. “

As a therapist and Shambhala caregiver, Terry touches human suffering everyday and considers this to be her right livelihood.  To avoid burnout and maintain a heartfelt connection to each person she works with, Terry comes back to her basic goodness in the moment. She recommends that members attend the Shambhala Sadhana at the Center each Sunday at 9AM, which she is coordinating this spring.

The Shambhala Sadhana, composed by Shambhala spiritual leader Sakyong Mipham in 2011, was written to be broadly accessible and utilizes open heartedness as the reference point. It’s a chanting practice that describes society as a huge organism; the interconnections between people are the synapses of the organism. “When I’m having a hard time, I come back to the feeling of the sun in my heart, the words of encouragement, as a way to reboot.”

5 thoughts on “Right Livelihood: Doing Good and Doing Well

  1. Thanks everyone — I’ll be leading the Shambhala Sadhana this Sunday at 9 am and it will be the topic of the discussion group on Sunday also.

  2. What a great interview, Andrea! I love the way you and Terry connected our personal doubts and hesitations with our practice and social biew as Shambhalians.

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