Formerly a research psychologist in the USA, the author conducted a qualitative study of sixteen long-term practitioners of the Integral Yoga working in the fields of business management, education, health care, and the arts. Initial chapters frame his research methodology and examine some general findings regarding the participants' practice of the Yoga in work. Results of the study in each field are based largely on interviews with the participants, and include textual references from the works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and the author's reflections on central themes and common experiences. The final chapter identifies the various principles and insights regarding the application of Integral Yoga in these four professional fields and presents some of the broader implications of the study.
In this unique and engaging book Larry Seidlitz shares his deep and comprehensive understanding of the Integral Yoga in the context of describing in-depth research on the role of work in the Yoga. Seidlitz’s research into the application of the karma yoga aspect of the Integral Yoga reveals rich spiritual experiences in the lives of those he interviews and is intriguing and enlightening in its detailed discussion of the Integral Yoga as a whole. The book presents a valuable elucidation of karma yoga as essential to the Integral Yoga in both conceptual and concrete, pragmatic terms. Moreover, because of the author’s ability to concisely articulate concepts which are central to the Yoga without sacrificing their subtle aspects, Integral Yoga at Work can also be appreciated as a blueprint for practicing the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in life generally.Integral Yoga at Work
is the fruit of the author’s qualitative research into experiences of sixteen long-term practitioners of the Integral Yoga. With a PhD in psychology, Seidlitz brings to his work an extensive background in the field of psychology and psychological research and an even lengthier background as a devotee of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and practitioner of the Yoga. The author provides essential context for his research by including an excellent introduction to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and also to some basic concepts of the Integral Yoga. This is followed by a discussion of research methodology, beginning with specific explanations of various recognized types of research approaches and progressing to how this current qualitative research relates to them. Seidlitz also points out the distinct nature and appropriateness of his methodology and why he does not aim to be detached and objective, but rather joins with the practitioners he interviews in their perspective on the truth of spiritual reality, practice and experience. Citing the ability to enter more deeply into the meaning of the experiences involved, he writes:
Rather than skeptically examining or questioning them as an outsider, I utilize my own experience in studying and practicing the Yoga to further elaborate on them and place them into the larger context which I share with the participants.
The subsequent description and qualitative analysis is done through interviewing the participants in four broad categories of work: management, education, health care and the arts.
The reader receives the benefit of the author’s ability to relate to, interpret and communicate the participants’ observations and experiences. The sixteen participants, whose identities are concealed, included seven women and nine men, and equally represented general places of origin as described in terms of being from India or from Western countries. They ranged in age from 32 to 84 and had between eleven and more than thirty years of commitment to the Integral Yoga. Some work in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, some in Auroville, and some live and work at a distance and spend extended periods of time in either place.
Before examining the application of the Integral Yoga in the four broad areas of work identified for study, the book examines its application to work in general, focusing discussion of the participants’ experiences around quotations from Sri Aurobindo and the Mother which apply specifically to the integration of work into life and the practice of the Yoga. Next, each of the four areas of work is explored, first by considering Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s perspective on their significance and their observations about how best to approach each type of endeavor, and second by considering the participants’ experiences working in these fields. The wisdom shared here, including the quoted passages, comprises rich and meaningful direction for living consciously in the world.
Experiences of the participants include narrative descriptions from each in which they express their perspectives on how they apply their understanding of the Integral Yoga in the specific types of work which they perform and also how this relates to their daily lives and overall spiritual experience and its integration into their lives. Seidlitz incorporates interpretive analysis into his discussion of the narrative reports and also, more comprehensively, into the conclusions on each of the four areas of work. Not surprisingly, in the process of making comparisons and drawing parallels between these, some significant common elements are revealed. Some of the frequently expressed themes which Seidlitz identifies are: “merging of life, work, and yoga; equality towards money…; service as a motivation in work; feeling the Divine’s Presence in work; feeling that one is an instrument of the Divine; feeling connected with the Divine leads to harmony and efficiency in work; receiving concrete help from the Divine in work; difficulties in work seen as part of the Yoga; and fulfillment in life and work.” (p. 45) These examples from the research findings can be seen as indicative of the truly dynamic and integral nature of the practice of the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
Before summarizing the broad implications of his research, Seidlitz provides additional context with an enlightening description of his personal experience of discovering Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and the subsequent journey which followed his awakening to the Integral Yoga, including his experiences of karma yoga. This also provides opportunity to incorporate interesting comparative descriptions of work in the Ashram and Auroville, in which some of the distinct characteristics of each, as well as similarities and contrasts, are noted. For those unfamiliar with either or both of these two foci of the Integral Yoga, this should be a particularly interesting aspect of Seidlitz’s discussion.
In focusing on the essence of applying the Integral Yoga in each of the four categories of work, Seidlitz develops an excellent summary of his research. He writes:
We all can apply the insights discussed in this book to act more consciously, with a remembrance of the divine Source of all action, and more in harmony with the divine Force that is in us and seeks expression through our work in the world, whatever that work may be.
Altogether, Integral Yoga at Work
makes a unique and significant contribution to the literature of the Yoga. It comprises a valuable resource for developing an in-depth understanding of the dynamics of karma yoga and the manner in which it is an essential component of the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Integral Yoga at Work also demonstrates concretely how work in the light of the Integral Yoga has the capacity to enrich individual development and facilitate one’s progress in the evolution of consciousness.
Martha is a writer and scholar with a PhD in Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy. She has been a devotee of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother for many years, having lived in both the Ashram and Auroville, and is the author of several books and numerous journal articles on the Integral Yoga.