December 23, 2011 at 4:07 PM

Scrooge, Vision and You: Cultivating Spirituality in the Workplace

"It's interesting that Dickens chose the workplace as the setting for 'A Christmas Carol.'

By Levi Ben-Shmuel

Speaking for a Wiser Life

Levi Ben-Shmuel is a Tai Chi and Kabbalah teacher, and co-creator of "Sulam Chi: A Dance of Life."

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Proverbs 29:18 states, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." There is wisdom in this statement. Having vision implies having hope that things can be different and better. There is also the hint in the verse that having vision energizes the will to turn a vision into reality. No matter how grandiose or modest, without vision, life can become a monotonous, dreary, passing of days. The body and mind might be functioning, but the spirit has already perished.

It is also wise to be careful in choosing a vision. If the vision is too narrow, it has the potential to do more harm than good.

The devastating results of narrow vision surround us. For instance, on a macro level, the vision that supports a narrow concentration of wealth at the top 1 percent of society has led us to a point where society is so unbalanced, the very nature of this country as a democracy is in question. On a personal level, narrow vision can mean creating a life that is so self-centered one is left in an isolated island revolving around a "me" against "them" mentality that leaves no room for meaningful relationships.

A narrow vision is related to being cut off from a part of yourself or your community. It could be based on upbringing, education (or a lack of one) or societies' standards for what is acceptable.

Dickens' classic story, "A Christmas Carol," has a lot to teach us about vision. Ebenezer Scrooge, a successful businessman, is known for being greedy and stingy. He embodies a narrow vision of life. The qualities of compassion, kindness and benevolence have no meaning for him. His narrow vision of what matters prevents him from caring about the plight of his nearly impoverished clerk, Bob Cratchit.

Through a series of visitations by ghosts, Scrooge is shown parts of himself he has lost, what the reality is for a range of people in his community, and a dire vision of the future if he does not change his ways. After these experiences, he is transformed. Scrooge's heart opens, and he takes responsibility for contributing to his family and community. At the end of the story, Scrooge becomes an embodiment of the spirit of Christmas.

It's interesting that Dickens chose the workplace as the setting for "A Christmas Carol." For many, walking into work means checking your vision -- including creativity and spirituality -- at the door.

I hope you don't have a person of narrow vision as a boss who stifles your creativity and spirit. But even if you do, you can take inspiration from Bob Cratchit, a man with little working in terrible conditions, who found a way to hold on to his soul at work and fulfill his own vision. You can also take inspiration from my friend Martin Rutte, co-author of "Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work," who says, "For a lot of people, work is a place where you get sucked into despair for a variety of reasons. Why not use those very same reasons as a springboard to inspire you to create a vision of what you'd like, and then take little concrete steps every day to make that vision come true?" (Martin is involved in a global video contest to promote peoples' vision of bringing all of themselves into the workplace.)

It isn't easy keeping an open heart in the face of greed and arrogance in an environment that does not support and respect you, but holding on to a wider vision of life and who you are can be transformative and healing even in difficult circumstances. One way to stay open and vibrant is through taking pride and joy in your work. Another is complimenting and supporting those around you, thereby building relationships that can be nurturing and important.

As we move deeper into the holiday season, it is worth taking some time to think about our vision for our lives at work and outside of it. The more soul we bring into life, the richer our experience will be and the greater our impact on those around us. Happy holidays!

This blog entry appeared originally on Huffington Post.

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