What domains of practice enable us to do is shine a light on a particular aspect of our lives.
Suppose a person did not recognize these several domains. She might say, “There is only one domain in life, and that’s the real world.” So what?
That “real world” might mean different things in different cultures. In America I think it’s safe to say it means being vocationally successful. And yet a person can be vocationally successful and one day wake up to find herself lonely, unhealthy, stressed out, and searching for meaning.
A domain serves as a kind of lens that brings into focus an area of life that might otherwise get overlooked in the highly competitive world we live in today. If there is only the real world, it’s easy to keep doing those things that make that needle the real world measures us by go higher and higher, until one day the oil light comes on and the engine seizes.
Dividing one’s life into domains and somehow observing or measuring what’s going on there is like having the dashboard on the car to tell you whether all those systems that keep the car going are functioning properly.
I learned this the hard way. I would usually come to realize that a certain aspect of my life wasn’t functioning properly by some catastrophic failure.
It’s like that old Fram oil commercial, “You can pay me now, or pay me later.” It is so much more cost effective to regularly change the oil in a car than it is to wait till it dies on the road from lack of oil.