Today we’re talking about dharma! Purpose! Life’s work!
It’s very light for a Monday.
This weekend I spent lots of time in a yoga retreat, and our studio owner is all up in arms these days about figuring out why you’re here, and honing in on it with laser focus. It’s actually something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently relating to my life and the 1,847 balls I generally keep in the air, and so the weekend came at just the most perfect time. We mostly agree at our studio that we’d all live there together and talk about light and happiness and eat quinoa all day if we could, but we live in the real world and have families and bills and the desire to watch Gossip Girl while drinking boxed wine with our sisters, so we have to take these little moments together when we can, make the most of them, and then use the lessons we learn out in the big scary world.
If you google the word, you’ll find something that starts with “key concept” and ends with “no English translation.” So…the interpretation we’re working with today is the idea that dharma is your purpose on this earth.
Dharma is not your desires. It is not your dharma to be wealthy. Sorry.
Dharma often isn’t your job or career, either. We speak of it in that way a lot, but often dharma is fundamental to our personality, and so if we are lucky we can choose a career path that allows us to embody our dharma in our day-to-day lives. For example: I believe that my dharma is to nurture people. I cook for people, I listen to them in therapy, I teach them how to care for their bodies in yoga, and so on. I have worked incredibly hard to MOSTLY do things in my life that allow me to be nurturing. But, if I was still at the software company where I used to work, I could easily saturate myself with nurturing – it just might be a little bit more difficult.
It’s also important to note that embodying your own dharma doesn’t mean being the happiest you’ve ever been. You very well might be happy, but there is also a quieter contentedness that comes from knowing that you’re doing what you’re supposed to do. Not because someone told you to do, not because you think you should, but because you know at your core that you are here for a purpose, and great satisfaction comes from living out that purpose. It might not always be fun. It might not always make you giddy. But it WILL feel very right. It will also make hard work, sacrifice, and dedication feel more worth it.
In the very short time I’ve had on the earth, I really believe that people struggle with two main things: making connections to one another, and living out their purpose. We sometimes get stuck on surface-area struggles: poor health, low finances, circumstances we can’t control, but if we look past all that, those two items are what can make or break a life. Figuring out why we are here might take some time, but once we know what it is we have NO ONE to blame but ourselves if we choose to ignore it.
For example: I have 5 jobs that pay me money right now. Some of them serve my dharma, and some don’t. On the weeks where I am doing a lot of therapy, a lot of yoga, and lots of connecting with people in very real ways I am at my absolute best. I sleep better, I’m calmer, I get more done. Weeks where I have a ton of cooking orders and make $3/meal after groceries for 4 hours of work? Not financially viable, sure, but NOT nurturing to myself or anyone else.
So then we go back to the drawing board (I’m using myself as an example, but this obviously fits with anything in the world that applies to you): wasting lots of time doing things that you might LIKE but that don’t feel fulfilling, or like it’s allowing you to offer the best version of yourself to the world? Can it. Simple. Get rid of it. Too many balls in the air, too many branches growing, and a loss of the singular focus when that happens.
BUT THEN we can’t just quit everything. I see this a lot in men especially who feel compelled to provide financially for a family, and, frankly, lots of people don’t feel a massive fulfillment from working in a cubicle all day. That’s ok, you are not less of a man (or woman) or a whiny brat or anything like that. If you feel unfulfilled by anything in your life you might simply be being honest. So, we feel unfulfilled and yet can’t eliminate all of the unfulfilling things from our lives. Be that as it may. What CAN we do, though? Minimize those things? Take action to be the best, most vibrant, most passionate version of ourselves outside of our jobs or whatever it is that isn’t working for us but also can’t be eliminated?
Of course. Saturating yourself in your own personal dharma doesn’t mean getting rid of all of the bad things or things that you don’t love. There are bills to pay, and office jobs to get to, and it takes TIME to get to a place we think deserve, not to mention the humans in our lives that really won’t ever go away but also might not bring out the best in us. Instead of letting those things turn us upside down and inside out it’s ok just to sit with that for a little while. To retreat, contemplate what we can’t change, and and figure out what we can.
I think there is almost always something we can change. Planning for the future, taking small steps in the direction of your end goal, being OK with failure, and holding on like hell to the times when you feel just so right, like you’re in the place where you belong being who you are supposed to be.
Holding on like hell. It just comes down to mindfulness and awareness. I see people sometimes who get on the “nothing is ever good, you don’t understaaaaaaand…..” wailing train, which is somewhere we all kind of want to be sometimes, right? That’s ok. Wailing and being miserable is ok. We take some time there, then we go back to mindfulness and awareness. Where do you not feel miserable? Name some times that you feel like you’re serving a wonderful purpose. We go on and on in this way for a time, and almost always themes emerge that tell me and the person I’m talking to exactly what they’re supposed to be doing to be the best version of themselves.
And even if all you can tell me is “I really just like hanging out with my friends,” we will use that, we will find a way to replicate it, and we make small steps so that the feelings of fulfillment and contentment that might be fleeting end up being the rule rather than the exception.
Figure out who you are at your very core, and then give that version of yourself to the world today. Even if you forget it all tomorrow – it’s a start.