Finding Your Dharma and Forging Your Path

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In the yoga tradition, the word dharma refers to an individual’s unique path in life. In the past, it meant living the prescribed lifestyle for your caste. Since humanity has evolved beyond the caste system (go us!) we now use the term in a more individualized way that means living in accordance with your own nature and values.

On the day I taught my first online yoga class, I had the clearest sense of my dharma that I’ve had in a long time. After teaching, I felt overwhelmed with joy. I was able to share something I really love, plus people paid me even though they didn’t have to, and they registered for future classes. I felt so lucky and grateful. I have always wanted to find work that felt this joyful, and having found it feels so good it’s almost unreal.

As a kid, I saw my dad doing work that was 100% right for him. He’s a doctor, and he loves his work. He cares deeply for his patients and feels satisfied knowing he’s helping people. I didn’t know that was called living your dharma back then, but I knew I wanted to do it. My mom’s work is different, but she too seems perfectly suited to her life. She raised four kids and helped run the medical office, and of course managed all the business of our home. The type of work I saw my parents doing wasn’t exactly what I saw for myself as an adult — I didn’t want to be a doctor or a mother of four — but I had hopes that I could find work that was really fulfilling for me personally.

I entered the professional world only to find that I felt out of place and dissatisfied with every job I did. I knew I liked to write, but I couldn’t figure out how to get anyone to pay me just for liking to write. My heart wasn’t in journalism, no matter how much I loved the newsroom, and I wasn’t a very good copy editor. But this combination of teaching yoga and writing is surprisingly perfect for me. I write about what I love the most, I teach what I love the most, and I still get the indulgence of writing to my heart’s content. Furthermore, I never feel like I’m selling bullshit. I never feel like I’m doing a meaningless job. I know that when I teach yoga or or write about yoga, I’m doing my best to give other people something very valuable. Even if I don’t always accomplish what I want, the work still feels worthwhile.

I do occasionally feel like I have a thankless job. Very rarely, I have a class and no one shows up, or I don’t get paid on time or enough (it happens). Once in a blue moon, a student is acts like a jerk. But those times are extremely minor compared to the sense of fulfillment I get from doing the work that’s meaningful to me.

But that day after teaching that first online yoga class, I felt this sense of “Ah-hah! That’s what dharma’s supposed to feel like!”

If your life feels like wearing someone else’s clothing or driving someone else’s car, you need to get in touch with your dharma. If you’ve been telling yourself “I’m only in this job for another year…” then you might have lost touch with your dharma. The good news is, you can bring your life back into alignment with what matters most to you, and it starts with a simple intention or sankalpa.

Try this on for size: I live my life fully, joyfully, and in tune with my true values. 

Say that to yourself a few times each day. Set it as your intention when you get up in the morning, and think it right before you go to sleep. In between repetitions, do your best to make your decisions in tune with that statement. This is the beginning of your evolution.


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Inspiration and Wisdom from Halcyon

andicat's and halcyon's camera

I really enjoy Halcyon’s Hug Nation videos. He’s one of the people I watched religiously when I was trying to work up the nerve to change my life. If I got a quiet moment at the office, I would go to Youtube and find one of his videos and enjoy the feeling that someone out there was on my side, someone else out there saw the world as this brilliant and gorgeous experience that I hoped it could be. In this video, he shares his guidelines for how to find meaning in your life. It’s a long video but totally worth the watch. I am so grateful for him being out in the world and sharing his love of life. I hope you’ll be able to take some of his ideas to heart.

I know my hippy stuff might not resonate with everyone, but whatever. I find this guy inspiring, especially when he talks about all the ways in which joy is a choice. Most of us in the Western world live with a great luxury of choice. We have so many options spread before us at all times, yet we often think of all these options as nothing more than a hassle. When we start changing our minds about how we want to view the world, we start to change everything.

Thanks, Halcyon, for being a voice for awareness, choice, and transformation.



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This Above All: Don’t Be a Fraud

Photo by Thea Bee Photography
Sometimes I lie in bed and think about my many shortcomings — as a writer and a yoga teacher especially. Lately, I’ve come to understand why so many successful people say they’re afraid of being revealed as a fraud. Even Maya Angelou has said she’s sometimes afraid people will discover she can’t really write. And occasionally, we are confronted with the fact that our beloved yoga teachers and spiritual leaders are deeply flawed people.

I realize that because I’m a yoga teacher and I like to talk about spiritual things, people might think I see myself as some kind of authority on these things. Not by a long shot! I’ve had some training and practice, but I can’t do every yoga pose, and I get jealous of people who can. Nor am I always peaceful or nice — just as I was writing this, a lady walked into the coffee shop where I’m working, and her son was being such a demanding little brat that I accidentally laughed out loud at him. Sorry, lady.

Luckily, you don’t have to be perfect in order to be a teacher. You just have to be actively engaged in the process of learning and willing to share what you learn along the way. I think I have some things I can share with people, and I aspire to be a really good teacher, but I don’t believe in faking it till you make it. You have to be honest about who you are and not lead people to believe you’re a saint when you struggle just as much as they do.

Then again, there are people out there like Amma. I’m sure she’s had heartbreak and anger in her life, but when she’s doing her service to the world, she seems to just let love fill her so she can give and give and give. We don’t see if she wrestles with guilt from the past or fear about the future. Maybe she’s grown beyond that, or maybe she just doesn’t share it.

As for me, that’s just not my path. No one would believe I was real if I didn’t curse, make dirty jokes, and laugh at the obnoxious kid in the coffee shop. If I play it too prim, people who know me can tell something ain’t right. So, while you might not like my sense of humor, will you ever find out that I’m a fraud? Nah. Not as long as I stay true to myself.

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Deep Thoughts from Teenage Me

This is the person you're taking advice from. I'm just saying.
I’m the one on the right. This is the person you’re taking advice from. I’m just saying.

I have this notebook full of quotes that I started keeping as a kid. Any time I found a saying that struck me as smart or funny or otherwise worth remembering, I wrote it down in this notebook. I’ve been slowly adding bits to it since I was about 12. So, we’re going to do an experiment. Every now and then, with minimal explanation, I will share a quote with you. It might be wise or smart or funny, or it might just be the type of thing you think is very clever when you’re 15.

For example, here is today’s quote:

“One thing I have learned: God made people good, but they have found all kinds of ways to be bad.”  -Ecclesiastes 7:29

I’m fairly certain this quote shouldn’t make me laugh, but it does. I’m sure when I wrote it down I thought it was a wise observation about morality, but now it just looks like a fun Friday night.

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Practical Advice for Getting What You Want

[ This IS ALL WE Need : And SOME Love AND Passion ] Temple Bar, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

“Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they’re yours,” I said rather pompously to a friend the other day. I was quoting Richard Bach, a hippy writer whose books I read as a kid.

“Argue against them, and they know you’re bullshitting,” my friend retorted. I thought that was worth considering.

Or as Barbara Sher wisely says, “Don’t stand in the middle of a superhighway and create your own reality.”

It is essential, as a sane, functional human being, to be in touch with reality. We don’t argue against gravity, we don’t stand in the middle of a busy street, and we generally avoid rage quitting our jobs without any plans for the future. This is called being a responsible adult. But reality being what it is doesn’t mean you have to just sit there and take it.

  • A black person will never be president of the USA because our history is too fraught with racial problems.
  • A woman can’t be an astronaut because she wouldn’t be able to meet the physical training standards.
  • Humans will never fly because if God wanted us to fly we’d have wings.
  • The internet won’t catch on because only geeks understand it.
  • I’ll never be able to do what I love because I won’t make any money.

All of these statements are bullshit. If we believe them, they become self-fulfilling prophecies. If we reject them outright, maybe people think we’re wearing rose-colored glasses at first. But we can let go of the assumptions.

Instead of predicting what will or won’t happen in the future, pick a goal and work on it. Instead of telling yourself that your dreams are impossible, ask yourself, “What if there were a way?” What would that look like? How would it feel?

When you’re ready to start making things happen, talk about it. Tweet about it. Post it on Facebook. Make a Pinterest board for it. Let your wishes be known. This isn’t some magical visualization technique I’m giving you, it’s practical advice. If you start talking about big ideas, soon people will know you as “That chick with all the big ideas,” and when the right people hear about it, they will want to be part of what you’re up to.

And finally, don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go your way immediately. I must have tried hundreds of hair-brained schemes before I figured out how to do what I love in a sustainable way. We are in a constant process of evolution, and it takes practice and patience to move in the direction you want. We may never really “get there,” but we have the option to enjoy the journey.

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