'In our more lucid moments, when we have quieted the hubbub of our distractions, we are capable of sensing the power and intelligence that sustains us and everything else. In such moments, it is hard not to feel touched by the sublime, by that which links all things in the world together, by the eternal essence that is at the heart of our existence. Your long-term happiness and fulfillment depend on your ability to fulfill your personal dharma and fill the place in the world that only you can fill' - Rod Stryker
Inspired by this quote, this piece is about dharma - and the curious journey that each of us takes as we seek to figure out what exactly ours is.
Dharma is one of those wonderful words with multiple meanings, encapsulating a profound philosophy in just two short syllables. As noun it describes the teachings themselves - the attempts of the Buddha and all enlightened Beings to describe the very nature of existence, and the principles or laws that give it order. Simply put, we could call these teachings The Way - how to live compassionately within an ever-changing universe free of unnecessary suffering.
As a verb dharma starts to get more personal, and describes how we choose as human beings to conduct ourselves, in alignment with these principles.
The Dharma describes the nature of things, my dharma is what I choose to do with this understanding. The question here though is whether we really choose Our Way at all? Or do we simply, gradually, surrender our resistance to it, finally becoming that which we were always meant to become?
It’s this choicelessness that fascinates me most.
Rod Stryker explains it perfectly in his book The Four Desires, “Your long term happiness and fulfillment depend on your ability to fulfill your personal dharma and fill the place in the world that only you can fill”.
That only you can fill.
Implied in this sentence is the obviousness of the fact that only you can be you as perfectly as you can, and the world is just waiting for that you to show up. It’s not so much about what you do, but who you are.
Fulfilling your personal dharma, by the way, doesn’t mean you have to make your livelihood from a spiritual pursuit. It doesn’t mean you have to be a Yoga teacher. In fact if that’s not what you’re meant to be doing then you’ll be going against the grain - it’s just not going to work, and you’ll be turning yourself inside out if you force it.
Living your dharma doesn’t need to make you extra special, or famous, receiving excessive praise or acknowledgement. There are an awful lot of quiet achievers out there humbly living the most dharmic of lives, because the reward is found in the doing itself.
Living your dharma means doing whatever it is that you’re good at, whatever it is that brings you satisfaction because you do it well. It means doing things your way, according to the dictates of your wise and creative heart. It’s means doing what comes naturally, in a way that aligns with your deepest moral principles, your deepest Yoga, your deepest respect and reverence for life.
And if you find your work is in conflict with that, then yes, maybe it’s time to look a little bit deeper. But if not, then turn whatever you can do into your dharma by infusing it with ever greater consciousness and love.
I found some old primary school report cards the other day that really made me laugh. My strengths and my weaknesses were exactly the same then as they are now. Growing into my dharma has meant honing my good points, and disciplining the ways that I let myself down.
Turning 40 this year has been quite a milestone, for better or for worse. But one of the very best bits about getting older for me is knowing myself that little bit more intimately with each and every year, so that I save myself the heartache of trying to be someone else.
I know now what I want to share, and who with. I know I can’t be everything for everyone, so I’ve stopped trying to be. I can’t tell you how good that feels, and how sweet it is to trust that I’ve already got whatever I need to be me.
So if you’re still trying to figure out just what’s your thing, or been pushing too hard to be something you’re not, then here’s a few signposts to guide your way...
I always know that I’m on the right track when I feel:
- Excited/energised - I can be borderline obsessive in fact when I get started on a project that feels like just the right fit.
- Empowered - I know I can do the thing I’ve set out to do. When I’m trying to be someone else or something I’m not I feel stressed, nervous, and exhausted. I’d avoid it if I could.
- Supported - when you start filling the place in the world that only you can fill, life rushes right up to meet you. Whatever you create will have an effortless flow to it, which doesn’t mean that you won’t have to work, but you’ll have all the resources that you need to get it done, quite magically sometimes.
If I could give my younger self a few words of advice (although I doubt she’d listen), then I’d be extremely unoriginal and borrow them from E.E.Cummings!
'To be nobody, but yourself, in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being could fight'.
But so worth it - keep fighting!!
Om Namo Narayani!
Lucy leads regular retreats and workshops in Bali, India, Japan, Australia and the Middle East, and has been part of the Yoga Arts team for more than 12 years, delivering 200 & 500hr Teacher Training Courses internationally. Her style is fluid, feminine, intuitive, and creative, inspired by a love of dance and free-style movement, and the stillness residing beneath. Lucy is a passionate writer & speaker, who delights in inspiring a deeper dive into the subtleties of both mind & heart. She lives with her partner in Byron Bay, Australia, writing, teaching, living, learning and embodying Yoga as best she can. Follow her here: www.lucyrobertsyoga.com