May: Dharma

The notion of dharma, a fundamental concept in the yogic philosophy, recognizes that every form of life possesses an inherent reason for its existence. The root of the word dharma, “dhri”, which means to hold up, support, or bear, reveals that Dharma has to do with support from within. Dharma is the essence of a thing; it is that, which makes a thing that that it is. Yet, dharma is often translated as purpose, which is a word that carries a very different meaning in the western, capitalistic, result- and profit-oriented mind-set.

If we take an honest look at the well-intentioned striving to “live and fulfil our purpose” in our western world, we might find that the pursuit of purpose might still be driven by a hedonistic expectation to find happiness. A happiness that, all too often is based on wanting to feel good and is contingent on our ability to control outside circumstances. Too often the intention to live purposefully is just another attempt to satisfy the cravings of our “lower selves “. Our “higher self”, however, knows that since the dharma is the very essence of our lives, we do not need to create it or chase after it. All we need to do is become still and see what is already there. When we live our dharma we simply do whatever is in front of us to do, without being invested in an envisioned, desired results, or wanting to produce a certain state of feeling, and controlling whatever is going on around us.

Our yoga practice on the mat acts as a mirror to show us whether we are driven by our “lower selves” to fulfil a purpose we are making up for ourselves or if we are humbly doing what we are meant to do.

On the mat are we striving to achieve perfection, do we push ourselves to go farther, deeper, and beyond what is best for us in this very movement?

Are we stepping on the mat with a certain expectation of what we should be able to do?

Are we purely invested in the “final pose”?

Or are we able to practice from a place of resting in our higher selves; practicing to accept ourselves wherever we are at, simply doing our practice and letting go of the result? Appreciating more strength, flexibility, and well-being as pleasant by products of our practice but not the end result?

By living one’s dharma the ultimate goal of Yoga can be attained. Ultimately the practice of Yoga allows us to move beyond the delusion of separation and into the realization of being one with everything. Awakening to the impermanent truth of the state of oneness by acting from our very essence is very different from the permanent hedonistic happiness we might find by simply “living our dreams”. When we follow our true dharma we are no longer interested in our little plans and designs, and what we can get out of life, but rather because we understand the totality of all things, we will want to see how we can contribute to life and be of service in everything we do.

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