In class I often repeat this quote after talking about the concept of dharma. In buddhist philosophy, dharma refers to the ultimate law in all things. But it also concurs an individual’s right conduct in conformity with this law. On the practical level, dharma is the recognition that each of us is born with unique gifts, and that it is our path to discover these gifts and share them with others. In sharing our gifts we live most fully, perform maximal service to those around us, and empower them to live out their dharma. It is a beautiful notion, and quite provocative to consider in the context of a yoga class, but invariably someone comes up to me after class and asks, “What if you have no idea what you want to do?”
More often than not, this question is asked with real pain. Most of us live in dread of missing our own lives. My answer is twofold. First I ask, “What would you do if you had all the time and all the money in the world?” This is a very clarifying question, and I often ask myself as well, just to be sure I am on the right track in my own life. But if this question doesn’t feel helpful, I ask, “What do you do in your free time, when no is watching?”
Chances are we already know what makes our hearts sing, we already know the beauty that we love. The problem is that we have been trained to believe that the power to fuel our dreams lies outside ourselves, that our unique gifts must be described in a preexisting job description for them to be legitimate. It was a real breakthrough for me when I stood in my bedroom one day, smiled to myself, and said, “I guess my dharma won’t be spelled for me in a want ad section or a grad school catalogue.”
Dharma is a gift from God inscribed upon the heart. Once we begin to recognize it, we realize that it has been with us all our lives. Dharma is what makes you you. I seem my dharma in my yearning for expression, my love for interaction, my passion for details. What is yours?
I read once that if we look closely at a stone we can see traces of the fires that created it, and if we look into a person’s eyes we can see reflections of all of the eyes they have looked into with love. So it is with our dharma. As we reflect on the millions of smiles of our lifetimes, we see our dharma looking back at us with love.
Our practice readies our bodies, our hearts, and our minds for the deep work of living our dreams. As we inhale, we prepare; as we exhale, we deepen the posture. Coming to the mat, we prepare; going forth into our lives, we shine. Our practice is an inhalation, our dharma is an exhalation.