Earlier today while scrolling Facebook I came across a comment that got me thinking:
What exactly is living life to the fullest? Great question Kevin! As a matter of fact, living life to the fullest is something I talk about on a regular basis. I often call it "peak performance" and you can read all about it on this very website.
From a yoga perspective, living life to the fullest involves the concept of dharma, or personal destiny. The idea of having unique gifts to share with the world is something that resonates deeply with people and many have used yoga as a means to find and maximize these gifts.
When it comes to dharma I've found people typically have one of two questions. They are either wondering how in the world they are going to figure out what their dharma is, or they have already figured it out and are now wondering out how to act on it.
For some, figuring out your natural gifts is easy, comes early in life, and is very clear. For instance a child that is obviously extremely talented playing musical instruments at a young age likely has a dharma involving playing music. I knew a few kids growing up that were always drawing the most amazing pictures that would leave me in awe since I had very little artistic talents as a kid. So sometimes the gifts are easy to spot however, a lot of times dharma is much more subtle. It takes work to uncover it and sometimes it even takes a bit of luck.
Finding you dharma may include studying a variety of subjects, trying a variety of careers or hobbies, finding mentors and counselors and of course, lots and lots of yoga. It's not always going to be a hugely epic, exaggerated thing. Your dharma might be being the best administrative assistant, being a cook, a server, a janitor, a truck driver and so on. It's a myth that yoga will help us uncover some hidden magical gifts inside of ourselves. I mean...sometimes it does do that, but for the most part what yoga does is help us bring clarity to our lives and our dharma and help us accept it for what it is.
Once you have figured out your dharma, or at least feel you are on the right path towards it, yoga can help you figure out how to act on it. Life is challenging and oftentimes when we realize what our dharma is it is in direct conflict with our current situation. What do you do then? Give it all up and "follow your dreams" so you can live life to the fullest? What about the mortgage, debt payments, hungry kids, fear of not having enough for retirement and all the other stressful stuff? What about all that? Do you just walk away from your job because you have found something you are extremely passionate about?
I can tell you from experience that leaving a steady, reliable job to pursue my passions has triggered quite the variety of emotions in me. In an economy literally designed and set up to screw me in every way, walking away from a steady source of income from such a great company seemed kinda risky and to be honest I was a little nervous. In fact i'm still nervous so share my stuff and support me so I can maintain my motivation to keep going.
Back to the point...
Let's say you are a 40 year old father of 3 currently working as a team manager for an accounting firm. It's a good job, pays the bills, and gives you a decent amount of time to spend with family. Being a team manager is cool and feels important. You go on vacation with your family and end up posting some photos on Facebook that you took with your iphone. To your surprise you get dozens of compliments on the photos and then all of a sudden it hits you: you were meant to travel the world and take photographs.
You weren't expecting it, but that vacation uncovered your dharma. The angles, the lighting, the timing. Everything about the photos is amazing. Sure, using a $1,000 iphone to take the photos can make almost anyone look pretty good but thats not the point. The point is the sense of joy taking, editing, and sharing the photos brought you. You've realized that as far as a career nothing makes you happier than photography.
Now what do you do? Quit your accounting job and become a photographer? You don't even have the equipment! You simply used your iPhone to take some photos of your family and now you have been thrust into an existential crises questioning the past 20 years of your life. Frustrating!
o what do you do? As much as I would like to proclaim I have all the answers for you, I don't. I'm not here to tell you what's best for you, I'm here to teach you the process of yoga so hopefully you can uncover some of those answers for yourself. I'm just saying the stuff above is the type of thing we really dive into in our yoga practice.
I've found it's good to meditate, reflect, journal, and talk it out with another yogi like me. I like talking to other Kripalu yogis because they really listen and at the end of the day what many of us are simply seeking is to feel as though our voice has been heard.
So how about you, have you found your dharma yet? Are you living life to the fullest?