Whatever human endeavor we choose, as long as we live our truth, it is success.
—Kamal Ravikant, Live Your Truth
As you probably know by now, there came a point in my life where I was dissatisfied with people, things and places in my life. Although I like the shape my new life has taken, it took a great deal of sorting, trying, editing and adding back before I realized that what was bothering me had absolutely nothing to do with anything outside of me. My dharma was calling me into alignment, but I didn’t know it. What is dharma? Dharma has lots of different definitions. But at this point in my life, fundamentally I think dharma is living my truth. It is my reason for being here on the earth. You can express your dharma in many ways. You may have come to teach, to love, or to feel compassion and you might express that by anything from being a great mom to discovering the cure for cancer, but if you’re not in alignment with you reason for being, sooner or later it’s going to bug you. So all of that sorting and resorting was me responding to my being out of alignment with my dharma.
It’s not that I has wasted my time before dharma started pestering me. I suspect that I had had already gained all of the varied life experiences I needed, so I could effectively do what I was born to do. Still sometimes it takes a while to transition from learning what you need to know, so you can do what you were meant to do, to actually doing what you were born to do. And that’s ok. Not only is that OK, I think that’s a part of the process. Yet as I reflect back on what now seems like another lifetime, another me living another life in another place, with other people, I know my life wasn’t so bad. Some might even call it enviable. By most people’s standards everything in my life looked good. But since I couldn’t articulate what was missing, I certainly couldn’t develop a plan the get where I wanted to be, so I just trusted a vague feeling and followed one impulse at a time.
But, and this is a b-i-g but, I started. I acknowledged what I was feeling. I was on my path. Having been accustomed to knowing exactly what I wanted, these were scary moments for me. But the longing inside of me required that I ask for more and different. Still, sometimes simply letting yourself ask the question or dream the dream is the scariest part of any new venture because we don’t want to be disappointed by finding out we can’t have what we dare to ask for. There was a part of me that argued I was already doing better than I could have ever imagined. I had more than I ever dreamed. What was my problem? But it was a feeling that haunted me and it wouldn’t let me go. I was in the process of learning to trust the unfolding of my life.
Now I know my subconsciously, my gut, my soul was leading me in the right direction. It overrode my mind. But that transition from being led subconsciously to living consciously, deliberately on purpose—should I say soulfully—was challenging. What I didn’t know was that I had begun a koan—a paradox to be meditated upon—of self-inquiry. I asked, ‘Why was I born?’ “Isn’t there more than this?’ and ‘What can’t I be like everybody?’ Since I was moving from living subconsciously to consciously, my responses to those questions were rather cryptic at best. I’d say ‘I wanted to be happy.’ Or here’s a classic ‘I don’t want to work. Work is what people do for money that they don’t like. But I have no problem earning money doing something that I really like.’ My replies described the feeling I was searching for or identified indicators of what I didn’t want, while not answering the question at all. I had not idea what I wanted. Frustrating.
Understandably I have often felt that my only option was to follow my gut 1) because I had no idea where I was going and 2) because I had done all of the right things (gotten a good education, landed a good jobs, married a nice guy, etc.…), in short made the right decisions, yet paradoxically, despite apparently sound reasoning, I wound up unsatisfied. So since logic had gotten me everything it promised but not happiness, I had no choice but to go with the illogical. I did know the right thing when I felt it. But that wasn’t comfortable because the right thing seemed self-contradictory or logically didn’t make sense; and more importantly I was going it alone. There was no one on the path but me.
Still I didn’t one day decide to follow my gut and magically found my dharma, end of story. With each article that I’ve written here I’ve identified a little bit of my dharma. Even as I type these words I’m conscious of the fact that my dharma, my truth is a moving target. It moving just a little, every step I take, it gets further defined and refined. Thich Nhat Hanh celebrates this subtle shift in Your True Home: The Everyday Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh: 365 days of practical, powerful teachings from the beloved Zen teacher. He sums it up saying, “Impermanence and selflessness are not negative aspect of life, but the very foundation on which life is built. Impermanence is the constant transformation of things. Without impermanence, there can be no life. Selflessness is the interdependent nature of all things. Without interdependence, nothing could exist.” I’m still discovering who I am. The story of my life, how I tell and understand my own personal narrative it true. I am a fiction unfolding.
From where I sit now, I think we are all on the ‘right’ path; we just have to trust our own story unfolding. Brené Brown says, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” There are hundreds of quotes that say more or less that same thing, and I’m going with it. And I’m not worried about getting there because if we are always on the right path we are always there wherever we are. What other there is there?