Dharma & Change: How Yoga Helps You Live Your Dreams
I believe we’re all seekers of Truth. Some of us are better elephant hunters than others, willing to call out the obvious, even if it’s uncomfortable. On the mat, or the meditation cushion, even while on a run, we all see glimpses of Truth. We know the right thing to do. We know how we really feel. Deep down, we know what really matters to us.
The real yoga is what happens next.
An “Accidental” Activist
In the award-winning documentary The Cove, about the senseless and brutal slaughter of dolphins in Japan, the lead character is Ric O’Barry. Ric had been head dolphin trainer for the popular 1960’s TV show “Flipper.”
Kathy, one of five female dolphins who shared the role of Flipper, swam into his arms, took a breath, then refused to take another.
Ric emotionally describes her suicide and how Kathy sank to the floor of the tank that had been her prison. It was the catalyst for him to change.
The very next day he was arrested for trying to free dolphins that were being held in captivity.
Like Ric, none of us plan to be activists. But life will rile us to anger. We’ll be overwhelmed with love, revulsion, desire, compassion, disgust.
We’ll have tragic experiences that ask us to grow. These beautiful, harsh and unavoidable moments always demand we change. If we don’t, we continue to experience them in some flavor or another, over and over, until we do.
Hearing The Truth
Radical life circumstances—traumas, health issues, break-ups, births, deaths, marriages—are often the necessary wake-up calls to bring you back to your bigger purpose in life. For most, uncovering their truth and knowing their deepest purpose, or dharma, takes decades.
The struggle and confusion usually comes from within. The small version of yourself tells you all kinds of lies. Or maybe other people told them to you and you believe them.
Some favorites: I’m not good enough. No one cares what I have to say. People will think I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’ll get hurt.
In your head, a war begins. In your life the war may lead to stagnation, boredom, anger, or worse —disease. How you handle, resist, force, avoid or accept change is a huge part of your yoga practice.
Finding Your Way Back
Your dreams and your dharma want to be fulfilled. No matter how long you ignore them, they will still be there waiting for you as soon as you begin to seek them again. The deepest truth, and the way back to your dharma is to listen to the whisper of your most wanted, most intimate, most emotional dreams.
Your dreams are your very nature; you can no more remove your dreams than stop being who you are. Yoga provides the space to slow down and hear them.
Your practice is where you finally stop being busy and show up for yourself. It’s where you purge the mental clutter of your story and hear the truth of longing in your own heart.
Acting on your most profound dreams requires the tenacity and stamina of a wild animal. Consistently, you must make time for yourself, remove obstacles (behavior, people, attitudes, etc…) that block your path, get out of the shadow of your past and focus on your purpose here on Earth.
In your yoga practice you build physical and mental endurance. You gather courage.
And little by little, you make changes that make your dreams become reality. You learn to be brutally honest with yourself about where you’re way out of alignment with who you know yourself to be. Then you begin to make choices that align you to your dharma.
Every choice takes you closer or farther away, it’s that simple.
It may be painful and difficult to shed your old skin. I think many of us need this pain; without it we may never have the impetus to transform. Like a butterfly, the movement from caterpillar to flight utterly destroys what you thought you knew about yourself, but on the other side of the chrysalis you find your wings.
Lies & Misalignments; Signposts On The Path
In the 19 years I’ve practiced yoga, I’ve used every excuse to hide from my own dreams. I’ve been paralyzed by every possible fear. I’ve had years of emotional pain and suffering, much of it from my own inability to let go of control and get out of my own way.
I’ve also learned to recognize, in myself and others, signs, behaviors and thoughts of the voice of truth, as well as the the voice of the “little me” who loves to play the role of confused victim. We all have this voice, and when you catch that shell popping up to protect itself, use it as a signpost that you are swinging out of alignment. Then find a way to come back to your own dreams and purpose.
Like Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, you usually don’t want to step on the battlefield and fight for what’s right. Overwhelmed with emotion, you run and hide, or cry out for help.
When frozen in the face of uncertainty it’s confusing what’s truth and what’s fiction. Yet those are the most crucial moments to make fundamental change. Observe your attitude and behavior in that instant, see where you are aligned or misaligned.
Continue to move in the face of the fear and discomfort that’s present when life pushes you to grow. As Gil Atkinson said, “Those on top of the mountain didn’t fall there.” You have to stand up for your beliefs, fight for your dreams, and live by what you know to be true. It’s your dharma to do so.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on this site in 2014, but has been reviewed, re-edited and re-released for the value of its timely content… Thanks for reading!
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