I learned about dharma when I was 26 years old, living and traveling for a year in Southeast Asia.
Just before going on this Asian adventure, I was working at the National Geographic Magazine in Washington, DC. I was loving my job -- including the people who I worked with, the stories that I was assigned, and the values of the company. I happened to be the youngest researcher ever hired to work on the magazine, I had my own window office, and I was making a very decent salary for a young journalist.
But something kept telling me it was time to go.
Time to go? How could I give this all up? This was an ideal job for a young journalist and I worked so hard to get here.
But the call to go got louder. I kept feeling like I was supposed to be somewhere else, and that somewhere else quickly started to come into focus as Southeast Asia.
Around this time, I began to get lower back pain. The pain went from dull to severe pretty quickly, which made it very hard to concentrate on my work. I tried to relieve it in every way I knew from yoga, to the physioball, to the chiropractor, to swimming, to changing to an ergonomic chair, to laying on the floor in my office for a good chunk of the day. But the pain would not subside. In fact, it got worse.
I was a young, healthy, athletic woman. How was this possible?
Turns out, my body was talking to me.
My inner voice started to become loud and clear: You need to move to your own rhythm. You are out of rhythm with yourself right now. You cannot sit still anymore. Go. Travel. Move about. Follow your rhythm, and let your instinct guide you.
And so, I took the leap.
After four years at the National Geographic Society, I packed up my office, packed up my apartment, sold my car, bought a backpack, and bought a ticket to Kathmandu.
I followed that call, and my life changed dramatically.
This was my first step along the path to my dharma.
The next big call came just over a year later once I returned to the U.S. and moved to New York City to live with my boyfriend. Two months into my new lifestyle, I had a very palpable dream about teaching Tibetan monks in a mountainous place. Turns out, the vision in my dream looked a lot like Dharamsala, India.
Can you guess what I did?
Yes, I went.
And my callings intensified and carried on from there.
Truth be told, throughout my entire adult life, I have followed callings to navigate my path. While most of the decisions I have made have not made logical sense to the observer, they all made sense to me internally. Do you know that feeling?
These callings are actually indicating a path to your dharma -- your sacred duty on earth, according to yogic and Buddhist philosophy.
As a big proponent of helping people discover their dharma, I'd like to share with you what I have learned along the way as I step deeper into my personal dharma.
10 Tips to Discover Your Personal Dharma
1. Pay attention to synchronicity. Life is very good at guiding you, if you just pay attention. Notice what or who keeps showing up in your life. If someone or something shows up over and over, it's likely that the person or thing is tied to your dharma.
2. Follow callings. Callings are those things that you feel deep inside guiding you that don't necessarily make sense to anyone else but you. You feel a direction to do something, but it's not through your mind. These callings are preparation for your personal dharma.
3. Know when it's time to go. If you are feeling like it's time to move on, then it's probably time to move on. Your mind might be fighting you, but your soul knows best.
4. Be aware that it's not linear. The path to your personal dharma may in fact feel like a spiral. Just when you think you've gotten there, you find yourself spinning deeper into some aspect. It helps to surrender to the notion that the journey isn't always forward.
5. Make friends with the illogical. It's important to know that your dharma is not necessarily coming from a rational place. If you are trying to over-mastermind it, you will probably drive yourself crazy, and your dharma will feel even further away.
6. Have a practice that connects you to a greater source. Whether it's yoga, meditation, painting or walking in the woods, it's important to connect with a source greater than you because that's where the information about your dharma lies and that's where you'll find the support to step into it.
7. Look at the people you admire. The people you admire tend to represent the greater aspects of you. Put on your detective hat. This can give you clues to your personal dharma.
8. Take it seriously, but be light-hearted about it. If you take discovering your dharma too seriously, you may not actually be able to see it. It helps to have a light touch.
9. Have courage to walk into the mystery. If you are committed to discovering your dharma, you'll need to call in a higher level of trust.
10. Allow breathing space. Your dharma is not something you can "catch." You need to take steps, then leaps, and then let yourself breathe. Patience is an absolute necessity.
My intention in sharing these 10 tips is to help you see that the callings, journeys and even seeming missteps can be coalesced into a pathway toward your personal dharma.
There's one more thing I'd like to add here. My favorite question: What is the change that you so deeply want to see in the world?
Your answer to this will give you an important clue to discover your personal dharma, your sacred duty, your mission here on earth.
If you are inspired, I invite you to share what you feel is your personal dharma in the comments section below. Sometimes just naming it for others to witness can make all the difference.
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