What does ‘dharma’ mean?
The word ‘dharma’ is an ancient concept that has evolved over thousands of years. Found amongst many different traditions from Buddhism to Jainism and Hinduism, we even find this word in the ancient yogic texts known as the Vedas, dating back to around 1500BCE. In these ancient cultures, the concept of ‘dharma’ was a central part of life, from the root word ‘dh’ meaning ‘to hold’ or ‘to support’, dharma refers to the eternal and inherent nature of reality, to truth, and is also translated as ‘duty’, ‘virtue’ and ‘morality’. Whilst the concept of ‘dharma’ is a wonderful way to help us live with more purpose and presence, there’s a little bit of a problem with how we understand it in the modern world. Perhaps it’s due to our modern obsession with achievement and productivity; or maybe it’s because of the pressure many of us feel to be ‘successful’ and ‘living our dreams’… but today, many people translate the word ‘dharma’ as ‘life purpose’. The problem with this, is that trying to discover what our life’s purpose is can cause a huge amount of anxiety. It can make us feel like failures if we’re not doing a job we love or living a lifestyle we’d prefer. It can cause us to never feel content with what we have, and it can cause us to look outside of ourselves for happiness and validation, all of which just leads to more anxiety and unhappiness.
How can I discover my dharma?
In order to truly discover our dharma then, it’s time to change the way we think about it. The real meaning of ‘dharma’ isn’t about individual achievement or self-centred success. The real meaning of ‘dharma’ is about a collective effort to live in alignment with the eternal nature of reality, to live with morality, to understand what it is that truly matters to you and what makes you truly happy, so that you can contribute your best self to the world around you.
So, if you’re doing a job that you don’t feel is your ‘life purpose’, don’t worry – your job is not your purpose. Remember, your purpose is just to find out what matters to you, and to bring your best self to the world around you (even if the ‘world around you’ is literally yourself, your family and your home). To discover your dharma, you’ll need a notebook and a quiet place you can rest in for a while. Choose the Magnificent Creature journal by Elizabeth Gilbert, (the cloth cover is appropriately inscribed with; ‘You are a magnificent creature, start knowing it’) or her Gorgeous and Amazing Journal, which reads; ‘If you need to see something gorgeous and amazing today for no particular reason, look in the mirror’. Next, seat yourself on your meditation cushion (If you still need to get yours, choose the Yogamatters organic meditation cushion) and take three slow breaths. As you look at the questions on the list below, notice the answer that first comes into your mind, and be as honest as you can. For example, when you read the question ‘how would you want to be remembered’, your answer doesn’t have to be a material or physical thing, it can be a quality like ‘kind’ or ‘honest’. Use these questions not to try and find a new job, but to find out how you can live each day with more truth, authenticity and purpose.
Discover Your Dharma
1. What do you most value about yourself?
2. What do you most value in your life?
3. What hobby or activity do you most enjoy?
4. What can you do by yourself without asking for advice or searching on Google?
5. What makes you different?
6. How would others describe you?
7. What are you willing to struggle for?
8. What do you do well?
9. What activity brings you into a ‘flow’ state?
10. When do you feel joy?
11. What were you passionate about as a child?
12. If you didn’t have a job, how would you fill your days?
13. What issues do you hold close to your heart?
14. What would you choose to do if your days were numbered?
15. What gives you motivation?
16. Do you prefer to spend time with people or alone?
17. What is the most rewarding thing you’ve ever done for someone else, and why was it so rewarding?
18. How would you want to be remembered?
19. What do you daydream about?
20. How are you going to save the world?