A Yoga Perspective on Finding Meaningful Work
Definition - Dharma
Dharma is a Hindu, Buddhist and yogic concept which refers to the idea of a law or principle governing the universe. The implication of dharma is that there is a right way for each person to carry out their life. If an individual is following their dharma, they are pursuing their truest calling, serving all other beings in the universe by playing their true role. ~ Yogapedia
As a yoga teacher, I have witnessed some fascinating transformations of students who started yoga and fell in love with the practice. I wrote a blog piece some time ago about how a consistent yoga practice can have a far-reaching impact on seemingly unrelated areas of your life.
I have watched as students became absorbed in their yoga practice, and at the same time, started to question and change other areas of their lives. Some started by changing their diets or integrating other health habits, such as getting more sleep, into their daily habits and routines.
All too often though, I saw changes that had seemingly no connection - students on my teacher trainings would realise they no longer had anything in common with their partners or friendship groups, and would start the painful process of letting go of old relationships that no longer served them. Others would talk of their frustration, boredom or lack of connection with their work and fantasise about other career options that would be more in line with their values. I have seen this too many times to think it just a coincidence.
Why does this happen?
There’s something about this practice of yoga that invites us to question and reflect deeply. I often joke to my students, that there’s nowhere to hide on a yoga mat. It’s just you, your body, your breath, your mind and the clear empty space of your yoga mat. The yoga practice will reflect back to you everything you bring to it. If you step onto the mat with anger or frustration - that is what will bubble back up to the surface. Not that there is anything wrong with this. The yoga practice is neutral and just honestly reflects back to us wherever we are at in the moment.
What this means is that if you are unhappy about an area of your life, such as your work-life or career, this is what will start to come up for you on your yoga mat to the point that the initial whisperings of discontent may become too loud for you to ignore.
Change may be on its way.
In yoga we have appropriated the concept of Dharma from the Hindu and Buddhist traditions - the idea that to live a good life means to live in a way that taps into and expresses our fullest potential. We may have several dharmas to carry out in one lifetime, for example, to be a mother, a writer, an investment banker or a carer for an ailing parent.
The essential idea is that life flows best, and we are at our happiest, when we recognise and connect to the specific roles that we have been invited on this earth to carry out.
This does not mean to say that our dharma is all plain-sailing and joyful. Any career path, no matter how well aligned to our values, will have good days and also its challenges and uphill struggles. I absolutely love my work as a yoga therapist, but I still moan about doing certain tasks - accounts, emails, maintaining my social media presence to name but a few! However, generally speaking, we know we are in accordance with our dharma when we cannot think of anything else we would rather be doing with our life.
So how does one find their dharma? This soul-searching is part of the rich journey of life. Some may find it easier or earlier than others, but it really helps when we carve out enough quiet time in the busyness of our day-to-day schedules to tune in and really listen to the callings of our hearts.
Yoga and meditation practices are perfect for this deep inner work because they give us the time and space to sit with ourselves and to allow insight, self-revelations and mini-epiphanies to rise to the surface.
With this in mind I have recorded a brief 10-minute meditation designed to help you explore this idea of dharma and its personal relevance to you. This meditation aims to help develop greater personal insight into your current relationship to your work and to develop clarity around your future career dreams and aspirations.
I recommend doing this meditation on a regular basis as our dharmic roles will change and evolve with time - what may be right for us now, may and probably will change a few years down the line. The questions in this meditation are also perfect for a journaling practice. Click on the Soundcloud link below to access the meditation: