Stop Fighting Who You Are and Step Into Your Dharma

RECENTLY ON ONE OF MY best friend’s birthday, joyful tears came to my eyes as I thought about everything the two of us have been through. Since elementary school, we’ve been like brothers. Countless memories flooded my mind; I felt nothing but profound gratitude.

I deeply pondered what makes him such an incredible human being: his boundless heart, his admirable individuality, his selflessness. I felt such happiness recalling the memories where he exemplified these traits.

It’s one of the greatest conundrums of being human — we often consider the gifts that make others extraordinary, yet we find it difficult to see our own positive characteristics.

Only we know the full story of who we are. I have areas I know I can be better at, faults that only I contemplate on a daily basis.

We are all flawed with areas to grow. That’s called being human — yet our flaws provide a bridge from heart to heart. When we learn to love ourselves, flaws and all, we may truly love others as they are, imperfect, just like us.

We learn from our flaws; we can grow from them and garner an authentic perspective that will guide us through life. That perspective to see the world differently will bring you, and thus others, sincere joy if used properly.

The World Needs People Who Have Come Alive

Despite my flaws, I also have characteristics I love which aren’t on public display. I love how I often laugh to myself or stop to watch a hovering bee; I love tearing up as I listen to music that speaks to my soul. I love my resilience — no matter what happens, only I know that I’ll never be held down.

I also have dreams, dreams that seem absurd even to me at this point. Dreams that what I love could translate into what I do, that how I see could turn into what I can be.

But too often, we don’t encourage ourselves to act on our intuition; we don’t take that necessary leap of faith towards a lifestyle, a career, or a dream that would make us happier than anything to pursue, day in and day out, irrespective of ever reaching the outcome.

We each possess an inner voice that tells us what, perhaps, we don’t want to hear. Yet, if we listen, adhering to that voice will make us truly come alive.

Civil rights leader, philosopher, and author Howard Thurman once said:

Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
Stepping Into Our Dharma

When we feel truly alive, the essence of who we are is on full display. We feel deep within our bones that this is right, we’re finally living our own life.

This is stepping into our dharma, a Sanskrit term that can’t be defined by a single English word, “yet to say something is your calling comes close,” writes Jay Shetty in his inspiring book Think Like a Monk.

I see dharma as the combination of varna and seva. Think of varna as passion and skills. Seva is understanding the world's needs and selflessly serving others. When your natural talents and passions, your varna, connect with what the universe needs, seva, and become your purpose, you are living in your dharma.

When we’re living in our dharma, no matter what anybody says, we know it’s what we’re meant to do. In just the smallest way, we’re breaking the mold; in the smallest way the universe notices and smiles; because we had the courage to follow who we are.

The world needs you to come alive, so perhaps another soul will find the courage to seek their dharma, too.

Your Dharma Is Already with You

In March 2020, I decided I would leave my job and move to Japan as soon as I could to teach English and become a travel writer, something I’d always dreamed of, yet never fully committed to.

Because of the pandemic, however, that dream of moving to another country is still on hold. Yet, I’ve learned more than I ever have about myself this past year; a big part of that has come from letting go of what I can’t control — the timeline of when I will go.

I’m seeking an adventure, where I’ll “discover” who I really am. When I read Think Like a Monk, however, my perspective changed. I realized I don’t have to go anywhere to uncover my strengths or how I can help others see the world differently. I simply had to begin the work to look with and step into my dharma, now, as I am.

There is no need to embark on a quest to find your passion and purpose as if it's a treasure buried in some distant land waiting to be discovered,

Shetty writes.

Your dharma is already with you. It's always been with you. It's woven into your being. Pay attention, cultivate self-awareness, feed your strengths, and you will find your way. And once you discover your dharma, pursue it.
We Need Connection More Than Ever

I’ve been writing on the side for the last four years since I graduated from college. But it wasn’t until the pandemic that I fully owned being a writer. What makes me feel like a writer isn’t my love of sitting down to write an article that I think will do well online.

It’s being out in the world, doing something that brings me closer to nature, culture, history, and the spirit of the Earth. When I’m out there exploring, be it in my backyard or on the other side of the world, something in me comes alive.

I feel like a writer when I attempt to capture this light, this energy, this connection through words on the page. It brings me profound joy to do so.

Those are the stories that I’ve noticed resonate most profoundly with others; I dream that as I write about what makes me come alive, it will make others consider their strengths, what they love about themselves, and how to follow that feeling.

This is what’s so powerful about the human experience — it’s collective, relatable, for we’re all individuals connected by something greater than we know. We feed off connection; we’re growing together.

As Shetty says, part of our dharma is seva, what the universe needs. Right now, that’s hope, love, connection — it’s coming alive and letting the world feel it.

Following Our Instincts

As Shetty states, we don’t have to go anywhere to unlock our dharma; this has made me think a lot about why I want to move to another country so badly. Am I trying to escape something? Do I think what’s out there is better than what I have?

I haven’t found a definite answer (go figure), but when I read this article by author and leadership coach Tabby Biddle, something inside of me ignited.

Biddle was a young journalist around my age, working in her dream job at National Geographic Magazine.

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,

she writes.

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.

However, what she says next has made me question just about everything.

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?

For a long time, I tried not to write about it; I was embarrassed and was doing the opposite of what I often discuss: I wanted to appear perfect.

I’ve been dealing with lower back pain for the last several years. Every practitioner I see tells me the same thing: you’re too young for this, you’ve had this for way too long.

Yet nobody’s been able to crack the code. In every other regard, I feel as healthy as a twenty-five-year-old should, yet I can’t seem to move past this back injury.

Before I put it out into the world, I didn’t want to show that I’m in pain, that I’m dealing with something beyond my comprehension, that I don’t know what to do. But this injury has taught me more than anything else in my entire life; if I can help others from what I have and continue to learn, it will all have been worth it.

We’re all going through something — I’m infinitely grateful for this time. It’s made me who I am.

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.
Watch For the Signs: Only We Know What Is Right For Us

I truly don’t write this for sympathy, nor do I now believe that is why I haven’t healed! But the connection I feel to Biddy’s story is rather profound, and if nothing else, it’s making me listen to my body, my heart, and my soul ever more acutely.

There’s a still, small voice in each of us that never ceases. What it tells us can sometimes feel insignificant, but there’s always an underlying meaning. It will tell us what we don’t want to, but perhaps need to hear.

Maybe it’s not a voice, but a feeling. We know what might make us truly happy, what might lessen our anxiety, or make us stop wondering. But we hold ourselves back from enacting on who we are.

Life isn’t meant to be a battle. Life isn’t meant for suffering. Yet it’s not what others do to us that brings the most suffering — it’s what we do to ourselves.

It’s seldom easy, and while we may always appreciate the opinions of others, only we know what is right for us. Watch for the signs, because our body, the universe, the stillness, that’s what will tell us what we need to hear.

Don’t fight what makes you who you are. The answer, your dharma might not come today, tomorrow, or even this year. Yet you have all that you need; a voice, a perspective, a reason to seek what’s truly meaningful to you.

Sometimes, we just need to listen.

  • Stuart Danker
    Posted at 23:09h, 25 May Reply

    What a great post. I myself have heard of this term from watching the Healthy Gamer on YouTube, and I do sometimes wish I could step into my dharma easier, but I feel like there’s some resistance going on there. Anyway, thanks for this post!

    • Vincent Van Patten
      Posted at 14:07h, 27 May Reply

      I really appreciate that, Stuart! If there wasn’t some resistance we’d all have it figured out by now 😅 I’m trying to take more time to let myself be, to find stillness and just listen. I’ve found in these moments I’m able to tune into what I love, and in what direction I should head. It may even take a lifetime, but what better pursuit is there than finding what lights us up. All the best my friend!

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