Do your dharma.

Today I was sitting at work thinking about completely non-work-related things like the fact that I need to move out of my house in the next month, leave for a trip home to the U.S., come back and wrap up all ties to Australia over the next month and a half and then move back to the U.S. and get married.  It should be a relaxing few months, eh?  And then I started thinking, “Hmm, Kat, what should you do for a living when you get home?”,  and “When will you get home after your several months of intended bike-touring honeymoon?”, and “Where will home be when you return?”, and then finally, “Do you actually qualify as an adult?”

This isn’t an unusual train of thoughts.  In fact, I think about it most days. And, it’s slowly driving me mad.

Truly.

Meanwhile, I am nearly done with my yoga immersions.  In a few weeks I will complete the last of them, which means I will have all the hours behind me to move forward into teacher training.  It also means that I’ve re-read the Bhagavad Gita and dabbled in the Yoga Sutras.  I’ve begun to more seriously meditate and I’m feeling pretty excited and energized by all of this.  I had a new break-through in opening up my psoas.  It was life-changing. Only serious yoga-types can say stuff like that unironically, which means – I’m in.

But with all these pieces of my life swirling around me, I still wonder what direction I should move in on the larger plane.  I’m still stewing over whether the current course of my life is what I’d like and what I’ve envisioned for myself.  It’s kind of funny that I was mulling over this today, because in an unrelated search of my gmail account, the following conversation, which took place several years ago, came up.  It felt symbolic and a bit sad.  Names have been changed to protect this innocent:

me: i just remembered talking to you last night

Mystery person: well i remembered it at the time

me: haha, i was asleep!

Mystery person: sorry it was so late, but you go to bed early

me: it was like 12:20

Mystery person: well, that’s when i worry the most about you

me: oh mystery person.  just calling to check in? making sure i’m safe in my bed?

Mystery person: no that’s not why i called if you remember

me: i don’t

Mystery person: because i was thinking about how different you would be if you lost your idealism, and that maybe being a teacher would help you with that because you wouldn’t be corrupted by monetary success

me: do you think i am very easily corrupted?

Mystery person: no i don’t think you are easily corrupted, but given enough time, I think you could get worn down

me: hmmm

Mystery person: and then one day you would just become part of the system
me: never!

Mystery person: ok, i was just worrying that’s all

I read this conversation, looked up from my computer and found myself in the office of a major oil and gas company, developing on of the largest coal seam gas to liquefied natural gas projects in the world.  I wondered if perhaps the mystery conversant was perhaps a bit clairvoyant.  I got a little squeamish in my seat.

So, I thought some more about it.  And yes, I work for a gigantic multi-national oil and gas company of the variety that I regularly skewered in papers and presentations throughout college and beyond.  But, on the other side of that,  I am part of a small and dedicated environmental team, working to ensure the project complies with all environmental laws and permits applicable to it.   That is a good thing right?  I actually care about this.  I don’t want to see this go pear-shaped.   I subscribe to the credo that you can’t say damn the man unless you can turn around and go off the grid tomorrow.  Until you’re there, you need to work with the man and get what you want through the proper channels.  And, I truly think that some of the best change comes from within.  So, am I doing what the idealist within me believes is right? Yes.

Should I continue on this track?  That’s a tougher question.

You see, I’ve learned in my yoga training about a concept called dharma, which was previously unknown to me. Dharma is the idea of doing what upholds the good and right in the world, and which an individual is uniquely suited to do.  It is what fits, feels right, and works in your life. For example, if your dharma is to be a garbage man, you’d go out and be the best you can be at it because that’s the right spot for you in the greater scheme.  Some people actually believe that when you do your dharma, the road opens up before you and what felt stuck suddenly begins to flow.

In that sense,  there is a part of me that feels I have always been in line with my dharma career-wise because I have been unusually lucky in my life. Doors have opened for me over and over again at just the right moment.  People have walked into my life and touched it perfectly, and then moved on.  But yet, I have a constant sense of being not fully committed to my plan.  So, is it my dharma?  Does it fulfill me and make me feel whole?  I’m not sure whether it does at the moment.  I know that I enjoy my job.  I feel like I have a path forward, an appropriate level of influence, and I am surrounded by extremely knowledgeable people to gain experience from.  I get to work in environmental law on a daily basis, I have ample opportunities to write (which makes me happy), and I communicate and work with all aspects of the project which makes me feel aware and engaged on so many levels.  So, why do I question my choices?  Does my sense of turmoil over working in oil and gas stem from anything inherent to it, or does it come from a place of internal judgement that I should be in a more creative, cutting-edge role?  That’s where I need to focus my analysis.

So, as I consider where to move when we go home and what my next steps will be (and the pressure is all on me here, as Rick is changing course completely and is totally flexible) I have to consider what is my dharma?  What makes me feel whole and right in the world? What inspires me and makes me passionate?  I have to also consider these questions without too much regard to monetary reward – which is hard for someone like me who often uses external metrics like grades, salary, and position as indicators of my own progress in lieu of more subtle things that are less easily measured.  I need also to, on the flip side, consider whether I am particularly judgemental about my personal career choices (despite being quite happy in my role) because of external influences such as my college experience, my liberal bias, and my own internal pressure to do something more selfless

I sometimes wonder why I impose these periods of deep reflection on my life in what appears to be two-year increments.  It’s insanely stressful, especially when you add a wedding and a transoceanic move into the mix, but I do feel most alive in these periods of massive change.  I do love the process of really stopping to consider what I want and how I want to achieve my goals.  I do like waking up in the morning with the knowledge that I’m walking away from what I know and rebuilding, again.  There is something cathartic and beautiful in the process of creation and destruction that goes with these moments.

As much as I want to settle a bit in my life, I feel most awake in a state of flux.  Is that my dharma?

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