Happy September! Practicing Aparigraha

Happy September.

September is a pivotal month. Not only is the weather (finally!) getting cooler and a change of seasons is upon us, but September is also represented by the number 9 in numerology which stands for both beginnings and endings. This month is a good time to say goodbye to what no longer serves you, and to allow for the new, wonderful that is waiting for you.

And if you don’t have a clue as to what that next step is for you, it’s okay. In fact, it may be better.

For example, right now, I have no idea where I’m going, and I’ve never been happier.

Let me explain.

My entire life I have been focused on becoming something. Always. The thing has changed through the years, but the drive and ambition haven’t. Through it all, I’ve remained focused.

Recently, on My Crunchy Granola Yoga Journey, I realized that I have accomplished many of those goals I’ve set for myself. I’ve checked the boxes on many of those things I thought I wanted on my long list of life goals—and guess what…? Not only did they not bring me long-term happiness, many of those “achievements” have been forgotten.

What does that mean?

I think it means that happiness is not achieved by checking a box. It comes to us when we are here, open, and present.

Does that mean we stop working toward goals?

No—goals are important. They get us up in the mornings and drive us forward with a fire in our bellies. But in my particular case, on my journey, I’ve realized that to be happy, I don’t always need to know where I am going. I don’t always have to be working toward a goal.

I can do, and let “it” whatever “it” is, come to me.

In fact, the greatest excitement I’ve found is in not knowing what’s next.

And when we are working toward a goal, the joy is in the journey, not in what that goal will bring us.

It’s living without attachment to the outcome. It is doing, without expectation. It is, Aparigraha. Non-attachment. Krishna says, “Let your concern be with action alone and never with the fruits of action.”

And it is truly one of the most freeing things I have ever experienced.

If we are only focused on what we’ll “get” when we finally achieve that goal, we can’t help but be disappointed when that thing doesn’t live up to the hype we’ve given it.

Likewise, the Universe has a plan for each of us, and if we spend all of our time in our minds setting up obstacles and blocking the Universe from showing us the way, life has to be a struggle. There’s no choice.

But, if we release and move forward– sometimes unknowingly–but with good intention, or, work toward a goal with no attachment to its outcome, we will be on the path to Santosha, or contentment, and we will begin to live our dharma.

And that, is a pretty sweet place to be.

Finding Your Dharma

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In my Hatha class this week, we focused on finding our dharma.

This is a large subject for one Sunday morning class, but it’s one I like to teach because so many of us really don’t know what our dharma is, or how to find it.

I’m one of those people.

However, I have begun to listen to my inner voice—and although I can’t see the big picture yet, I can sense when I’m on the right track, and when I’m not. How about you? Interested in discovering your dharma?

Read on.

Why we care about our dharma:

Many of us believe we are here for a reason, and well, we’d like to know what that reason is.

That’s one of the million reasons that I decided on this rather voluminous subject to explore this week.

Another is because of this quote I came across in Tiny Buddha:

“And the dandelion does not stop growing because it is told it’s a weed. The dandelion does not care what others see. It says, ‘One day, they’ll be making wishes upon me’.”

This quote got me thinking about one of the reasons so many of us don’t know what our dharma is—because we care too much about what others think, and let their perceptions of us shape our reality.

Imagine if the dandelion listened to those who called it a weed?

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What is dharma?

It’s said that dharma has no exact English translation, but we understand it to mean, “Living in your life’s purpose.” When we look for our dharma, we look for our life’s purpose.

We know when we’re in our dharma because we experience effortlessness and ease, and we find a sense of deep-seated contentment—or Santosha. (We’ll talk about Santosha in the Yoga Sutras at another time.)

Dharma was explained to me as living in your right life—for example, it is a bee’s dharma to make honey. Dharma is the most important of the Four Aims of the Hindu religion.

What are the Four Aims?

The Four Aims:

ARTHA: Financial and material success

KAMA: Enjoyment of life – life’s pleasures like art and sex

DHARMA: Right way of living – your essence – like a bee to honey

MOKSHA: Release from Samsara. Breaking the cycle of birth and rebirth

The most important of these aims is dharma. All other aims flourish when we are living in our dharma.

It’s difficult to know what our dharma is, but fairly easy to know when we’re not in it.

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When we’re not in our dharma.

We know we’re not in our dharma when we’re unhappy, our lives feel like a struggle, and deep inside we’re not 100% okay. Simply put, there is something “off.”

The thing that was “off” for me was the requirement to publicize some of my novels. Every author knows you have to publicize–and I’m fine with that—but it was the emptiness I felt when I was doing it that led me to understand I was on the wrong path.  

As I created posts, I was often overcome with a sense of sadness, unhappiness, and even dread. One day I said to my friend, “If I have to post one more picture of a shirtless man to advertise my next book, I’m going to cry.”

And her answer? “Stop posting. Stop writing those types of books if they’re not fulfilling. Make a change.”

So I am. Making. A. Change.

I’m still a prolific ghostwriter, however, personally, I no longer feel the need to write what isn’t calling to me. And I only publicize books in ways that feel right to me. Organically. I’ve stopped pushing myself to be something I’m not, and now I only create in a way that feels truthful. This is the beginning of my exploration of dharma, and it feels a whole heck of a lot better.

How do we know our dharma and our true calling?

By turning inward and listening to our true selves. No doubt there have been times in your life when you have felt that something was “off” with what you were doing, but you persisted anyway.

When you persist although your mind, heart, and body know better, you’ve stopped listening to what’s right and true for you.

We can tap into our dharma by turning inward and listening through yoga, meditation, mindfulness and stillness. Although I can’t see the big picture as to what direction my life will go, I can tell when I’m on the right path. At those times I’m happy, focused, excited to be doing my job, and sometimes, I’m lucky enough to have a little thrill run up and down inside of me.

Here’s the tricky part—sometimes the things that call to me don’t appear to be strategic career moves. I’ve decided to follow them anyway. That’s my right path. The feeling of contentment inside lets me know that I am working in the direction of my dharma. And I trust that the rest will come.

When can you discover your dharma?

You can discover your dharma at any age from your earliest years through your 90s and beyond, and your dharma can change as you go through life.

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Have you discovered your dharma?

Leave a comment below and let me know! When did you know you were on your path to your dharma… or not?

Have you discovered your dharma? Or are you on a journey with me?

We’d love to know!