Is there a difference between dreams and dharma? For those of you who have read the Bhagavad Gita, you may recall that dharma refers to an individual’s life purpose. Without getting too heady, dharma is about your duty to your true gift. You may ask: well, how do I know what my purpose, or true gift is?
Some people are already living their dharma. You’ll recognize these people by the shining light in their eyes. By the energy and passion they bring to their work. These are the people who become so engrossed in a project, they forget to eat, or go to the bathroom.
Dreams and dharma are often not synonymous. Dreams are idealized future outcomes that we write a story in our minds about. I’ve always been a dreamer, though I confess that it sometimes prevents me from living my life right now. I can identify with the need to escape an uncomfortable present-moment by retreating to the comfort of imagination’s constructs.
I’ve always had this nagging sense that I am meant for something different than what I am doing with the majority of my time now, which is working for an insurance company. But this is a split mentality, because other times, I experience enormous guilt for not being grateful for my situation. My job affords me a comfortable lifestyle with the ability to purchase things. There is one huge flaw to this. “Things” have never led to sustained happiness for me. They are temporary distractions, justification of staying in a present-moment situation that is not aligning with my gift, my purpose, my dharma.
Misalignment vs. guilt. Neither reality is attractive. So, what’s left? Either I accept my current job, and keep dreaming, or I pull the bow back and let go, hoping that my arrow lands smack in the center of my dharma target.
Do I know what my dharma is? Not with totality. I feel a pull toward the transformative qualities of yoga and meditation practice. I come home to my true self when immersed in the wonders of nature, no matter how simple. I am enthralled by great writing, and feel safety and confidence when I write. I have wildly creative dreams each night, ones that catapult me into a different realm altogether. While I haven’t got all the chips to fall in a way that makes complete sense to me, I am getting there.
Meditation is so important to uncovering dharma. Meditation has allowed me to access memories that I’ve wedged into the corners of my mind. I can remember being whisked away into the mysterious prose woven by Shel Silverstein (The Giving Tree still leaves me in tears), C.S. Lewis, and later, Tom Robbins, and Jane Austen. Hopping up on a picnic table in my backyard to pretend I was a character in a novel is a memory which foreshadows my budding creativity and imagination. Building forts in the woods behind my house, and inventing ceremonial practices in the company of my own wistful spirit was another common occurrence. I’ve always been reflective, contemplative, naturally drawn inward. Somewhat of a recluse, like Thoreau I suppose. I think it’s so important to encourage these childhood memories back to the forefront of our mind, so we may be reminded of what brought us the special brand of pure, untainted joy that can’t be broken.
One thing that has helped me move closer to my dharma, is being hyper aware of the potential signs all around. These messages can show up in unexpected conversations, an animal you keep crossing paths with (for me, it’s a hawk), a fantastically painted sunrise, or a gut feeling. Stay in tune with where the universe is trying to navigate you, and simply allow. Observe with curiosity. Take steps toward your gift, nurture the gift, and soon you’ll be living your dharma.