One of the most fundamental teachings of the Bhagavad Gita is to follow your heart, to follow what it is that your soul has signed up to in this life. In the Gita, this is described as fulfilling one’s dharma:
“It is better to strive in one’s own dharma than to succeed in the dharma of another.” The Bhagavad Gita 18:47
When this section of the Gita is taught in trainings, one of the most frequently asked questions is: But how do I know what my dharma is? I am so thankful when someone asks this question because I know from experience that everyone is thinking the same.
The Gita itself alludes to the answer of this specific question; it tells us that to know our dhama we must listen to our heart. We have a saying in English: “Follow your heart.” To know our dharma we must travel to a place deep inside our own hearts, to a place which is free of self constructed stories about who we think we are, to a place that is so pure and so full of our own inherent wisdom that it really does know.
Even so, it is difficult for those of us living under maya to know, when we listen to our hearts if indeed we are listening to our own inherent wisdom or if we are listening to a self constructed story born from our individual samskaras (biases based on previous life events.)
For me, the decision I take everyday to teach the sacred practice of yoga illustrates this inability to always know what my dharma is; Am I teaching because I want to share this gift, am I teaching because my ego likes “I am a yoga teacher,” am I enlightened enough to actually be teaching this stuff?; questions that I constantly ask my heart. And I know that I am not alone because over the past few years, increasing numbers of fellow yoga teachers including some incredibly talented and authentic teachers have come to me with this same question: Should I be teaching yoga? There are, quite simply, more yoga teachers than there were 20 years ago (which is a wonderful thing, more yoga teachers equals more yoga) but one cannot escape the fact that on the whole, more yoga teachers also equals smaller class sizes. And more recently covid has presented its own struggles for the income of yoga teachers. Whilst I know of many talented teachers quite rightfully doing very well, I know of yet more who are struggling to make an income and struggling with the question: Is this really my dharma?
Of course, I cannot speak for others, but for myself, every time I contemplate stopping, I try to journey into the centre of my heart with this question. And the answer that I always come back with is yes, I want to share this precious gift (even if it means taking a second job to pay the mortgage.) And I also know that in taking that journey to the centre of my heart I may have arrived at a place that is still some way from the final destination, to a place that has still not shed the ego. But I also know that this is OK. I know that even if I find myself playing out a self-constructed story, that perhaps that’s OK because that is exactly the story that I am supposed to be playing out right now. Perhaps that story is my next stepping stone.
We can only work with where we are now and we can only listen to our hearts as they speak to us now. We cannot yet see the bigger picture. We cannot yet understand why things are playing out the way that they are. We just have to have faith that if we follow our hearts then we are right where we are supposed to be – The break up that led me to India, the miscarridge that led me to my beautiful daughter Tulip, these were moments that made no sense at all at the time but which were, at the same time as breaking my heart, opening it up to new and more wonderful possibilities.
Ishwara, Brahman, Shiva, the Divine, the Absolute, God, that which lies beyond concept, the native American Indians called it The Great Mystery. It is indeed a great mystery and what can you do when you are in the great mystery but to surrender and follow your heart.