March 8, 2013

Which Way to My Dharma, Please? ~ Kat Olson

Photo: Anemone Projectors

All anybody wants to do, ever, is find his or her calling.

Yogis, ancient philosophers, modern passion-driven go-getters, your average Joe, and my mom have all spoken about this thing.

In Plato’s Republic, he imagines a society in which the metallic temperament of its citizens’ souls, gold, silver, or bronze, dictates their livelihoods. The society only exists and succeeds when every born person recognizes their soul’s constitution and lives truthfully according to it.

While some people are born to rule, others are born to serve. People of gold, silver, and bronze classification are equally important in Plato’s society, so the type of work they’re destined to do does not necessarily affect their influence. The best way for Plato’s people to be influential is to embrace their class and contribute to society in their way, as dictated by the permanent color of their inner being.

Fulfilling a philosophy minor at Boston University was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

However, as a person who generally struggled through school and at one point or another had been prescribed every form of ADD medication known to man, higher-level Philosophy classes were not easy for me. Plato’s Republic, while sometimes overly dry and nagging to my attention span, truly spoke to me. On top of the golden humor that seasoned the drunken dialogue of Ancient brilliance, the notion of the gold, silver, and bronze souls struck me as one of those undeniable truths.

When I got into yoga years later and learned about dharma, I gave a nod to Plato, you sly devil, who appeared to be one of many who knew it all along.

“One’s own dharma, performed imperfectly, is better than another’s dharma well performed. Destruction in one’s own dharma is better, for to perform another’s dharma leads to danger.” – The Bhagavad Gita

I believe yogic philosophy is a sibling to ancient philosophy because they both express wisdom that was never actually created or formulated, but merely articulated by people who recognized its omnipresence and dedicated their lives to understanding it.

So here I am now, doing my best to understand and accept what my unfaltering purpose may be.

I should never feel guilty about turning away from a path that may look shiny and pretty on the surface but underneath is absolutely wrong. Tracking down the life path that makes me shine from within goes hand in hand with denying the paths that will lead me astray.

I keep coming back to an image of one of those terrifying mirror mazes I for some reason subjected myself to at the county fair. One second I’m totally sure this is the correct corridor when Bam! try again, there’s no corridor there. It’s just an illusion. Getting out alive requires walking towards the empty spaces and avoiding smacking into the trick walls at the same time.

Can I get a road map for this thing? Which way to my dharma, please?

Sometimes, I find that it is harder to let go of something that’s wrong than it is to undertake something that’s right.

I was so sure that wasn’t a wall.

The things that don’t serve us often are disguised as defining aspects of our identity.

Who knows where notions of whom we’re supposed to be and what we’re supposed to do come from, but I can certainly attest to their stubbornness. This is a common thing, am I right?

That unhealthy relationship, whether it be with a person, with food, or with one’s own body, that soul-crushing job, that crippling denial or aggressive pressure to barrel through life without contemplation. They all latch onto perfectly good people and obscure their visions of what’s true for them at their core. They plaster the gold, silver, or bronze inside of people with crude graffiti.

In my experience, life is quite like those mirror mazes: one fork in the road after another. Every moment poses a new opportunity to change directions.

Not only that, the roads are constantly shifting, and the forks may appear or disappear from the road in front of us in a blink’s time, or we may not even realize we passed a fork until miles later when we stop to take a retrospective look over our past.

Again, how about that road map? Can somebody get on that?

I take wrong turns, and I bump into walls thinking they are corridors.

The practice is not letting my obstacles be obstacles. Instead, they are the mold that forms the boundary of my crazy, crooked, roundabout path.

When I come back to myself, think, feel, and care for myself, I am always moving forward. I may be walking alone, in a direction away from others. Vulnerability may make an appearance, and instead of attempting to crush vulnerability by running past the scary spots, which probably just results in running into walls harder, I trust in my ability to exercise compassion and courage to carry on.

When we are young and are first introduced to the idea that we may have some sort of control over our futures, it can either be daunting or exciting.

Choosing to take ballet lessons, play basketball, go to horse camp, or pick up a violin may be among the first corridors a kid will test out. It may be obvious right away to our parents or guardians which corridors are actually mirrors, but for the young warrior the whole process isn’t so clear.

That is why we all should hope that as generations of young warriors continue to rise, they are drawn to the yoga movement; tools that yoga can teach us, including mindfulness, self-awareness, and compassion, are skills that transform the warrior in training (think baby Simba) into a full-grown badass leader (think Mufasa).

This is what I believe happens to all us warriors if we continue to engage in spiritual investigation.

The beginning practices of mindfulness are just peeking inside of ourselves to see if we happen to catch a glimpse of any glimmer of gold, silver, or bronze. Then, if we consistently follow-up with ourselves, becoming more self-aware, we spend more time with our metal, getting to know it.

What does it look like up close? What does it feel like? What other properties define it?

As we keep progressing into our practice, regardless of whether or not a yoga mat is anywhere nearby, our metallic component swells. The more familiar we become with it, the more it embodies our concept of self. Soon, you cannot imagine existing without this fond attachment to your inner truth. Finally, as we continue to blossom into glowy, blissful beings of contentment, our metallic souls burst through the boundary of our bodies and encompass our physical figures and emanate our essence outward.

See what just happened?

Now we have shields of gold. Or silver or bronze, or, and no offense to Plato, but whatever the hell other color, material, or texture you find your soul to be. The sky is the limit when it comes to what your soul looks like, in my opinion.

This shield exists in everyone, and it’s actually not so much a shield as it is an orb of goodness. All it takes is some coaxing with self-awareness, self-kindness, and self-acceptance to get it out of the pits of our bellies, upward into the heart, and finally outward for everyone to bask in with us.

When it comes to dealing with the blasted mirror maze that is life, our metallic shield, or nebulous orb, whichever you prefer to visualize, is like when you get the star in Mario Kart. Un-freakin’-touchable.

As long as we remember to trust our honest-to-goodness selves and stay connected to whatever remarkable imagery represents our souls, we are safe. Any bump into a wall or wrong turn is not a mistake, but rather a curve or inflection that defines the shape of our own personal, beautiful path.

I mean come on, at the end of the day those mirror mazes were designed to be fun, right? It doesn’t hurt to take it all a little less seriously.

Trust the divine within, beam your light outward from within, laugh with yourself in the mirror, and carry on leaving trails of you-colored fireworks in your footsteps. All will be well.

Kat Olson is a 23-year-old yogini hailing from the great state of the mitten—Michigan. After graduating from Boston University and attempting to love a desk job for a year, she traveled to beautiful Thailand in the fall of 2012 to complete her 200-hour teacher training with Kosta Miachin at Vikasa Yoga. She has recently embarked on a one-year internship at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, MA to work on the Kripalu Yoga in the Schools program, an evidence-based yoga curriculum for adolescents in a school setting.


Ed: Elysha Anderson

Like “I’m not spiritual, I just practice being a good person” on Facebook

Read 1 Comment and Reply

Read 1 comment and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Elephant journal  |  Contribution: 1,375,490