This week in the asana portion of our classes we have been working on Compass Pose. As poses go, this could be one of the shapes that, especially upon first glance, would lead a non-practitioner to believe that Yoga is all about tying oneself in a knot, or trying to achieve pretzel-like contortions. It is a seated pose with a lifted leg, and when the pose is fully expressed, resembles a compass. It is challenging but beautiful, and when there is a clarity and extention in the lifted leg, (which is straight), one can almost envision that leg as the needle of a compass pointing clearly in the intended direction.
Compasses are interesting devices, one of the oldest navigational tools we know of, dating back to the first century B.C. No matter where you are standing on the Earth, a compass will point toward the North Pole. According to “HowStuffWorks.com”, its mechanics are simple: The Earth’s iron core is like a giant upside-down bar magnet. Inside a compass is a small magnet on a frictionless post that is drawn by the natural magnetic force of the earth, so the needle, which is magnetic North, is always pulled to toward it’s opposite, thus the compass always points to the North Pole, which contains magnetic South. Now that we understand the physical a bit, how can we apply it to the metaphysical?
All this month we have been examining Purpose…Dharma…Vocation….Life Assignment….call it what you will, but at a certain point in life we begin to ask ourselves one of the fundamental inner questions of existence….”Why am I here?” Or, more spiritually put, “How should I serve?”
Each one of us has a unique set of talents, attributes and affinities. These, combined with the particular situation we were born into, create a type of road map, a syllabus, perhaps, for this lifetime. It is the perfectly blended cocktail of circumstances for us to become who we were meant to be. Could we imagine Shaquille O’Neal doing anything other than playing basketball? Bill Clinton in any other field but politics? Mariah Carey as anything other than a singer? Note also that none of these people were born into privilege, so they didnt have it easy. What each did possess were amazing gifts and an iron core of determination. Some voice deep inside them told them THIS (athlete, politician, singer) is what they must be, and they would not be deterred or disuaded. They each were called, and that calling was their unwavering compass.
Once we know what we have come into this life to do, it should be our compass as well. Not everyone is destined for fame, certainly. But we all know people about whom it has been said, “He was born to be a teacher” “I can’t see her as anything other than a mother” “We knew from the time he was a kid he would be a doctor”. Or on the flipside, “She bounced around from thing to thing but then out of the blue an opportunity came up to (fill in the blank) and now she is so happy and successful!”
When someone is “In Dharma”, they are almost luminous; their energy is radiant and contagious, they are unaware of time and space , they are in what might be called a “flow state”. When we are serving in the way The Divine intended, we feel joyful, whole, loving, full and fulfilled; we are One with the One in all things. If you don’t know what your Purpose is, say so many spiritual teachers, your first job on Earth is to identify it. You can start by reflecting on times when you have felt you were doing something you were utterly meant to do; times when by performing a task you felt totally alive, happy and completely connected to everyone around you and to yourself. Do you have talents that, when you use them, you not only feel joyful but also you feel loving by the action of sharing them with others? That is how it feels to be of service—when by sharing your gifts and opening your heart you feel energized, not exhausted. When you are giving, it feels as if your are the one who is receiving. This doesnt necessarily have to be your job, either. Many times it is not. Perhaps you work at the bank but on weekends love to bake and show your love to the people in your life by baking for them…maybe it could be volunteering at the hospital, or gardening, or coaching rec soccer…the examples are as endless and unique as there are people.
If our employment is not our Dharma (see last week’s post, On….Work), that doesnt mean our purpose will not be or cannot be fulfilled. If our employment supports our Purpose, if it colludes with and not contradicts our calling, then the compass is still pointing us in the right direction. We know deep down when things are not right, when we are not in the right place or doing the right thing–for us. I have often used the example that it would be very difficult for a vegan to work in a meat processing plant.(No judgement either side!) Something so intrinsically contradictory would cause a huge anount of suffering spiritually and mentally. Our dharma can also guide us throughout our career as it evolves and progresses; for example, if our dharma is to be a physically present, emotionally involved parent, we cannot accept a job promotion if that new position forces us work 80 hours per week and travel for weeks on end. Perhaps dinner with the family is more important than the bigger house. Yet, for another person without such obligations and priorities, the promotion might just be what the Dharma ordered.
So what is your calling? Why are you here? Is your calling your compass? Is it at your center? If not, how might you begin to realign your circumstances such that your inner world and outer world collude instead of collide?
Dharma means essence…that which makes us who we are…and this essence infuses everything we do, whether we realize it or not. When it doesn’t…when it isn’t expressed…when we stifle who we really are or hold ourselves back, not only are we in a state of dis-ease(which creates disease), but we are depriving the world of our love in the shape of our gifts, which have been Divinely given.