I was in a group conversation recently when someone piped in “I didn’t sign up for this!” While I know it was partly said with tongue in cheek, there was also a grain of truth in the statement, as the suppressed grief, fear and disappointment of a life upended welled up and spilled out. We didn’t, any of us, sign up for this. Or did we? Makes me think of dharma.
Dharma means “to support” or “right path of life” and at its essence speaks to the unity and interconnectedness of all things. It refers to that which is consistently in alignment with our highest and best, both collectively and personally and points to a way of being that honors that connectivity.
Looking at nature is helpful when trying to understand dharma. The dharma of the river is to flow. The dharma of the cherry tree is to blossom in spring. The dharma of a rose is to emit a beautiful fragrance. Each part of nature knows its dharma without question. It never veers from the blueprint; never tries to be something other than exactly what it is. Nature expresses an implicit understanding of the inextricable connection between each unique and essential piece to the ineffable puzzle of the cosmos. Not so much with the humans.
We, too, arrived with our own personal dharma- the note we are to play in the symphony of life. At core, we know the necessity of playing that note as best we can. But if the universal element of each human’s personal dharma is, as I have been taught, “love, serve, give,” we are grossly misaligned. If we have, as I believe, been tasked with taking care of each other- and everyone is included in the “each other” part- we are doing a terrible job. If we are meant to be the keepers and stewards of this beautiful planet, we’ve failed miserably. Somewhere we forgot the love, serve, give credo and replaced it with produce, consume, compete, accumulate; I, me, mine.
According to the teachings in the Bhagavad Gita, there are consequences to violating dharma. I think this is where we are. Even before life as we’ve always known it to be came to a screeching halt a month or so ago, didn’t you already sense there was much that needed to change? In your life? In our world? How we are in community? How we care for each other and the planet? When you look at it that way, are you really surprised that we are being offered the opportunity for a massive global reset? The scales have fallen too far from balance.
But why does it have to be this? I don’t know. But I do know that suffering eventually moves us from the I to the we. And until we collectively shift from a focus on the personal desires of “I” to a unified imperative toward wholeness and wellbeing for all, suffering and separation will result. We are never one part sick. The individual is an inextricable part of the whole. And we’ve been getting sicker, collectively, since long before we’d heard about coronavirus.
Even beyond the dharmic call of our souls, as individuals we are here to wake up. To grow. To be better. We are here to attune to the seasons and cycles of nature. To listen to the guidance of the inner voice. We are here to learn to love well. While we may have these things in mind from time to time, I believe we can do better. I believe this is what is being asked of us now, and in no uncertain terms.
Since there is no question that we are in global crisis, the likes of which none of us have experienced before, the reflection becomes how are you going to choose to be today, this week and in the months ahead? How might you travel through this surreal time in a way that you will prioritize holding on to when the next season arrives? There is no option for escape. Not this time. There is nowhere to go and no place to hide.
When faced with fear, what is your response? When anxiety is rising, what do you do? When you see people around you in struggle, how are you helping? When asked to do difficult things, make sacrifices, let go and surrender the old way, are you grasping white-knuckled to what was or are you exhaling, releasing and opening to what is yet to be?
I do not know where I will be on the other side of this. I do not know what will become of the studio. But I have seen in the past few weeks that we do not have to be in the same room to feel connected, to share each other’s joy, to experience a profound knowing that it will all be okay. And so I am practicing the exhale over and over and over again. It is a season for letting go.
Wishing you all the necessary fortitude and gratitude as we walk together into the unknowable.
With deep love,