What Feeds You?

by Jill Sockman


It was quite a few years into running blue lotus when I met someone who asked me what I did besides yoga. I remember being flustered in the moment and disturbed after the fact that I had to search long and hard to offer a pretty lame response. In retrospect, the answer I gave was a list of things I generally liked in the world, rather than anything I was passionate about, loved, or had spent any time actually doing in the previous five years. In a way, I made up an answer to make up for the fact that I wasn’t and hadn’t been doing much of anything besides working. For years. That exchange woke me up in a lot of ways and was the beginning of an important inner dialogue that continues today.

It has been a process (in an ebb-and-flow kind of way that is still in motion) in the years since to rediscover what it is I do other than yoga – running a yoga business, teaching yoga classes, directing yoga teacher training programs, working on yoga-based curriculum for professional and personal development, offering private yoga sessions, mentoring yoga teachers, serving as a consultant for new yoga studio owners… oh, and doing a daily yoga practice of my own and keeping up with being a student of yoga as well. Unless I really work at it, there’s not a whole lot of space for anything else. It easily can and has many times been completely all-consuming- sometimes out of choice and others out of necessity. It takes discipline and dedication to make time to do other things, and I am sometimes successful, sometimes not so much in that effort.

Don’t get me wrong. I am fully aware that there are far worse things to be consumed with. I am grateful and lucky to have a practice that connects and sustains me; I am in real community with people who are more interested in the project of cultivating a spiritual life than a material life; I have fulfilling work that I love with brilliant, dedicated, loving, compassionate teachers, staff and students. But though I’ve not always practiced what I preach I do absolutely believe that it’s never good to lean too far in any one direction – too much of a good thing is still too much. It’s out of balance and ultimately not healthy.

I recognize this in friends who aren’t in the yoga business, some who also know the endless pressure and tasks involved with owning a business and others who have taken deep dives into their careers to the exclusion of all else. Like me, they do it both out of necessity and out of choice. And all of them, like me, recognize on some level, at least occasionally, that there’s more to life than this – even when the life in question is generally happy and fulfilling.

The work of figuring out who I am and what I need outside of those jobs and roles continues. What do I like to do, with whom and where? I’m thankful to have found this work and practice that I love so much, but what else is in there with it? What is nourishing, nurturing, and challenging? What fills the well when the well is running dry? Do you know the answers to these questions for yourself? How much time do you carve out to explore, enjoy, learn, serve, share, study, play with the people, places and things that speak to your heart, that fill your very soul? What is missing or has been sidelined by your business or busyness or both?

Somewhat ironically, the answer can also be found in the yoga. The Sanskrit word purushartha means “purpose/aim of a human being” or “desire of the soul” and the four purusharthas in the Yoga tradition are:

Dharma – duty, purpose, how you serve in the world

Artha – material wealth, the things needed to perform your dharma

Kama – pleasure of all kinds

Moksha – spiritual liberation, the practices that lead to freedom

The teaching is that all four of these areas must be fulfilled in order for us to thrive – we need to be fed in all of those ways to feel whole. At any given time, one of the four purusharthas could be seen to stand center stage, asking for our attention a little more than the others so that our whole self might be fed and realized. It’s not something that we work through in a linear fashion and eventually complete like a checklist. Rather, what is being disregarded or avoided at any given time? It’s an ever-evolving and endless dance, each purushartha taking multiple turns calling us, if we follow, toward a better, joyful, more balanced and happy life. When fed and full, no needs of the soul neglected, we can offer ourselves fully to the path and process of becoming everything we were born to be.