I Went in Search of My Dharma and Found I Was Already Living It


Last month, I traveled up to the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health to take a workshop on dharma (in this instance, defined as “life purpose”). The workshop was an offshoot of the presenter’s most recent book, which I had read and loved because I can never resist a good excuse to examine my life choices under a microscope and draw up endless to-do lists’ worth of course corrections.

I spent the weekend taking sunrise yoga classes, eating silent breakfasts, meditating, listening to lectures on dharma, and putting together lists (a thing we’ve already established is a hobby of mine).

Lists of the things that light me up.

Lists of the things to which I feel duty-bound.

Lists of the things that are often seemingly in opposition to each other.

In drawing up all of these lists, what I discovered is that I was already following my dharma.

But I was also doing too many other things and, as a result, was being pulled in too many different directions. As Stephen Cope would say, I wasn’t doing my dharma full out.


First day of school!

When I returned from Kripalu, I set about giving myself the opportunity to focus more fully on my dharma. I enrolled my daughter in preschool. I dropped the projects that were more trouble than they were worth. I became a senior editor for Simplemost, a job that is just the right amount of regular hours for just the right amount of money, and which allows me to pursue other writing projects without having panic attacks about my bank account.

Plus, the content I get to work on for them is delightful.

Sure. I’ve faltered since then.

Case in point: On International Women’s Day, I attended a choral workshop at my favorite, local independent bookshop. It was focused on resistance songs, with the aim of forming a choir that would sing at marches and raise money for important causes. For a hot minute, I thought about joining that choir, because I miss singing and because I dreamed of re-creating the video at the bottom of this post.

Then I realized that, by making such a commitment, I would be undoing all of the good work I’d just done. I do hope singing becomes a part of my life again. Someday. But I don’t think that now is the right time.

Instead, I’m focused on using my writing to shatter the silence around difficult topics, and to shine a spotlight on the issues that are most important to me. For example, check out this piece I wrote for Broadly on the barriers to good sex education, and this other piece I wrote for Pacific Standard on the educators who are pushing past those barriers.

I’m also teaching others to do the same, via various versions of a Writing as Advocacy class for the Writers Circle. (Psst… I’m also teaching a class on short-form creative nonfiction next month. Register here!)

For now, these are the things that feel the most urgent. These are things that fulfill my dharma.

At some point in the future, things will likely shift. I’ll likely let go of some of the things I’m working on now to make room for new things.

But for now, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. And I’m doing it full out.

me teaching

credit: Judith Lindbergh