dharma (responsibility)


The fall is the perfect time to study. It has that internal, quiet quality that really allows you to nosh and process information. As I go back through the yoga sutras, those threads/aphorisms, that weave together the web of this system we call yoga, I have been particularly moved by sutra 2.35: Being firmly grounded in non-violence creates an atmosphere in which others can let go of their hostility. This is truly a revolutionary practice.

As things shift and move in my life and as time passes, it matters a great deal to me to keep my relationships current. Even those that are really, really old. Sometimes they require a dusting off, and sometimes they require a full on spring cleaning and makeover. We change as people, they change, and part of growing flexible as we keep going is becoming more sensitive to these undulations and shifts- the vritti.

Recently I hit a wall with a very dear friend of mine. The wall made me angry and words were crossed via email on both ends. Finally, we decided we should have a conversation. I felt all of my armor closing around me and I even felt myself preparing for battle. On the day of the conversation, when we got around to it, it had been a really long week for me and I was just cooked. So I brought it up first and instead of going right into the attack and going for the jugular, I simply took responsibility for all the things she seemed unhappy with about me that I thought were true.

This had a surprising effect. Instead of being in a huge fight all of a sudden, the energy completely dissipated, we started to laugh and so we were able to move a little deeper into the heart of the matter. My taking responsibility completely disarmed her. It was a really sweet reminder that we can sometimes meet in that field that Rumi talks about ,“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field, I’ll meet you there…”

Responsibility in yogic terms is dharma with a small d. It is what we are to hold or maintain. Dharma with a capital D is different, that is your life’s path or mission. Your greater work. I’ve noticed, especially this year, that taking responsibility for the stuff that is mine in relationships can be hard for me. I will sometimes go to great and ridiculous lengths to avoid it. I learn again and again (I’m not that bright) that it is better, easier to look it squarely in the face. No matter how scary. It is a practice like anything else, and though I have failed over and over, I am pleased to report that I seem to be making some headway. Small steps, one foot in front of the other, pada a pada. It doesn’t mean that it will yield the results I want. In fact, it never seems to. But at least it allows room for me to take the other person in in a more real way and it seems to create a break in the samsara (the wheel of suffering) that let’s us move onto new, unchartered territory.

I love that moment- when the troops are gathered on the hill, armor on, weapons in hands and at any point there will be bloodshed; but you choose differently, you choose well this time, and all of a sudden it’s as if there had never been an army at all, t’s just two jivas (two souls), naked… in a field… talking- the complete opposite. It is a moment of truth, a gong. It wakes you up. A moment pregnant with clarity and realness.

What’s your stuff, the stuff that you avoid taking responsibility for? As the holidays get closer and we are all faced with spending time with our families or choosing not to, it is interesting to consider how we can show up and continue to let those relationships be current, alive and full. It is hardest with the people that know you best, as they also know best how to ring all of your bells and push all of your buttons.

Good luck yogis, lemme know how it goes!