Getting to the Heart of the Matter and Choosing to Learn Your Soul’s Work:
My tricks to see through the Muck, Take a Good Look at Our Karmas, and Saddle Up for the Ride
I was flipping through social media the other day. Someone’s feed came up – they were describing these beautiful offerings – in yoga, compassion, healing, meditation – wasn’t I supposed to feel joy, and happiness? Why was there that lump in my belly, and throat? Why was there that sneaky stream of fear and anxiety running through my body frazzling up everything that it touched? Ugh. And there went my mind - into the abyss of loss, chaos and failure. All of a sudden, I went from a sing-songy day to this nightmare. Did all of this really happen because of a little social media post? Has this ever happened to you? (… and then you went on a Facebook cleanse…)
Sure, this is insecurity, sure, this is jealousy – but when I dig deeper, I can see, I can really feel and deeply sense that this is really just confusion about who I really am – about who You really are. It’s confusion about what life experiences are really about - what their purpose is. When we believe that we are the personality – the Hannah, or the Alisha, or the Kara, or the Smith, or the Tony or the whoever – then we perceive life experiences a certain way. We perceive every event, every ‘achievement,’ every ‘gain,’ every ‘failure,’ and every ‘loss,’ either helping prop up that personality, or causing problems for it (even taking it down). And this is how we get stuck in the muck of our habits, and let them go on repeat for years (or our entire life). What is on repeat for you?
Who I really am, and what I am really here to be learning – that’s the heart of the matter. Same for you. We are Souls – spiritual beings that are a part of One, Unified, Incredible Never-Gonna-Be-Able-To Describe Thing that is permanent and is everything. And our life – this experience that is put down for a certain period of time, and in a certain place - is our chance to learn what we need to learn. The Big, Big lesson for our Soul is to learn who we are – what the yogis call Self Realization – it’s when we rest in the knowledge of what we are and it guides all of our actions because it the truth that we live by, and know without any doubt. But, there are a lot of smaller Soul lessons along the way. And life provides the soul with experiences to learn these lessons. And given our unique tendencies and past actions, the lessons, vis-à-vis life experiences, are each carved out beautifully – perfectly placed, at just the right time, for each of us to learn deeply. These are our karmas. They don’t always feel so great to the personality. Usually they don’t…until they do.
One of my karmas is to feel like: I am What I Doand I am only as Good as I Do Those Things. You got this one too? It’s a doozy. Some time ago, while visiting my beloved teacher, Yogi Sri Dharma Mittra, and just after a Kirtan, the audience was asked if they had anything to say. I said, “Thank you Sri Dharma for all you teach us and bring to us, and I am so grateful, thank you so much.” He didn’t really smile or react in any way, he just said, “I am not the Doer.” It was not the most usual response, right? Then more recently, during one of his visits to Washington DC, I shared with him about a beautiful Kirtan that myself and some friends had led. I told him about how we shared a lot of his stories and his wisdom. He looked at me, with these incredible soft, shining eyes and said something akin to, “I just put one foot in front of the other.” He was sharing with me that all these years, he wasn’t trying to Be a Someone.
When I began teaching yoga I wanted to feel like I was doing it well– that students were receiving the best of the best – what Sri Dharma has shared with me – that the community was growing, and love and peace was spreading. When I completed the 200-hour Life of a Yogi Teacher Training with Sri Dharma – I really took to heart what he said: “My dream is to make an army of yogis spreading peace and love!” This impulse to spread love and goodness, to make life better for people and all beings– has been there in my heart and mind since I can remember. In what now feels like a completely other life, I undertook a doctoral program in Political Science. I thought if I could learn everything there was to know about social and political life, then I could really help the world, to reduce all the suffering (which is a very beautiful honorable life path too, it just wasn’t mine). Back then, in that world I saw that along with the impulseto spread love and peace, was also the impulse to do it well, to succeed, to make something of myself – of Hannah. Do you share this impulse at all?
And this is the karma that this social media post is all wrapped up in. I have tried to wish it away, to cleanse it away, to pretend it away. But, my gut is saying this isn’t present unless it has a beautiful, divinely-given purpose – one of those beautiful lessons. So, now that I can see it from this vantage point – of witnessing it as a karma, as a lesson to live through and to learn from - it then becomes something I can employ my spiritual practice toward rather than a life experience I am victim too, without power to effect or change. So, what does all this mean in the context of my life, your life, our lives?
Here are some of my tricks to see through the Muck, Take a Good Look at our Karmas, and Saddle Up for the Ride
1. See Through the Muck, Identify It as a Karma & Step Up Inside For Yourself. There is a sign of Muck in a certain area of your life when you get thrown of kilter easily. In my above example, it is about Vocation. But, maybe when you look at social media it is something else that triggers you, that throws you off kilter. Maybe it’s stuff around Body Image, Family Life, Relationships. This isn’t really about social media, the triggers come from any old place: people and life events highlight our karmas to us. You also kind of always know you’ve got some karma because you’ve always kind of had some blah feeling, or just kind of felt irritated, or downright terrible about some areas of your life. You might call these your ‘Issues.’ When I say ‘terrible’ or ‘blah’ I mean that it feels that way to you. You could be making a million bucks but there is something blah about the Vocation part of your life. You could have a healthy, thriving family, but just find yourself kind of irritated about this part of your life. Getting thrown off kilter, feeling blah, irritated and often worse – these are indications that you are in a karma. These are not indications that you are a worthless s-o-b. This means you are an incredible Spiritual Being with a chance to really learn this lesson! Choose to watch when this karma is triggered in your life. Choose to navigate through it so you learn. This means that we, I, You, don’t ignore it or pretend it away. This is what I mean when I say, “Step Up Inside for Yourself.” Choosing to be a Witness is a very powerful thing to do.
2. Take a Good Look at Your Karma to Learn your Soul’s Work. Once you see that you are in a Karma, ask yourself – what is my Soul’s work here? This is how we go from continuing poor choices (what folks mean when they say keeping the karma going and going) to making healthy choices that serve our highest learning. In my example above, I realized that the most important task for my Soul with regards to Vocation was to see that I am not the Doer. This is my Soul’s work and it is way more important than any fleeting job, position and recognition, even if it is related to yoga, peace, healing, etc. And, each trigger gives me some beautiful, juicy life experience to work through the lesson. So, when I see that other people are offering such beautiful things, that I also feel is my vocation – I remember the spiritual truths: I’m not running the show here – that Divine Intelligence-Never-Gonna-Be-Able-To-Put-Into-Words-Matrix-y thing keeps it all in motion. Each of us has a different role, and mine is uniquely mine. Whenever I notice that I am really over-working myself, going beyond my resources, over-extending myself, I remember that no work will ever satisfy me – only resting in my true Self does that. For most of my life I have over-worked and over-efforted because I was trying to touch some permanent satisfaction from my vocation. Yet, I wasn’t listening to that deep call within me that is so satisfied when I am resting in the inner silence (by myself and with others in my daily life). I choose over and over again, all day long to go back to that. This is my Soul’s work. Whenever I notice that I am choosing not to put offerings out because of fear of rejection and failure, fear of what my family, friends, community may say or feel, I make the middle-of-the-road choice to make my writings public, to record a small chant, to share my class schedule - regardless of what the ‘fruits’ may or may not be – regardless of the outcome. I am practicing what Sri Dharma (and my Dad) has said so many times! I show up, do the work, and then let G-d take care of the rest. A lot of the work here for me is about choosing the middle road of effort – not too little, not too much. It may be for you too, because giving up isn’t the way through these karmas, and neither is over-identifying with them.
3. Saddle Up for the Ride. When we take the first two steps, we are pretty much saddled up for the ride. To bolster myself for the Soul’s work, I stay deeply committed to my spiritual practices, take as good care of my body and mind as possible and stay close to our beautiful sangha and mother nature. What do you do to bolster yourself?
If you have some spare time, get a sheet of paper, or let yourself ponder, what muck are you ready to see clearly as a karma? What’s your Soul’s work here? How can you Saddle Up for the Ride? I hope this article helps in some way! Let me know if you’d like some help with this process with a one-on-one healing session. Much Love and Om, Hannah