Love is Never Having to Define Love

need self-love

After my mom passed away, I wondered: Can I still love her? After all, doesn’t love imply some type of action?

Well, that depends. Is love a verb?

As a child, I loved my mom by doing my chores, being a good girl, and doing my best to get along with my siblings. As an adult, I loved her through our conversations, trips to the mall when she didn’t want to go alone, and daily visits when she was ill.

No what can I do?

Thinking about this led me to consider the question no one can really answer: What is love? The word is probably the most over-used, misused, and possibly meaningless word in our lexicon.

Here are just a few of the ways I’ve seen the word love used:

Love is the opposite of fear.

God is love.

Love is a decision.

Love is extending oneself to nurturing one’s own or another person’s spiritual growth.

If you love someone, set them free.

Love is never having to say you’re sorry.

I’m in love with my husband.

I love coffee.

I love cats.

To love another person is to see the face of God.

Love hurts.

All you need is love.

Be love now.

Looking back over the list, I can see that some of the statements involve action (extending one’s self, deciding, setting someone free) while others are more states of being (God is love, or love is the opposite of fear). Still others involve feeling good in some way (about cats or drinking coffee). In one case, it even feels bad (love hurts).

So, what is love?

Part of the problem in defining love comes from the fact that it’s not a concrete thing. I can’t define love—or describe it even—the way I can tell you about a tree or a candle flame.

Is love an emotion? Is it a behavior? Is it a state of mind?

Maybe we need more than one word for love. Or maybe we should forget about the word entirely. We do have more than one adjective to use with it, as in agape love, romantic love, Divine love, etc. In each of these cases, though, we assume the word love refers to the same thing.

Another Definition of Love

A definition of love that works well for me is love is the driving force that propels beings toward union with their source. So, for me, God is love, be love now, and love is the opposite of fear are the most useful descriptions. If I live in union with God, I become love, and I am no longer afraid.

My behavior can change based on my ability to experience love. I can make decisions or extend myself or enjoy someone or something once I’m in tune with my true, higher Self.

For a while, I had no idea why anyone would make a statement like “love is never having to say you’re sorry.” Then I realized the beloved, not the lover, was the one who needn’t apologize. Love means forgiving our loved ones when they act in ways that are not so loving.

Love is Beyond Words

Love, like God really cannot be defined. No one knows for sure what it is, but most of us believe to some extent that it exists and that it matters.

Maybe there are as many ways to love as there are ways to describe it. Rather than settling on a single definition of love, I think I’ll just work on getting better at it.

Questions? Ask a Tree!

Trees are awesome. I know this but was happy to be reminded of why trees are awesome at a recent tree-themed yoga and aromatherapy workshop. On this March afternoon, yoga teachers Jan Jeremias and Dee Andalkar led us in a discussion about the gift of trees. We then considered ways we can be more like them.

Why would a person want to be like a tree? Well, here are some words we associated with trees at the beginning of the workshop:

  • Grounded
  • Strong
  • Branches
  • Flexibility
  • Roots

The Many Gifts of Trees

Beyond the admirable qualities they represent, trees offer many tangible gifts, most notable the oxygen that keeps us alive. Trees also give us fruit, shade, and the gift of aromatherapy.

There are many tree essential oils, including the one Jan and Dee diffused during the workshop, Douglas fir. The oil has a light, citrus-like quality. It’s a clean, purifying scent that’s good for the respiratory system. It’s also uplifting and can help with focus.

Get Grounded, Branch Out, Ask a Tree

One great thing about trees is they are strongly and firmly connected to their source, the earth. Yet they are flexible and able to sway in the wind. This gives trees a foundation from which to weather storms, something thing I’d like to have in common with these beautiful beings.

I was especially struck by Dee’s description of the conversations she has with trees. Now before you start thinking she’s a bit crazy, let me explain. Better yet, try it! I’ve had a few chats with trees myself.

If you’re stressed, confused, overwhelmed, sad, or feeling any other emotion you’d like some help with, go outside and sit with a tree! Watch its branches sway. Watch its leaves rustle in the wind. Notice the beauty and strength of its trunk, the color of its leaves, and the uniqueness of its branches. I promise if you do this long enough, answers will come. Just listen; don’t overthink it.

Whether the answers come from the trees or from within us is irrelevant. Trees, after all, don’t look to others to solve their problems. Perhaps they serve as reminders that when we need answers, we can find them within if get grounded, strong, and quiet. When we align with our higher selves, we can navigate what comes our way.

How to Be More Like a Tree

If you’re a yogi, you can be more treelike with a grounding yoga practice. Jan led us through a series of poses that were both grounding and expansive. Tree pose, of course, was one of them. In fact, we did a few variations of tree pose built upon the basic pose.

Poses like crescent lunge and warrior are treelike as well. We practiced a wonderful flow in which we more or less became trees, moving from an acorn to a full-grown tree with branches.

My Chat with Trees

As Jan noted, seeking answers is part of the human condition. We all want answers; we want to be guided, and we hope we’re able to be guides for ourselves.

But we all also need help. With this in mind, I spoke to the trees in my yard the next morning. I had to listen carefully to hear their reply since the branches are still mostly bare. But on that morning, the first day of spring, as I watched the swaying seed pods, the trees whispered these words: patience, hope, and renewal.

I urge you to speak with trees as often as possible.

How to Cultivate Passion for Your Life

Last weekend, I attended the second of a year-long series of monthly yoga and aromatherapy workshops at a local studio. The theme this time was passion, so I decided to prepare myself to explore this theme by asking myself the obvious question.

What, exactly, is passion?

After some thought, I decided passion is a strong connection to someone or something—so strong that you lose yourself in the object of your passion. I have a passion for writing, yoga, and The New York Mets, for example. I also have a passion for certain relationships.

The type of passion I’m describing isn’t always there, of course. Sometimes I’m not lost in my writing or I’m watching the clock in yoga class or I turn off the game because the Mets are losing.

And of course there are times when I need a bit of space between myself and a loved one. I was excited about the workshop because, I thought it would be great to discover some tools for cultivating more passion for the people and things I love.

Passion for Everything

To my surprise, Jan Jeremias and Dee Andalkar, the workshop presenters, went a step further with their take on passion. In fact, Jan described something that in a way was the reverse of what I was thinking. She suggested that, rather than think about passion as coming from the things we’re drawn to, we can be passionate about everything.

Really? Everything? Can I really be passionate about doing the laundry or the tedious job of editing a technical document or listening to a loved one rehash a problem for the sixteenth time this week?

Maybe I can. It turns out passion is presence. And when we do things with passion (that is, when we are compassionate), we are simply there to experience those things fully. And when we do that, we come alive.

Here are some ways to cultivate passion for everything in your life:

1. Practice yoga, of course.

To make your yoga practice more about living with passion, do the poses with more presence than ever. Of course, we yogis know being present is a key aspect of the practice, but we really do need to be reminded of this often. So when Jan led us through poses, she made sure we were present by cuing us to slow down, breathe first, and even to add movements purposefully—for instance stretching our arms out to a “T” position and pausing there before reaching them up in high lunge.

Try this when you practice, and you’ll begin to appreciate each pose even more. Then take that off the mat and into your everyday life.

2. Use essential oils.

We were treated to a beautiful essential oil blend called Passion, which is a combination of cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, clove, sandalwood, jasmine, vanilla, and damiana leaf.

I couldn’t help noticing most of those ingredients are the comfort spices I associate with autumn. I don’t know if there’s a connection, but I do notice an extra energy for life in the early part of that season. Another oil combination we sampled was ylang ylang and wild orange. This is a simple blend, but its effect is amazing.

3. Chant the mantra “Ang Sang Wahe Guru.”

Dee led workshop participants in this Kundalini Yoga chant that celebrates passion for life. According to Spirit Voyage, the translation of the mantra is, “The dynamic, loving energy of the Infinite Source of All is dancing within my every cell, and is present in my every limb. My individual consciousness merges with the Universal consciousness.”

Every cell. Every limb. It’s hard to think about that and not to have more passion for your life!

4. Be present!

You can’t be passionate about a life you’re not there for. So to connect with this simple truth, we did a short mindful eating exercise. I’ve done this before, and although I usually do make an effort to eat mindfully, it never hurts to be reminded of the power of attention to the simple things in life.

I chose a slice of juicy tangerine and noticed the not-too-sweet burst of citrus flavor that filled my senses when I bit into it, then very slowly chewed it until only the pulp remained to swallow.

A few days after the workshop, as I finish writing about it, I realize I’ve gone through the first part of the week with a noticeable boost in my passion for life. I’ve started two new exciting projects, so that helps, but it’s more the overall feeling of connection to my life that I’m noticing.

When passion begins to wane (I’m human; I know it will), I have these awesome tools of yoga, essential oils, mantra, and mindfulness to turn to. And for that I’m grateful.

Finding Focus in the New Year with Yoga, Aromatherapy, and Meditation

This past weekend, I attended a wonderful yoga and aromatherapy workshop. The topic was cultivating clarity, vision, creativity, and gratitude—great things to cultivate for sure.

Lately, I’ve been just a bit stuck in terms of vision and pursuing my goals. And while I haven’t been too concerned about it (the universe usually directs me eventually), I was thrilled when I saw the theme for this workshop. I knew immediately I wanted to attend.

If you’re in a similar boat, here are five things to try that will help you cultivate creativity, find clarity, and move toward your goals.

1. Set an intention, but don’t think too much about how you will get there.

Yoga teacher Jan Jeremias, one of the workshop’s two facilitators, read a stunning passage from a book by Jeff Foster:

On every page of a book, behind the words—no matter what the words are describing, no matter what is going on in the story—there is the whiteness of the paper. Rarely noticed, even more rarely appreciated, but absolutely essential, so that the words can be seen.

As a writer, my first thought was this passage minimized the impact of what I do, of the words that I write. But then I thought about it more and realized that while I do write words, my role as the whiteness of the paper is far more important.

The point is our willingness to hold an intention may be even more significant than exactly how we go about doing what we intend to do. We can write and rewrite and edit the story. But without the white space—without the intention—the story can never be read.

So if you’re not exactly sure how to go about reaching your goal, that doesn’t mean you’re not ready to set the intention. Set it, and then be open to what unfolds. The words (the way to get there) will come.

2. Tap into the powerful benefits of aromatherapy.

Aromatherapy is a powerful tool for physical, mental, and spiritual transformation. In this workshop, Jan introduced a few essential oils whose aromas are known to help with focus, creative energy, and vision.

The two oils that stood out for me were peppermint, which is very uplifting and energizing, and a proprietary blend for mental clarity and focus called “In Tune.” The blend, from doTerra, consists of amyris bark, patchouli, frankincense, lime, ylang ylang, sandalwood, and roman chamomile. I’ll be using this at my desk often!

3. Chant a mantra for creativity.

In the Kundalini Yoga tradition, there’s a mantra for…well, just about everything. In this workshop, yoga teacher Dee Andalkar led a chant of the mantra for creativity: Har Haray Hari Waheguru. If you don’t know it, you can hear a version of it here.

According to Spirit Voyage, this four-part mantra “represents the cycle of creative activity.  Har represents the seed potential of Infinite Creativity. Haray represents the flow of the Creative Force. Hari represents the manifestation of the Creative Force. Wahe Guru is an expression of joy and the wonder of this process.” Chanting the mantra, then, is like saying, “Idea, Flow, Here is it, Wow!”

4. Practice yoga.

I probably don’t have to elaborate. If you’re a yogi, you know setting an intention for the practice is a powerful way to focus and cultivate clarity and vision. It’s particularly powerful when the pose takes you out of yourself and connects you to something greater.

5. Be grateful.

As I said, the theme for the workshop was cultivating clarity, vision, creativity, and gratitude. So what about the “gratitude” part?

While it may not always be obvious, gratitude is a strong motivator for creativity. I can promise you when you’re grateful for the things you experience, you’ll open to more and more possibilities for creativity. For example, gratitude for the experience of attending a workshop can inspire you to write a post for your blog!

The Yoga of Transition: Reflections on Thursdays with Marla

Last week, I took a Thursday morning yoga class for the last time—not the last time I’ll ever attend yoga on a Thursday morning, but the last time I’ll likely take this class with this teacher.

A week ago, Marla (the teacher) announced that her schedule will be changing after the holidays, and she’ll be teaching on a different day—a day I already attend another yoga class at another studio.

This “shift,” as Marla called it, is part of the unfolding of her path as a healer, and she’ll soon be branching out with new offerings for the community.

This is good news for the community.

Of course I was sad about the class, but it’s not the first time my yoga life has shifted. Years ago, I was told (also around the holidays) that the entire studio I’d been practicing at would be closing, and between then and now, several other classes I’ve attended have ended for one reason or another.

Accepting Change

But part of being a yogi is learning to accept change. When one yogic door closes, another opens.

And there is always more! (That line is borrowed from another teacher whose class I miss.)

As often happens when things change, I’ve been thinking about how I’ve grown as a yogini and as a person over the years since I became serious about my practice and especially about what I’ve learned from practicing with Marla that will remain with me.

Marla is unique. She is so filled with inspiration that you almost have to listen to her without attachment to words. This, I believe, is because she transmits wisdom that is bigger than any words she can use to describe it. If that doesn’t make sense, don’t worry. The teaching is bigger than any words I can use as well.

Here are five awesome things that will stick with me from my Thursdays with Marla.

1. Letting go is doable.

Recently, Marla shared a teaching from Kundalini Yoga that suggests we can have negative thoughts and emotions, but we must let them go after nine seconds!

I think about this often. Of course it sounds like a ridiculously short amount of time, but it’s the intention to let go as quickly as possible that matters. To me, the “nine second rule” is an acknowledgement that we don’t practice yoga to become empty and emotionless. We practice so we can be fully human and at the same time connect with our divine nature.

Part of that practice is learning to feel something and then (when necessary) let go as quickly as possible. When you aim for a seemingly impossible nine seconds, chances are good you’ll get the job done more quickly than you would have otherwise, even if it takes longer than nine seconds!

2. Twists are awesome.

When I think of Marla’s classes, I think of twists, in particular prayer twists, but also “twists” on typical poses. Have you ever twisted in downward dog? If not, you need to take a class with Marla!

The cool thing about all the twisting (other than how great it feels) is you learn how versatile and powerful twisting can be. You can “twist out” negative frustration and you can gracefully navigate your way through the twists and turns of life.

3. “Yay!” is a spiritual word.

Marla’s classes can be intense (in a great way), but then all of a sudden, while she’s guiding you into a somewhat complicated pose and you get there, instead of saying “beautiful!” or “good!” or something more typical of yoga teachers, she’ll say “Yay!” It makes me smile every time because it reflects Marla’s approach to the practice is a celebration of life.

4. We can often do more than we expect to do.

I can’t tell you how many times I was surprised to find myself in a challenging pose (or two or three) in one of Marla’s classes. It’s not that being challenged is surprising, it’s just that Marla’s class is billed as “gentle,” which often suggests “easy.”

But through her gentle guidance, Marla can slyly lead you to do something like crow or side plank on one leg. And you do it. Because you can. (Okay, I still can’t do crow, but I’m getting there.)

5. When we have something to offer, we must not be afraid to put it out there.

Marla’s tirelessness about offering so much in her teaching has made me more confident about doing the same with what I feel called to share. In fact, Marla was one of the first people to read a draft of my Yoga Circles book. And while it’s still a leap of faith for me every time I give the book to someone else, Marla has been an example to me that putting it out there is usually the right thing to do.

I’ll miss Thursdays with Marla, but I look forward to whatever comes next on my yoga journey. I know the shift is happening with intention, and the universe has good things in store for all of us.

Thank you, Marla, for sharing your gifts.

In Baseball and In Life: Sometimes the Outcome Just Sucks!

If you happen to be a New York baseball fan like I am (and not who cheers for that team in the Bronx), you probably had a bit of a broken heart recently when the Mets lost the World Series.

I use the term “lost” loosely, because if you know baseball, and if you watched these games, you might consider “gave away” or “blew” more appropriate terms.

It’s Just Baseball, Right?

Anyone who spends the better part of six months cheering on a baseball team with the emotions of a die-hard fan has probably wondered why these emotions are so strong at times. It’s strange, isn’t it? You know it’s just a game. You know that your real life will go on whether your team wins or loses. You know you have nothing to do with whether or not they win or lose, and you know there’s big marketing behind the hype and drama that draws you in.

And yet you can’t help the fact that somehow it matters. When your team loses the big games, it stings.

The Yoga of Baseball

If you’re also a yogi like I am, when things like this happen, you immediately try to be all yogic about it. After all, yoga gives us many tools for dealing with disappointment, frustration, and loss—the most obvious and appropriate being the law of non-attachment.

Well, you know what fellow New York sports fan yogis (and everyone else)? It’s okay. Go ahead and be sad—and angry—and disappointed. Just for a while. (And yes, keep your real life in perspective.)

No, it didn’t happen for reason. No, there is nothing to be learned or gained from watching a pitcher pitch the game of his life for 8 innings only to blow it within minutes in the top of the ninth. There’s no great life lesson in the fact that your team, which was not expected to make the playoffs much less be in the World Series, had a surprising, fun, and amazing season—and then broke your heart, for a moment, in the end.

It just sucks!

So feel that for a while. Mope, brood, yell. Do whatever you need to do. But just for a while.

Then you can come back and be all yogic about it. If you like, you can try to make sense of it all, because as all baseball fans know, baseball is a lot like life. And as you try to make sense of it all—because baseball is a lot like life—don’t forget to be grateful for the fun, and don’t forget to feel the joy.

Opening Day is only five months away!


How to Do More of What You Love Every Day and Still Pay the Bills

Do what you love is a theme that comes up a lot in modern circles. There are variations on the theme, and chances are you’ve heard some of these as well:

Do more of what you love

Today my yoga teacher suggested an activity that was a twist on the usual “to do” list. The task was to make a list of things we enjoy doing and then spend this day (which happened to be a Monday) doing what we want to do.

Ah, if only I had that luxury, I thought. I’d probably go get a pedicure and then pack for a week away at luxury yoga retreat, maybe one that includes learning how to draw or paint. But unfortunately, there are bills to pay. And without getting into details, as a responsible adult, I have to make that a priority right now, so…

I could not afford the luxury of being sure to have some fun today.

But wait. Life should be fun, shouldn’t it?

I don’t advocate being miserable. I’ve shown that in my life by leaving one or two dead-end jobs and opting out of activities and relationships that don’t help me grow and live in love. But how do those of us who need to make a living manage the do what you love thing?

Well, how about this? If you can’t do what you love every minute of the day, then find a way to love what you do. Or at least find a way to not be miserable while you’re doing it.

A while ago, I wrote about how I’ve learned to turn some of the more tedious aspects of my work, like dry technical editing or grocery shopping, into meditations. (Seriously, next time you go grocery shopping, try to go slowly and really notice the colorful array of fruits and vegetables in the produce section or the myriad choices you have if you want a dozen eggs or a container of yogurt!)

Doing more of what we love each day is important, and so is taking care of our responsibilities. So, if you can’t quit your job or ignore a deadline to spend the entire day today doing things on your what I love to do list, try loving the simple fact that you’re alive and functioning, and love (or at least like) whatever you need to do.

The fact that you’re able to do anything is something worth appreciating. So despite the fact that I can’t do something I’m in love with every second of every day, here’s a short list of the things I’ve loved doing in just the last 24 hours:

  • I drank more than one delicious cup of coffee.
  • I ate a yummy breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  • I went to an awesome yoga class.
  • I watched my favorite MLB team win (again)!
  • I watched a fascinating drama on television.
  • I listened to some of my favorite music.
  • I noticed the lilies in a bouquet of flowers I bought a few days ago have bloomed and are gorgeous.
  • I did my “editing meditation.”
  • I wrote this latest entry for my blog.
  • And of course, I practiced yoga!

What will you love doing today?

Wake Up!

This morning, my sweet yoga teacher encouraged me to wake up. Not directly, as in, “Wake up and pay attention, Maria. You look a little sleepy today!” It was a general teaching for the class. But it caught my attention.

I was a little sleepy and a bit slow getting going and getting to class today, which is not completely unusual for me, especially on gray winter mornings.

Another reason the topic caught my attention is just an hour or so earlier over morning coffee, my husband and I were kicking around the concept of “waking up” in the sense of clearing cobwebs from our brains and becoming more focused and productive.

Awakening in Yoga and in Life

Then I got to class, where our teacher shared some wisdom she’d learned at a workshop she’d recently attended. The workshop leader was Guru Singh. Coincidentally, I recently read his book, “Buried Treasures.”

When I walked into class and saw another one of Guru Singh’s books at the front of the room, I paid attention. There was yoga again getting to the heart of whatever is happening in my life.

We talk about awakening a lot in yoga. As our teacher (via Guru Singh) explained, it’s something that’s always available. In my own practice, I’ve found when I learn to pay attention, I open my eyes, heart, and mind to what is and what has always been. And it seems the more I pay attention, the more I realize I’ve spent a lot of time napping.

Are you ready to wake up?

There are things I’ve always been ready for (like starting a yoga practice). I wasn’t aware it was something I was meant to do until, one day, there it was. Often we dabble and go slowly because we’re not sure something is meant for us.

On the other hand, some things keep coming up, but we haven’t figured out how to do them or where to begin.

Your teacher is already here

They say when the student is ready the teacher will appear. But if Guru Singh’s position resonates with you and you believe you have always been ready for the thing you’re meant for, then maybe the real issue is you’re not awake. You don’t see that your teacher is already here.

Fear not, my friend. All you have to do is wake up and pay attention!

Letting Go of What Doesn’t Serve You and Embracing What Does

At a yoga class during the last week of 2014, my fellow students and I were asked to focus on something that no longer served us, something we wanted to let go of as we move into the new year. Suspecting this theme would come up, I already had some ideas in mind when I got to class that morning.

Letting Go

There are many things in my life that don’t serve me. I hold on to most of them because I’m not sure what the alternatives are and because most of them don’t really harm me either. It would be easy to let go of the old if we knew where we wanted to go and how to get there.

That said, there are certainly things I need to release, like regret. Regret serves no purpose; it’s not even filling space until I figure out what to do next with my life. It just makes me miserable. I can’t change the experiences I’ve had or the choices of made in the past. So I need to let go of regret and accept that what’s done (or not done) is history.

After regret, I want to let go of apologizing for who I am. I’ve had some great practice at this recently. I said no more than once without feeling (too) guilty about it, something that isn’t easy for me to do. I was being pulled in too many directions, and I was overwhelmed, so I had to say a few nos so I’d have the energy to be fully present when I did say yes.

Message from the Angels

At the end of class, we all picked from a deck of angel cards, an activity that always gets me thinking and often writing too. I wondered if I’d pick the word “regret” or “guilt.” That would be an awesome clear sign from the universe that I’m on the right track.

Instead, my word was “support.”

I stared at the card for a few moments because it didn’t seem right at all. Was this card suggesting I need to be more supportive? I quickly eliminated that idea. It seems (to me anyway) that one thing I do a lot of is listen to and support others. In fact, I’d been deep into support mode the last few weeks following an event that caused a swell of emotional turmoil for some of the people in my life. I found myself listening a lot, and I was told more than once it was good talking to me.

So why was I holding this card? It wasn’t telling me I should let go of my role of being supportive, was it? That didn’t seem right either.

Then it dawned on me that support was the right word for me after all. It’s not that I need to be more or less supportive, but that I need to stop denying I also need support. I’ve been cast in the role of listener for so long that I’ve learned to act like I don’t need to be heard. What is that really about?

Know What You Need

For me, acknowledging that I also need support presents a problem because of how good I’ve gotten at not seeking it. It’s probably the same for you, whether maybe with the same issue or maybe with something completely different.

Once you acknowledge what you need to release and what you want to embrace, the real work begins.

Maybe the best thing I can do right now is put the intention out to the universe. Rather than asking specific people to support me, I can ask the universe for support and see where it leads me. The universe is much more likely to come through, though I’m sure that when it does it will send me people who can help me find my way. My job is be open to that.

Lifting each other up

In case I had any doubts that I gotten the right message in class that morning, the song playing during savasana drove it home for me in that awesome way that things have of coming together when you’re open it. The chorus goes like this:

We shall lift each other up.

Higher and higher,

We shall lift each other up.

Lifting each other up is a great way to think about support. It doesn’t have to be one-sided. Just think how high we all could climb if we helped each other along the way! So I ask the universe for support in letting go of regret and learning to be myself without apology.

What Will You Let Go Of?

As you move into the new year, what will you release? And once you release it, what will you embrace? You may not know exactly what you need or how you’ll get it, but now is the time to take a new step. Set an intention and let the universe support you.

A very Happy New Year to all!

Who Are You Supposed to Be?

In “The Great Work of Your Life” – a book about dharma, author Stephen Cope notes that Walt Whitman was 47 years old when he found the “true calling” he had been preparing for all his life. When I first read that, a spark of hope went through me. Until that moment, I’d thought I was long past the age when such a thing could happen. And here’s the real surprise. Whitman’s calling was not writing; it was nursing!

It Can Take a Lifetime to Find Your Dharma

When I read Cope’s book a few years ago, I wondered if all the wandering I’ve done from “calling” to “calling” was leading me to something specific I could call my dharma. I hoped so, because the disjointed confusing road was a challenge to travel.

Don’t Do What You’re Not Supposed to Do

I’m not sure I know what I’m supposed to do. I do know what I’m not supposed to do. I usually figure that out shortly after I start doing a something, like studying to be a dietitian instead of a holistic nutritionist or taking a job as a financial aid representative when I really want to be a student counselor. But I continue to hope all of those starts and detours have a purpose.

I do sometimes think a good way to figure out what you’re supposed to do is to figure out what you’re not supposed to do.

Learning to Be Who We Are

I’m not a physicist (and have never even considered the possibility I should be, though it would be fascinating). I’m no longer a financial aid representative, and I now know I’m not meant to be a clinical dietitian. What I am supposed to be is a writer.

Writing has been part of my life (and my dharma) for a long time. All the things I’ve done or attempted to do have shaped the kind of writer and editor I am now. In college, I wrote fiction. Just after that, I did a lot of journal writing. In an odd, Zen-like way, I destroyed my journals in the early 2000’s to detach from the stories they told. I wrote journal entries as if I was writing fiction. More recently my writing ranges from technical to creative nonfiction.

Now most of my writing is more practical. Some is even technical. It’s almost all nonfiction.

No doubt there’s a reason it took me almost 20 years to return to writing as a career. I’ve written a lot about psychology and nutrition (and, of course yoga) in the last ten years. And while there may not be a formal title for what I am, I’m pretty sure it is what I’m supposed to do.

What are you supposed to be?

Do you know what you’re supposed to be? Have you found your dharma, and if you have, does it have a name? If you’re still not sure despite years of searching, don’t despair. It takes a seed many years to become a mighty tree.

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