I read the other day that the refugees from Syria and thereabouts living in camps along the European borders live with only the limited food and water provided to them through charity. They often live in the camps for 10-12 months at a time without knowing where they will end up the next day. Will they be sent back to their country of origin? Will they be accepted to a country where they will have the means to seek and sustain employment and feed their families? Months of waiting for answers and assistance from more fortunate countries go by and they wait with uncertainty. I cannot imagine the anxiety of having to live through months worth of anxiety about such an important life or death transition when everyday uncertainties that are not life or death occasionally keep me up at night.
For the past few summer months, I have enjoyed unofficial beachfront yoga retreats every weekend. How? I signed up for a yoga teacher training (viniyoga) about an hour away from my house. During the first two weekends, several classmates found out I live an hour away and invited me to stay over at their homes every weekend of the training! It is such a kind gesture that I will never be able to repay as there is no way I could ever afford to live in the area they live in on their lovely luxurious beachfront properties. One classmate told me I could nap at her place if I needed to before my drive home on Saturdays. Two classmates invited me to stay at their homes with their families instead of driving back on Saturday evenings. One classmate has cooked dinner and breakfast for me and often brings us food from her organic garden. Every weekend, someone in class is sharing something or other with such generosity. So, because of the kindness and hospitality of strangers, I have been able to enjoy many weekends of relaxing yoga retreats away from the sweltering desert at home. I wrote of my gratitude in a homework assignment I submitted and my teacher is asking if I would be comfortable to share the writing. I do want them to know how appreciative I am but I do feel very shy at times and I know that I am ahead of everyone on the homework assignments which I have been told has caused some envy. Here is what I have been asked to share… Please have a look…Should I share it?
Write a short essay explaining your Dharma and what it means to you.
My dharma is:
- in continuing to discover and feel daily joyful reverence and gratitudes
- in sharing my blessings within our world
- to render kindness and unconditional love in servitude to our fellow living beings, as we are but branches of a single tree.
What does this dharma mean to me? It means that things either happen for a reason or we make our own meaning of life. As Emilio so aptly put it, life happens for us rather than to us. For life to have a purpose/ dharma/ meaning, we have to see what has been set for us and in so doing, we feel reverence, gratitude, joy, blessed, generous, kind, loving and connected.
An example of this in one of the most recent chapters of my life occurred only a few months ago. A coworker became very ill with cancer. Her doctor wanted her to take additional time off for further treatments. She did not have any sick leave left and had mounting bills. She looked to her coworkers for help. As a group, we all donated many days to her… I donated several years of sick leave and neglected to leave myself any as I figured she needed it more financially than I did. I experienced mild regret when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer on Valentine’s Day. I ended up taking many days off to see her to doctors’ appointments. The days I was absent from work were deducted from my paychecks and I was asked to resign by HR. The HR Manager gave me a speech about how teaching is a calling that I must continue when he explained that I could resign or be let go of, which I found strange. Maybe he didn’t want to feel responsible if I did not continue on as a teacher… I continued to tell myself that I did the right thing because my coworker needed the money more than I did. Then, my coworker wrote a “Thank you.” When she returned, she expressed her gratitude and said she would pray for me every day because the time we had collectively donated to her had not been wasted. While she had been away sick, her own mother had passed away from cancer. The time she had away from work had been used not only to heal from her treatments but also to spend with her mother on their last days together. “Things happen for a reason,” she said to reassure me that things will be okay even if I am jobless. Life has been good despite and perhaps because of the turmoil because life happens for us. I had time to pursue my yoga studies and hope to share my joy for yoga with others. I have time now to take my mother to weekly appointments and to help her at her job until she is able to return. My generous yogi classmates have opened up their hearts and homes to me. You have taught me more about yoga/ life than I ever expected to learn! There is no way any other yoga training would have provided so much knowledge to reflect upon. Giving brings about more abundance and I was mistaken to have felt regret.
Aside from the time I now have to spend with my mother, I have much appreciation for everything and want to share my blessings and joys so that others too may be blessed with love and joy. The cotton from the clothes I wear was picked by someone and spun and dyed by someone. Water and nutrients were provided to nourish the cotton plants. Someone made the lavender soap I used for the shower last night where there was also fresh water that came many years of precipitation and someone else grew that lavender. Many hands built the house I reside in. The wood came from trees that grew for many years. The cement was made from gravel and sand that took thousands of years to form. The oil in the car I drive formed for thousands of years from the energy of many once living organisms. The metal pieces from the computer I am typing on came from a mine deep in the earth. The plastics came from the oils that formed for so long in the earth. Somebody’s blood and sweat was poured into meals I eat daily as they toiled to grow it, sell and distribute it. Even the body I inhabit came from generations of ancestors before me.
The teachings you are instructing us upon came from generations of teachers: from the generations of teachers of Vyasa who made it possible for him to compile The Mahabharata, the generations of Aryans and the oral storytellers from whom Patanjali imbibed so many lessons and wrote them down. By teaching us what you know, you are planting many seeds that will continue to grow and transform as generations pass like a Mother Tree whose seeds are scattered across the mountain range where the forest takes root. I am honored to have the dharma to continue to disperse our joys and blessings.