Dharma With A Hover

Photo by Andie Gómez-Acebo on Unsplash

On my road to creative and conscious living, there continues to be a concept that is a key foundation element for my own spiritual growth and for what fuels my life trajectory. There is no one word for this concept but the closest I have found to date is Dharma. And I’ll add as I do to most of my philosophic understandings, a hover. What is Dharma with a hover?

Let’s start with Dharma. There is no accurate western interpretation of dharma so naturally, as I conducted my research on this term, I found the definition and meaning were incredibly varied. What really surprised me was the association dharma has to law, structure, justice, order, and rules. It is not often that concepts associated with these things attract me. I took this as a sign of my Uroboros, but I digress. Back to the research…I found dharma present in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism BUT embedded in the concept is a clear separation from religion. Historically, dharma has been associated with “Torah” (Judaic), “logos” (Greek), “way” (Christian), and “tao” (Chinese). But again, all of these associations are not entirely accurate as to the meaning of dharma.

My understanding of dharma has evolved over the course of my life. The evolutionary story goes like this….

Dharma In Childhood

In my childhood, I had no verbal expression for the concept of dharma. I simply lived in joy for most of my childhood. I was free to explore, imagine, and adventure to my heart’s calling. I was encouraged to follow my passions and express my joy. One might say this is the essence of dharma.

When I was 18, I went onto the military. I put my ambition and drive into the driver’s seat and the notion of joy and authentic self-expression came mainly through my connections with friends and family. The concept of dharma was still a seed planted deep in my subconscious.

Dharma In My 20's

In my mid 20’s, after leaving the Air Force, I was 100% motivated to find work that I “love”. If I never heard the word “mandatory” again I would be a happy camper. I had just finished my master’s degree program where I had huge epiphanies about who I was and what called to my spirit. It was at this point in my life that the concept of dharma started to emerge full force into a more conscious place in my being. I passionately externalized (and defended) dharma with statements like this:

  • “If I do what I love, everything else will fall into place.”
  • “I will never choose a job I don’t love again!”
  • “Following my passion is my priority.”
  • “I’d rather live in poverty than do work that I “have to” do again.”
  • “People who just punch the clock for money lack the courage or freedom to follow their true passions.”
  • “It takes tremendous courage to stay dedicated to your passion.”

Dharma In My 30's

In my mid 30’s, as I advanced in my corporate career, I was motivated by self-promotion and achievement as defined by the systems I agreed to work within. I had found user experience (UX) and was doing work that I loved but at the same time, I was in roles trying to convince others of the value of this thing I love. Subsequently, the way that I externalized (and justified to myself) dharma was with statements like this:

  • “For me to do that thing I love, I need to increase my power, authority, and autonomy.”
  • “I just need to get others to see and feel how awesome this thing I love is and then they will want to do it too. Even better, the thing I love will gain respect and be supported by people all around me.”
  • “Nothing will stop me from doing this thing I love so I have to build the case for it and be assertive and persistent to make sure this thing I love grows.”

Dharma In My 40's

In my early 40’s, as I started to become more aware of a spirituality of my own understanding, I came into direct contact with the transformational power of surrender. I was open to guidance beyond my understanding as to where to take my next step. Subsequently, the way that I externalized (and started to find peace with) dharma was with statements like this:

  • “When you experience joy doing a thing, this is one way the Universe is telling you, ‘you’re on the right path’.”
  • “The joy I feel when doing the thing I’m good at is a gift and being present with that gift, with that joy, is my life’s calling.”
  • “Creating a sacred space for me to do the thing where I feel joy is my top priority. I release that thing where I feel joy from any obligations to bring me financial abundance. I do the thing because I cherish the gift. I do the thing because when I experience joy on a more regular basis, the whole world benefits.”

Dharma Today

Today, still in my early 40’s, as I deepen in my understanding of the human experience and deepen my spiritual practice, I feel the flaw in the certainty about life purpose I have wanted to hold onto for so many years. I long for the simplicity of this message and surrender to the absolute uncertainty of dharma. The externalization of dharma becomes harder because when we externalize we are trying to get what we are thinking and feeling to take shape in a way that others might understand. However, the closer we get to spirit, the less externalization is possible because spirit has no real form. Subsequently, the closest statements I can make about what dharma means to me (with a lesser need to convince and defend) today are:

  • “I believe joy is precious.”
  • “I recognize that my ego really wants to believe in ideas like ‘callings’.”
  • “There is something important about one investing in one’s joy for the betterment of that person and society. At the same time, I recognize that joy is as much a gift to that person as it to society and the person does not singularly own that gift. Once that gift is given, turning an open heart to the next possible joy is called for.”
  • “Being is the way.”

Dharma In My Future

Projecting into my future states of being, there is one statement that came to me about dharma that I’ll share now. In truth, I have to say that I have not fully embraced this statement however I feel it on the horizon. About dharma, I might externalize it like this:

  • “Joy does not come from doing the thing, it comes from me and the thing is inconsequential.”

Embrace Dharma With A Hover

My evolving concept of dharma has shifted from an unrelenting pursuit of my passion and authentic self-expression at any cost to making a business case for my cherished values to a Universal message to a sacred gift. While the concept and expression of dharma have been a consistent focus throughout my life, it has shifted in important ways at each stage. I might ask myself if the concept shifts so much, maybe it’s not a concept worth my investment. Maybe making so many life choices based on my concept of dharma is like building a house on quicksand. I sat with this for a while. I sat with the idea of letting go of living a life where my concept of dharma is at the helm. And then I came across an interview with Mel Robbins and an important ah-ha came to me about my dharma journey. She said that passion (I translate passion to dharma in this case) is just energy. And when energy diffuses, it doesn’t mean that the thing or how I was doing the thing is fundamentally flawed. It simply means my energy around that thing has shifted. The shifting of energy is natural, and important for energy to truly flow freely. Embracing that shifting nature is similar to my idea of hovering. As I try to understand and come to peace with my essence, with my being, wrestling with and shaping and reshaping concepts like dharma are important. However, as I mold abstract concepts into shape, and express them, I remember to embrace the shape and keep a wise hover. Express my current understanding of the concept AND recognize it will shift and take a different shape as I become more aware, more conscious. As God said to Juno, follow your dharma and then let go of the fruits of your labor. Let go and just be.




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Andrea Peer — Journey Crafting

Andrea Peer — Journey Crafting

User Experience Strategist, Researcher, PhD in HCI, World Explorer, Entrepreneur, Writer, Educator, Synthesizer — Living creatively and consciously