Dharma vidhya. Into action.

On Saturday evening I returned from a deeply magical and very special week on a yoga retreat in the Portuguese mountains. Many things emerged and started to settle. I learnt a lot, both about the history and meaning of the practice, and also as I continued to uncover and get to know more about myself. I won’t try to fit all of it into one post because it was so wide ranging and varied and I wouldn’t do it the justice it all deserves by rushing to write it down. And some of this is only just beginning.

One theme we touched on during the week, and returned to again and again on a number of the days, was indecision, which has been playing through my mind. Paula, our incredible teacher for the week, would open each day with a short talk and some storytelling on an aspect or teaching of yogic practice. She spoke a lot – and more beautifully and naturally than I likely will – about how yoga is a way for us to turn inwards to connect with ourselves, to know yourself, to awaken, find and connect with your ‘dharma’ – your work, truth, sacred duty – and then upon knowing this, to turn back outwards and connect with the universe, the wider world and give back.

This is what is at the centre of the Bhagavad Gita (which I am now just beginning to read with wide-eyed, joyful childlike excitement.) Author, scholar and yogi Stephen Cope describes the Gita as a

“brilliant teaching on the problems of doing. There is so much talk these days about being (And for good reason.) But… ‘All that is worthwhile,’ says the great Jesuit scholar…Teilhard de Chardin, ‘is action.’ In fact, there is no being in this world without doing.”

In the Gita doubt is apparently given three different words, such is its importance, which also highlights the limitations of who we think about doubt in today’s English language which fails to express its true, and deep and varied, nature. One, which resonates the most with me, is ‘samsaya’ meaning doubt as hesitation, indecision, confusion, lacking in resolve. Yogic teaching teaches that indecision is the greatest ill, the paralysing affliction, the invisible affliction.


Krishna says

“A person who is… Indecisive gets destroyed. One who remains hesitant and confused finds no happiness..

Indecision stops us from doing our work, finding our purpose, making progress. In indecision, we are stuck. Fooled into believing that in indecision we are not acting, though our very inaction is of course action, but action that does not move us any further along.

In my company one of our behaviours is related to being accountable, being comfortable making decisions that are right for customers, and right for the company. I have always scored highly – some might say its a behaviour that’s a little overused! I take decisions, big and small, easily, based on data but with more than a pinch of judgement or gut. One of my greatest friends will never allow me to forget the morning she came for an interview and I’d offered her the job in less than 30 minutes (in my defence we’d had a lengthy phone interview and she’d completed a written task… but, I guess, still!)

But I’ve had a decision that I have been waiting to take for too long. Sometimes it floats up, reminding me that its still there. On some days the sun shines and I am sure I can see the truth. Paula talked last week of how we often misunderstand dharma as being this one fixed thing in our heart and soul, keeping us waiting for the thunderbolt and the great awakening of our single life’s purpose. Dharma changes, just like our life’s journey. Sometimes, I guess, this can trick us into missing a time of change. So we stay. Quoting Cope again, we

“come at some point to a crossroads…with one foot firmly planted on each side of the intersection… alas (some) never moved off the dime. They procrastinated. Dithered. Finally they put a folding chair smack in the centre of that crossroads and lived there for the rest of their lives. After a while, they forgot entirely that there was even a crossroads – forgot that there was a choice.”

Today I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to listen to someone who’d found their, for now, big decision. On the surface of it I think many people would have assumed I’d react a certain way and try to change his mind. He still had some lingering doubt, he was nervous about telling me. But he knew. And it was a beautiful thing to see. So I didn’t. I simply stood up and hugged him because I’m a big hugger. I said well done and I truly and completely wish him so well on his way. Because how could you ever wish for someone else, and yourself, anything more than that.

If you bring forth what is in you, it will save you – Gnostic Gospel of Thomas 

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