There is almost nothing more pretentious than quoting the Bhagavad Gita, except for maybe referring to it as “the Gita,” which assumes a level of familiarity I can’t imagine having with an ancient text. There is however a quote from the Bhagavad Gita that I keep scrawled on a piece of paper in my wallet and pinned by the side of my desk. It serves as a constant reminder not to stray from where you belong.
“It is better to strive in one’s own dharma than to succeed in the dharma of another. Nothing is ever lost in following one’s own dharma.”
One of my favorite things about seeing someone you love and have loved for a long time is that when they stand in front of you there is a split second flip book that happens, where you see them as all the people they have ever been. This week, my very talented brother published a book called Age of Ambition. It is about China and is being very well received. When I spotted him last night right before he went on stage to give a talk to a packed auditorium, I saw him as every version of himself. On his face, as he spoke and answered questions from the moderator and the audience, I saw his teenage self, and in his body language, shades of both our parents. The thing that I saw most of all was a person who is on the right path. My brother is smart, and charming and would have found success in lots of different fields. But success and being on the right path are different. You can be successful and unfulfilled; your success won’t last but the emptiness will. There is no greater joy than knowing that someone you love is on the right path for themselves. As proud as I am of his enormous intelligence and the discipline that allowed for this book to exist, I am even more proud that he has found his path and in his wife, the right partner to walk it with him.
People come to me all the time for yoga and meditation. Sometimes they do want simply to inhabit their body better or to learn to be still. But more often they are feeling unmoored; their life has moved away from its center. They have had children, or a partner whose own trajectory doesn’t leave room for anything else. They are feeling ill at ease but they aren’t sure how to get back to themselves. I can see it in their faces and bodies. I don’t really know how to guide someone back to their center. I only know what works for me. I can stay rooted in myself if I am honest about who I am and I do it with kindness. As soon as I start comparing my mothering skills to someone else, or the state of my house and children, I am lost. The first moment, I envy how a friend is aging, or feel like my classes should be larger, I am lost.
Every day I sit for meditation, for twenty minutes. I do not collude, placate, engage or respond. For a brief period every day, I am not an active participant in anyone’s life but my own. This keeps me rooted exactly where I belong. Right in the center of my own messy, imperfect but perfect for me path.
My greatest hope for my nearest and dearest is that they find their path, and that it includes room for those they love most. I have taken the jacket off my brother’s book and pinned it next to the wall beside my desk as well. Every day I will look at it and be reminded that the joy is not just in living your own truth but also in knowing that those you love are doing the same.