Do Your Dharma, Fix Your Karma
By Ruby Warrington
Are you familiar with the concept of dharma? This is the cosmic law which states that by fulfilling our life purpose, we will also in some way be contributing to the greater good. The idea that we are all here to “do our dharma” appears in many ancient spiritual texts, and I believe that in the Now Age it is more vital than ever to discover our unique dharma and to commit to finding work and ways to be of service that allow it to be expressed.
After all, in the words of civil rights leader Howard Thurman: “Do not ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” This is a theme I explore at length in my book Material Girl, Mystical World, as in the below excerpt from a chapter titled Do Your Dharma, Fix Your Karma. The book also offers all kind of tools for helping you tap into the path of your dharma, and in doing so discover the work you were born to do.
Public speaking is most definitely not my jam, and here’s why. No matter what kind of group I’m speaking to, the moment I vocalize anything that feels remotely meaningful to me (which is most of what I think about and want to speak about, so), my voice cracks, my face collapses, and I begin to cry. And when I say “meaningful,” I’m not necessarily talking about baring my soul or revealing my most personal inner truths — this could be anything from reading a killer quote out loud to mentioning a particularly potent astrological aspect and the way I feel it is impacting our lives. To be honest, I think it’s one of the reasons I became a writer for a living: I’m just so much more comfortable expressing myself in the written, as opposed to the spoken, word.
So you can imagine my relief when my first real public speaking gig, for the spirituality “un-conference” Higher Selfie, was scheduled to take place over Skype. When the day came, this meant delivering my talk into my laptop, with the Skype camera directed at nothing but a blank white wall on the other end. It was more like talking to myself than a room of 250 expectant faces. But as it turned out, it didn’t make any difference with the crying.
I still had to choke back sobs as I made my most heartfelt points, which cemented my theory that it wasn’t necessarily nerves that got me so worked up. More likely it was all the heavy-hitting planets (the Sun, Moon, Saturn, Mercury, and Mars) in the watery, emotional Fourth and Eighth houses in my astrological chart. Meaning, I just can’t help really feeling stuff. Plus the fact that my Third house, the area of my chart governing communication, is ruled by Pisces — the biggest emo of them all! (I threw in this last part for you to practice your astro skills by the way. You’re welcome.) But you know what? The crowd loved it, and I got dozens of messages afterward from people thanking me for being so “real.”
The talk itself was on “doing your dharma,” a spiritual concept that links our destiny, or life purpose, to an act of service. The topic was actually given to me by the organizers of the event, since they apparently felt that The Numinous was an example of me doing my dharma. And the concept had been a bit of a theme that year. The first article I published on the site in January, setting the tone for the new year, had been a piece on dharma by a yoga instructor named Naomi Constantino. In her piece, she included this quote from Yogi Bhajan, founder of the Kundalini yoga practice: “You have made very deep promises between your Soul and your Self. Now is the time to carve your place into the memory of this planet earth and serve this promise. May your journey complete its way to your destiny. And may you understand the preciousness of your own life.”
This did speak to how I felt about The Numinous. What had begun as an idea for a fun side project, something to bridge the fulfillment gap I was experiencing in my journalism career, had become so much more. It had taken on a life of its own and had become something — as being asked to speak at an event like Higher Selfie had helped make me aware — that was also having a positive impact on the lives of others.
Cue major waterworks when I read this quote out during my talk . . . and OMG, it’s even happening now while I’m writing about it! (But then the moon IS in Pisces today, go figure.) And the fact that this idea moves me so very deeply — the idea that living your destiny is a way of realizing the “preciousness” or value to society of your own life — suggests to me that it gets close to answering the Big Question: the question of why we’re all even here anyway, on both a personal and a human level.
SO WHAT IS “DHARMA” ANYWAY?
I first heard the word dharma when I read about the Dharma Punx in i-D magazine, while I was researching feature ideas for Style. Based out of L.A., Noah Levine and Josh Korda were a pair of tattooed former punk rockers, preaching meditation and other teachings from Buddhist philosophy as an aid to addiction recovery. This was way before my numinous awakening, but still I was deeply intrigued (since my spirit intuition evidently recognized a pair of absolute soul brothers).
But not having heard of dharma before, I simply added it to the list of mystical-sounding words that lived in the file in my brain marked “to be investigated one day” (along with words like Shakti and mandala). Since dharma rhymed with “karma,” maybe it was something to do with . . . destiny?
It wasn’t until Naomi wrote her piece for The Numinous that I gave the concept much more thought. But reading her take on it, I realized that “doing your dharma” is about answering your soul’s calling — and even better, it encapsulates the idea that in doing so, your work will automatically be contributing to the greater good.
The Dharma Punx named themselves as a way to honor the Buddhist tradition of delivering a “dharma talk,” a sort of sermon on the teachings of Buddhism, and a way of sharing the positive impact the teachings have had on you. And having gotten sober using meditation and by following the Buddhist philosophy that separating from attachment to material things is a way to quell addictive cravings, Noah and Josh were doing their dharma by helping others to do the same.
The concept of dharma appears with varying subtleties in meaning throughout different strands of Eastern religion. For Sikhs, the word dharma means the “path of righteousness.” The Hindus see it as the “right way of living” leading to Universal harmony. In Buddhism, meanwhile, it gets stripped right back, with dharma simply describing a sense of “cosmic law and order” — my favorite definition, not least since it was becoming increasingly clear that all the numinous practices I found so compelling were actually in service of bringing each individual human soul back into alignment with this cosmic code.
Take astrology, for example. If, as the AstroTwins put it, your birth chart is like a “blueprint” for your soul journey, then learning about the strengths, weaknesses, and challenges of your chart and really making your life choices in accordance with this information (i.e., living as your absolute authentic self) will naturally lead you to do the work you were born for. And by the law of dharma, this work will also, in some way, be of help, or service, to others.
The same theory can be applied to working with the tarot, to developing your own intuitive powers, or to healing your emotional and energetic wounds, since all these practices are designed to help clear the conditioning and the fear that’s keeping you stuck in a life of your parents’, your ego’s, or society’s choosing — as opposed to following the path of your Universal calling — with the conviction that comes from developing a clear and open channel to your highest Self.
DISCOVERING YOUR DHARMA
So chances are you might be sitting there contemplating your life and thinking, Oh, man, I am so not doing MY dharma . . . , a realization that often begs the question, Because how am I even supposed to know what it is?
This is where I invite you to travel back in time, back to when you were, say, five to seven years old. What were you happiest doing? And please don’t say, “Watching Disney movies on TV.” This is likely an example of the first way your soul found to soothe itself (adult versions of this include shopping, cocktails, and dating apps) when you got told off or put down for practicing what you really came here to do.
Let’s say this was . . . playing dress-up. Or making mud pies. Going back to the Psychic Betsy method of communicating with your higher Self, close your eyes and picture your five-year-old self engaged in whatever your favorite activity is. Now take it one step further, and feel into what it is you love so much about it. What emotional need does the activity fulfill? What aspect of it fascinates you? If your thing was playing dress-up, was it the look and feel of the clothes themselves you loved, or the way you got to experiment with playing different roles? Or telling different stories? And now play it forward. How is your innate attraction to beautiful clothes, or characters, or storytelling being met by the life and career choices you’ve made as an adult?
When I think back, I remember being a really shy child, and happiest with my nose in a book. But my mum, on the other hand, says she used to call me “Radio Ruby,” since from the day I learned to string a sentence together, I would deliver a rolling commentary on the contents of my head. I reckon she actually found this pretty annoying (fair enough, I would too!). I also remember her admonishing me for “telling tales” on my brother when he’d done something naughty (i.e., practicing my reporting skills).
Anyhow, as a result, I was encouraged to flex my fledgling researcher/ reporter muscle through reading and writing instead, rather than driving my mum batty and tattling on my brother. Naturally, since it was my (soul’s) favorite thing to do, English became my best subject in school. And years later, having decided that I wanted a career in fashion (I did also love playing dress-up), when I went to study styling at the London College of Fashion, it was actually the journalism component of my course — a component I wasn’t even aware of when I signed up — that came most naturally to me.
And then one thing led to another, and well, here we are. My point being that when it comes to your dharma, your soul has a way of getting things back on track when life (your parents, your ego, society) knocks you off your path. IF, that is, you’re doing what it takes to recognize and heed the voice of your highest Self and are actually prepared to follow the signs being waved in your face.
What do those signs look like? They’re mainly the positive feelings that tell you, Yes, keep doing more of this!, and the negative ones that are screaming, Quit this job/activity/relationship now; it’s killing you!!! I repeat: your job is not supposed to make you feel this way. If it does, THIS IS YOUR HIGHER SELF ADVISING YOU TO QUIT AND DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. Seems pretty obvious, right? But it’s amazing how we’re conditioned to look away from our personal truths when following through might mean a period of uncertainty and discomfort, looking stupid or pissing some people off.
On a lighter note, there are the little coincidences and serendipities of life, which we can’t help get all excited about since we know deep down this is the Universe illuminating the way.
As for more specific insights about the actual next right steps to take in fulfilling your dharma? Some of my friends (quite a few actually) report having heard actual voices in their heads delivering specific “downloads,” such as: Create THIS online course; Move HERE in the fall and start teaching yoga. Less cosmically inclined folk might simply term these “ideas,” which doesn’t make them any less special. My advice, if you have an idea about what it is you’re maybe just supposed to be doing with your life, then you owe it to your (higher) self to at the very least investigate what it would take to make it happen.
Ignoring the feelings, the signs, and the flashes of inspiration about how to get back into the path of your dharma will likely result in you remaining in a similar cycle of anxiety and numbing I found myself in at Style magazine. In which instance, it’s highly likely that God/Goddess, the Universe, and so on may serve you up what is commonly referred to in recovery circles as a “rock bottom” experience. Closely followed by the classic breakdown / breakthrough / spiritual awakening.
Ruby Warrington, the influential force behind The Numinous, the high-style, high-vibe online magazine about spirituality for modern women, has always had her finger on the pulse of what’s trending. Her new book MATERIAL GIRL, MYSTICAL WORLD: The Now Age Guide to a High-Vibe Life (HarperElixir/ May 2, 2017) traces Ruby’s fabulous adventures as she grows disenchanted with her dream-job as Features Editor for the UK’s Sunday Times Style magazine and leaves it all behind — fashion closet perks and all — to take a spiritual leap of faith to become an online entrepreneur and collector of like-minded seekers in bohemian Brooklyn, New York.
Printed from MATERIAL GIRL, MYSTICAL WORLD: The Now Age Guide to a High Vibe Life. Copyright by Ruby Warrington. Reprinted with Permission from HarperElixir an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers.