Discover Your True Calling and Live a Life of Passion
Finding Your Dharma
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The search for one's true path can be a bewildering journey. We must all negotiate societal expectations and balance conventional wisdom with the whispers of our secret heart. It’s a dance that requires courage, vulnerability and patience, but it offers the opportunity for fulfillment and self-actualization, and that’s no small beans. It’s big beans. It’s what some spiritual teachers refer to as “dharma,” or your life’s purpose.
Painting by David Caspar Friedrich, Title: “Woman Before the Sun Rising”
A few weeks ago, the teacher of Allison’s writing workshop shared an excerpt in class from the book, “The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling,” by Stephen Cope. It struck a chord, as though it had been written specifically for her.
“The Great Work of Your Life” is a guide that helps individuals discover and fulfill their true calling. Drawing from ancient Indian texts, Cope offers stories and insights from various spiritual traditions to illustrate how people throughout history have found their purpose and achieved fulfillment. He outlines practical steps and exercises to help readers uncover their unique gifts, overcome obstacles, and align their work with their deepest values. By exploring the concept of dharma, or one's true path, Cope inspires readers to pursue their passions and make a meaningful contribution to the world. This is a concept that exists throughout many cultures around the world, notably Japan, where it’s known as Ikigai, which means "a reason for being."
Does your work align with your deepest values? Do you feel as though you’re making a meaningful contribution to the world? Do you want to? What does this have to do with longevity?
Turns out, a lot. Multiple studies have found strong associations between having a sense of purpose in life and greater longevity. One such study, which took data from 13,159 adults over the age of 50 over 8 years revealed that those with the strongest sense of purpose lowered their risk of death by 15.2 percent compared to people with the least sense of purpose. The results showed no significant differences in this association regardless of the participants’ race or ethnicity.
The findings also showed that purpose was more strongly associated with longevity in women than men, although it provided a significant benefit for both. For women, it lowered their risk of all-cause mortality by 34 percent, compared to men, whose risk was reduced by 20 percent.
According to the study’s lead author, Dr. Koichiro Shiba, the researchers used a submodule of Ryff’s Psychological Wellbeing Scale to measure purpose in their study.
“Specifically, this submodule consists of 7 items such as, ‘I have a sense of direction and purpose in life,’ ‘My daily activities often seem trivial and unimportant to me,’ [and] ‘I don’t have a good sense of what it is I’m trying to accomplish in life,’” Dr. Shiba told Medical News Today.
Research has also shown that people with greater purpose also engage in more health-promoting behaviors, like exercise and preventative medicine.
Kind of makes you want to find your dharma, right?
We highly recommend reading this inspiring book, but in you’re not up for it, here is a summary of the key steps for finding your dharma, or life purpose:
1. Understand the concept of dharma: Dharma refers to your unique path, purpose, or calling in life. It is the work you are meant to do that aligns with your passions, talents, and values.
2. Study the lives of those who have found their dharma: Look at the lives of people who have lived their dharma to gain inspiration and guidance. Learn from their experiences and see how they aligned their actions with their higher calling.
3. Consider your own passions and talents: Reflect on your interests, skills, and what brings you joy. Identify the activities that make time fly by and give you a sense of fulfillment.
4. Identify the obstacles: Recognize the fears, beliefs, or societal pressures that may hinder you from embracing your true calling. Explore and confront these obstacles to clear the path towards your dharma.
5. Cultivate self-awareness: Engage in practices like meditation, journaling, or mindfulness to develop a deeper understanding of yourself. These practices can help you uncover your true desires and connect with your intuition, which can guide you towards your dharma.
6. Seek guidance: Seek out teachers, mentors, or spiritual leaders who can offer guidance and support on your journey. They can help you clarify your purpose, provide insights, and offer wisdom to navigate challenges along the way.
7. Take action: Once you have a clearer understanding of your dharma, take steps to bring it into your life. Start small and take consistent action towards your goals and aspirations. Embrace challenges and setbacks as part of the learning and growth process.
8. Embrace surrender and trust: Trust the unfolding of your journey and be open to surrendering to the unknown. Sometimes, the path to your dharma may not be linear or clear, but staying open and trusting in the process can lead you to unexpected opportunities and growth.
9. Live your life as an offering: Embrace the idea that living your dharma is not just for your own fulfillment, but also for the benefit of others. Approach your work with a sense of service and strive to bring your unique gifts and talents to make a positive impact on the world.
By following these steps and committing to the journey of discovering and living your dharma, you can find greater fulfillment.
Until next week, Age and Prosper!