Dharma is Resilience

Guest Post by Allie Chisholm-Smith, Retreat Facilitator

I am a person that prefers to be in the background, quietly suggesting that you might be magnificent and worthy of love…. I don’t want to be the focus, I don’t look for you to see me, but for you to see you. The magic for me is to witness the blossoming of inner love, forgiveness and peace within an individual and I use the principles and practice of Yoga and Ayurveda to do this.

I have been teaching Yoga and leading workshops and private sessions for 25 years. My preference is eyes closed and deep introspection no matter what the pose, no matter what the topic. I want you in a space of passive listening so that you can hear your wisest Self amidst the inner cacophony.

But then along came a pandemic, taking with it my studio, my classroom and my community of hard won students and colleagues. In that pivot, this woman with body-image issues and a penchant for teaching to people with the lights very dim, went onto Facebook live. Every. Day. Gulp.

“What are you doing? Who are you? Who do you think you are?” This was the daily rally cry from my committee of self-doubters and closet dwellers. These voices were trying to put me back where I belonged — in the background, lights down.

My friend, a former nun, said that poverty breeds creativity. She disagreed with nuns being fully supported by the church as it absolved the sisters of finding and thriving off of their creative fire. I have always been self-employed and responsible for half, if not more, of our household income. I have had no choice but to find a way to keep the roof over our heads. Many a friend, supported by their partners, have shown me the schism between our obligatory actions. “I think I will stay home today, it is raining.”

While I, on the other hand, found ways to chisel my car out of ice and snow or simply walked to work despite most weather. In times of scarcity, I would create a workshop to plug the dam of its many leaks. And for this, I am immensely grateful. This obligation, this necessity, has made me hone and own my craft. It has forced me to get out of the house when I really wanted to stay in bed and hide. It forced me to pivot onto FB live and Zoom. There was no other option. The need (income) brought me to my dharma (creativity) and helped me to sink my roots down deeply.

My dharma is to show up as I am, foibles, insecurities and uncertainties.

My dharma is to show up as I am, foibles, insecurities and uncertainties. I am a seeker. I am curious about our connections. I, like spiders, enjoy weaving a web between us of shared stories, yearnings and dreams. I understand why a pose, a stretch or a question can cause pain, curiosity and challenge. I can speak to that because I feel it, I am right there with you. What I saw on FB live, with absolute certainty was that, if I just showed up and spoke my truth, people connected with me. And through those connections, community was maintained, the classroom was modified but held. My need met the needs of others to feel connected, supported and loved. Just like those workshops that I created, they were based on what I saw that people needed and frankly, what I saw that I needed! There is a universality to the desire for connection, love and belonging. We crave it and without it, we starve.

I heard an Elder quoted in reference to the time when one must die. He said the only question that will ever be asked is, “Did you bring love into the world?” Similarly, while my cousin’s 50-year old body was being ravaged by cancer, she said, “I am not lying here thinking of how great I was in business. I am wondering if I loved enough.”

Ayurvedically, love is the oil, the balm. It is found in the waters that bind our tissue and carry our life energy. It is the content that runs through the aorta of life, full stop. Dharma is the way in which you, I, we, all bring love into the world. It is you fulfilling your purpose, your reason for having been born. And, if you are doing that with integrity and honesty, you have resilience. I believe that resilience comes not from being muscle-bound and defended but by being true to yourself, grounded in you. Roots growing deeply down are a tree’s only chance at withstanding the wind. To get here, we need to know ourselves, really know ourselves.

This is not a drive-thru interview but a long conversation, spanning a lifetime of action and reaction, stillness and contemplation. I wonder, kind of like the chicken and the egg, do we practice to learn to love ourselves or does our love for ourselves bring us to practice? Is it both? You need to know that you are worthy of the time it takes to move your body with kindness and purpose and then, to sit still and listen for your inner Elder, sage and wise one. It is a huge trust fall really. One must believe that it is true enough to start and then find later that in fact, it was essential. Chicken and the egg. They both exist and maybe that is all that matters. You matter, full stop.

And so if you are asking yourself, what is my purpose? What is my dharma? What now? Ask yourself how you bring love into the world. It need not be your 9-5 job but it might be the way you parent. It might be the kind of friend, spouse or neighbour you are or it may be the way you volunteer. Your 9-5 job might be the ticket that allows you to pursue your dharma off hours. And when you step into that with purpose and intention, an inner strength will arise to hold you through the strongest of winds. You will chisel your car out of ice and snow because the needs of your community match your skill-set. The opposition that you encounter might in fact be the catapult toward your heartsong. Stop chasing yourself around the track.

Stop and ask yourself this simple question (and please wait for the answer):

How do you bring love into the world? Now go and do that. We need you.

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