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Dharma in the Drama

Rama Rama Rama
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Swept Up by the Circus

Clowning Performance Chicago 2007

When I was in college, I was truly considering getting swept up in the actual circus. Unfortunately, my fear of heights combined with my inability to keep pointed toes while engaging in super muscular feats deflated that prospect. So, I stuck with Mime and acting. But, I digress…

This week was really intense. On top of all the goings-on of the world – COVID and all its new permutations, civil and political unrest, the exhaustion that blew in like a draft once Biden took office – we moved homes. It was not just any move though, it was a move away from an incredibly toxic renting environment that became even more toxic once we had moved.

I have been in a program with April Harter for the last 8 months (the program is a total of 12) where we analyze how childhood and family trauma creates the petri dish for systemic and individualized narcissism and racism to thrive. This week we began assessing whether the way we engage with what April calls Renenactment Trauma Patterns is in a hyper or hypoactive state. 

I have always known that I tend toward hyper-action, but the way my mind and body engaged with the abuse from our former landlord recently reminded me with in-the-moment proof. 

Ati-Yoga – Too Much Action

Once I realized where things were likely to go with this former landlord (and still are in the process of going), my mind and body started spiraling into excessive action. I began planning, making lists, calling of all the people I projected I may need to be in touch with to mount the proof I felt we’d need in court. My sleep became disturbed, I forgot to eat real meals, when I spoke about this situation my body started to tremble and my teeth chatter. It took me 3 days to be able to actually cry because my Prāṇa was so obstructed. However, taking care of these things made me feel like I was being productive. It is true…but only in a sense.

The problem with Ati-Yoga – a term used in Āyurveda to describe an excessive reaction to any process – is that it leaves you completely drained and unable to digest incoming information properly. The process also develops its own momentum so there is very little time to even reflect if the choices one is making are actually still the right ones!

Additionally, because my personality tends toward this behavior, it is really easy for me to wrap my identity up with the cause. In this way, I end up martyring myself. Not productive. 

The Dharma

I read a post by my friend Khristine Jones – you can see it here – that reminded me of the Arjuna’s process in the Bhagavad Gita. 

Arjuna needs to fight the battle at Kurukṣetra, but his actions are not who he is. They are however what he must do. The situation is his Karma and his Dharma. He finds himself needing to act because it is the right thing to do, but he cannot get wrapped up in the action or it will take him away from Dharma. 

I myself became so swept up with needing to “take care of this situation” immediately – because it was the “right thing to do” – that the process began to transform within me. I no longer felt motivated by the “right thing,” though of course, this is what I was telling myself. Instead, I was actually motivated now by vengeance, shrouded in righteousness.

When I read Khristine’s post, it made me reflect on how it is possible to do this very worldly and necessary action – like taking this person to court, mounting a good defensive etc – without losing my own peace in the process. How to do this lies in the remembrance that any actions that take place in this Material world of Bhu Loka must be considered – and DONE – as a Spiritual process. This means practiced with commitment, reverence, and tenderness. I must do the thing because it is the right thing to do, but it is the doing that is important, not the outcome. It is not about me. It is about the doing.

Yoga is not what we do often, but how we do it.

In this moment of realization, I was able to pause all my excessive action, pause my ati-yoga, and remember to engage fully in the process because it is Right Action – to completely give it my all, but also – and simultaneously – to surrender the process and the result to the Divine.

What Am I Learning?

What I am learning and relearning in this process is that the action is my Karma. If I allow myself to sit beside the action, it can help me move toward my Dharma. If I become entwined with the Karma, it will pull me away from my Dharma. My, that is subtle! And yet the result and experiences are so stark and gross!

This is such a slippery process. It can be so difficult to realize when an engagement that once began as Right Action takes a quick wrong turn and ends us destroying the person it was supposed to be developing.

The process of Yoga allows us to develop and redevelop truly keen and honest awareness so that we can recognize as quickly as possible when we have made a wrong turn. Then, we insert a pause and redirect. This takes humility to do this because the Material World will always pull us to become more material. We do things because we are right instead of it being right….It takes continuous practice to let the heart reside in the world of Spirit, while the body does the work here in this Material place. It is an art to engage with the Lila, the dance of the world of Maya. 

I certainly have not mastered this, but realizing it was happening to me and deciding to take another path is huge. It also reminds me, that though slowly, all these years of Yoga are working. Even in the frenzy, the pain, the heartbreak, the fury, the fear, once in a while, I can find a pause, look around, and refind the path.

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