Embracing our unique ways of contributing – our dharma!

You can also view this post on Elephant Journal at: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/12/woody-allen–dharma–chetana-panwar/


Lately I’ve been writing and thinking a lot about the concept of dharma: how we use our time, what activities and ways of contributing to our society are very intuitive for us, and the importance of embracing our strengths while honouring those of others.

This reminded me of a line from Chapter 3 of the Bhagavad Gita that has always intrigued me.  Christopher Isherwood and Swami Prabhavananda translated it as “it is better to do your own duty, however imperfectly, than to assume the duties of another person, however successfully”. Even if something comes up again and again in our lives as a way that we are particularly called to serve, even if it is very intuitive for us, that does not mean it is necessarily easy. Sometimes out of fear, and a feeling of inadequacy, we try to become meticulous at other duties, rather than embrace a potential calling. I would say this is the case for me with writing.

Recently I enrolled in a creative writing course, after many years of wanting to do so. I have published some poetry in the past, and other pieces of writing in many forms. And yet, in the first few weeks of the writing course, and while doing the homework, I struggled with overwhelming feelings of resistance. One of them was the feeling that I was wasting my time, and that I should be doing something more useful and productive with my time – serving the community. I even convinced myself that I should write a yoga fable, or an inspiring yoga-related story, a feel-good story with a particular message. Then I stopped. Wait a minute? Why was I trying to engineer my writing to a particular theme? Did I not believe in the value of stories of all kinds, and diverse explorations of human experience, suffering, search, conflict, epiphany etc.? I believe in writing, painting, music, dance, cooking and various other arts. I believe that they are worthwhile and add something very important to life. Further, I could feel the momentum of the story I was already working on  – that this is the writing I’m meant to be doing right now. It was very identifiably ‘my voice’, as we say.

Funnily, I just happened to see a clip of the 1980 Woody Allen film Stardust Memories in which Woody has a conversation with luminous beings. He asks, “Why am I bothering to make films?…The human condition is so discouraging… Shouldn’t I do something that counts like become a missionary or something?” The luminous being responds, “You’re not the missionary type. You’re a comedian. You want to do mankind a real service? Tell funnier jokes.” This is a quintessentially Woody Allen exploration of dharma. Do what you’re meant to do. Let go of the guilt, and explore!

Of course we are multi-facetted being, and of course we contribute to our families and communities in many ways. That said, sometimes we may over manage ourselves and neglect to make time for our richest gifts to flourish. In my previous post Yoga is like a Good Masala, I mentioned the liberation of seeing yoga as a process, and a way of being while doing any activity. And here, another twist: rather than find ways to consciously insert yoga into my creative writing, I can simply understand my writing as my dharma.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Karen McKinnon
    Nov 22, 2011 @ 14:46:58

    Chetana, that was beautiful. That post resonated with me very much. I’ve been searching to find out more of who I am at this point in my life and I was trying to put a yoga theme to my search. Funny to think, that if someone is a yogi, who is looking for his/her dharma, that it could be something not seemingly yoga related, but that in itself, being his/her dharma, is yogic.

    I love that Woody Allan reference!

    Your article made me feel good to be me. Whether that me at the moment was doing something specifically tied to yoga or not.

    I feel happy as I redefine what it means to be doing something meaningful for me and others.



  2. Beth Srinivasan
    Nov 22, 2011 @ 17:49:42

    Thank you Chetana for your honesty and insight. You said, “Sometimes we may over manage ourselves and neglect to make time for our richest gifts to flourish” — indeed! Have fun with the course, just let go and write!


  3. Joann Koszewnik Fuller
    Nov 23, 2011 @ 07:40:39

    Your writing has been a wonderful inspiration & gift to me! Om Shanti – Jyothi


  4. Makwana
    Nov 23, 2011 @ 12:10:01

    Beautifully put! 🙂


  5. Rachel Lara
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 13:04:37

    Love it Chetanaji. Just exactly the message i needed. thank you!


  6. Veronica
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 06:52:57

    I stumbled upon your blog by chance this morning and I am so grateful of what I found. After years of resistance, I joined last year an MA in Creative Writing and, reading your post, I could see like in a mirror, all my current fears, questions and anxieties about it. It took me time to realise that writing was who I am, and even now I still feel resistance towards that concept. It feels so self-indulgent. But writing is there, no matter how many steps I take in the opposite direction, it is there like a nag, a desire, a blessing, a curse, a memory, a future. It’s here to stay for as long as I live, and when you know you are doing what you are born to do, then there is neverending joy in your heart. Yoga pointed me towards the right direction, which wasn’t far away but inside. Thank you for your inspiring post and your commentary on the Baghavad Gita and good luck with your writing.


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