Hawking Your Dharma

One of the many weird things about business is this. You can have one idea that you really believe in, and then kinda suck at executing most of the thousands of tasks that are required to get it running.

When it comes down to it, I’m good at three things. Writing, creating impactful curriculum, and working with kids. You know what? I could narrow down my talents even more than that. I’m good at punchy confessionals, imagining unusual ways of presenting usual content, and recognizing the micro-facial expressions of disengagement and anxiety.

I guess that’s pretty good, but, on the other hand, those talents account for approximately a one-millionth of what is required to run our nonprofit, a small group of lovely people dedicated to bringing the benefits of Yoga to more kids.

I’ve been on this entrepreneurial ride for a few years now and it really is a ride. It doesn’t feel at all like driving. It has been fascinating the extent to which I’ve been watching the unfamiliar scenery roll by, with regular aggressive reminders to Learn SEO! Master Instagram! (not instant) and by God get attention, by any means necessary, for this quiet little practice we want to share peacefully with children.

Our social media lady (S.) and I met with one of our board members (E.) yesterday. E. loves our new online yoga series and was giving S. and I some great tips on how to promote it, and ourselves. I noted S’s micro facial expression and I gave them both a little passionate speech about how this just isn’t our jam. We’re kids’ yoga teachers. Our interest is bringing the physical, social, and emotional benefits of yoga to as many children as possible. We’re not marketers or influencers. We love what we do but we hate to brag.

It was a nice little speech, and then we promptly returned to the matter at hand: marketing, influencing, and well… bragging, frankly.

It’s weird. We have to do loads of things that are gross-uncomfortable (not to be confused with good-uncomfortable: the kind that forces one to get over oneself) in order to get the attention that we need to do a bit of good and the thing that we were meant to do.

The thing that you’re meant to do? How grand, you might be thinking. Who gets to do just the thing they’re meant to do?

By ‘meant to do’ I’m talking about dharma, which is a bit more subtle. Dharma, as explained in the sacred text the Bhagavad Gita, is the collision of factors in a person’s life that gives them certain abilities and tasks. When given that particular curriculum, it provides benchmarks to fulfill that role, whether or not it’s pleasant or comfortable.

For instance, in my early twenties, I was sorting out my emotional and physical health when I stumbled on yoga, a practice that supported me tremendously. Then I discovered that kids’ yoga was a thing. I’ve always loved working with kids so this was a good fit. I’ve also always had a big heart for inequity and the elitist nature of the yoga business started to get on my nerves. It was on my nerves for about ten years before I decided to launch The Yoga Buggy.

I waited a long time for somebody else to do it, and when nobody did… I sorta had to, right? It was…my dharma.

I like this sample of Dharma because it makes it clear that it’s not following your bliss or getting your dream job. It’s somewhere between that and, as the late wordsmith Leonard Cohen said about becoming a poet, a “verdict.” It alternately massages your head and flicks on your ear until you can no longer ignore it.

Often our dharma becomes clear through the things that we try but for which we haven’t any aptitude. For instance, I would theoretically love to grow my own food. However, the couple times I lived in an actual house I got distracted by everything else and I let the yard and garden become messy and overgrown. So I now know that part of my dharma is apartment-dwelling and supporting the local food suppliers.

The concept of Dharma is useful to me. Why? Simply having a benchmark, any benchmark, in this unspeakably distracting era, is useful to bring me back to something that at least resembles a plan.

However, simply doing one’s dharma has become a fundamental impossibility. I think it’s pretty safe to say that committing to any task or role in life brings discomfort with it. But, in this time and place, it feels that one needs to do one’s Dharma whilst wearing a clown costume, screaming, setting the neighbour’s house on fire, and periodically stripping naked to make sure we still have people’s attention. In other words, providing a high-quality, affordable service that improves people’s lives is not enough. You have to do it loudly. 

So why am I writing this? It’s just the way it is. I can’t think of a solution besides quitting (not an option) or systemic change (which I hope for, but can’t wait for). I suppose it’s just a good-old fashioned kvetch. Thanks for listening, my friends.

And oh-the exit’s through the gift shop. You’ll know that if you follow me on Instagram.

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