Change isn’t easy – Discover your dharma?

It’s not often that I write about books I don’t like. In fact I was going to ignore ‘Discover Your Dharma‘, but my mom persuaded me review it. She said, it makes a good story: a book that has won awards that you don’t like. Actually hate is a better word for my sentiments.

I had expected to like this book. The title is good, I used to journal myself and the book is marketed as combining ancient wisdom and modern thinking.

Well, that last bit is mere marketing, probably inspired by the author’s last name. And that is also where the trouble begins.

If you were to ask me, without preparation, how to find your dharma, I would say things like:

  • Take time out, go on a holiday, stretch yourself.
  • Take it slow, baby steps in the direction you want to go in.
  • Take an art class.
  • Learn to meditate.

Of course part of the problem is that I have found my dharma, my path in life. I’ve found a way of living that fits my personality like a glove, makes use of a decent portion of my talents and as a total bonus, leaves me free to live my life exactly the way I want it. Oh, did I mention I also make ends meet? Not an insignificant detail, and yes I know I have bragged about this before.

Back on topic. Ten years ago or so, when I still passionately needed to be a teacher, this book might have been of service, but of course I didn’t know it. Five years ago, instead of going back to journaling, I sought out a friendly astrologer, who told me precisely what issues I had to face, in my public life. From that I concluded my course, and the rest is, in hindsight, history.

Why didn’t I go back to journaling? I guess because I knew that more turning inward wasn’t going to help. I needed outside input. After all, I may not have done much formal meditation, but I have done a lot of soul searching of the self help kind. Useful in its way no doubt, but there are definite limitations to that approach.

Does that put Shivani Singh in her place? Not quite yet. The main reason I ended up hating the book instead of being merely bored, was the atmosphere of it.

Any book with the word dharma in the title has me expecting a calm, meditative atmosphere. Instead this book is all American upbeat and fast. It left me feeling feverish and betrayed.

My recipe for finding your path is slow, step by step. Then fast insight may come.

This book goes in the opposite direction: the first exercise in the book is journaling fast, without thought. It’s supposed to help you find your path while you change absolutely nothing about your it. You’re supposed to be able to follow the course in the book in the midst of your busy life.

Just take 15 minutes a day, associate freely on what you want, what your strengths are, and change will come. And if it doesn’t it’s your fault for not having journaled faithfully enough.

Right. Its the classic self help standup, first make it look easy, so people will buy your book, then when it doesn’t work, turn it around and blame the audience  for not living up to the expectations you helped set in the first place.

Here’s the deal:

Change is hard. There’s a reason most overweight people don’t loose weight, most alcoholics don’t recover etc. Change is hard. If it’s really important to you, you will find a way. However, it probably starts with baby steps.

And you probably need help. The kind only a real human being can give. Whether it’s an astrologer, like it was for me, or weight watchers, or a creativity filled summer camp… We all need people to get us out of our mental boxes. While some books may be able to give you that nudge, I don’t think this one is it. Any book that claims to is a fraud in my eyes.

Changing careers is something only the most talented can do without loss of income. However, there’s every chance you can work some of the desired changes into your present career, by merely moving sideways a bit. You’ll be surprised how much difference a few small changes can make to your day to day happiness.

Post script

The funny thing is, since I wrote this, I have started journaling again. It turns out that the meditation practice I’ve started recently, inspired by a few Zen books, brings out issues that I need to clarify by journaling. However, that doesn’t mean I have changed my mind about the book. I’m certainly not following some prescribed route to journaling. I just write what needs to be said at that moment.

However, it does mean that meditation is indeed a powerful tool that brings about change – and that change is certainly not easy, and journaling is a way to organize my mind.

Comment Zen

This is not written as a plea for help. I merely use my own life to illustrate what I think are general spiritual principles. I don’t need your therapeutic response, nor your moralistic ones. Share whatever you want that’s relevant to the topic and I hope we can create a safe space for such sharing.

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