The 7 Necessities for Living Your Dharma
Monday January 22, 2024

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Oscar Claude Monet, the renowned father of Impressionism painting as the movement of art history came to be known due to the name given to his painting Impression, Soleil Levant (Impression, Sunrise, 1872), began sketching caricatures at a young age, and before long, while still a teenager, saw his work displayed in a local boutique for purchase. A love for painting evolved from there, and he never detoured from this path even while conscripted to serve in Algeria during the Franco-Prussian war, even while for nearly 30 years, he scraped by financially. Painting would be his dharma.

Now dharma is more than our purpose, as Jay Shetty teaches, dharma goes a very important one step further: Our dharma marries our passion, a found passion that brings us to life, and also serves others. “Dharma is passion in the service of others.”

As shared in last week’s podcast episode the power of art to elevate the quality of our lives has numerous benefits to our health and well-being, so while Monet may not directly have known who or how he was in service to others with his art, he was. And this is an example of doing something we love and are deeply passionate about, and others welcoming what we offer into their lives with joy and appreciation as it contributes to their unique life journey. This demonstrates how we must trust the nigglings and tugs of our curiosity down paths we cannot understand at the moment, or perhaps we do but those directly around us do not when we begin, because indeed our true self is attempting to be our compass, and this compass sagaciously knows where our dharma is to be found beyond our full comprehension at that neophyte moment.

Before we explore the necessities, a quick refresher on exactly how to find our dharma.

My entire book The Road to Le Papillon: Daily Meditations on True Contentment shares my own journey to finding my dharma and simultaneously guides readers along the journey of finding their dharma which is where true contentment resides. Another resource, one I highly recommend as it aided me along my journey, is Jay Shetty’s How to Think Like a Monk. In today’s post, each of the quotes included will be from this book and where the definition of dharma is drawn.

And to reassure you if you are wondering where to find your dharma, a few words of guidance and reminder:

Practice Patience, Exercise Persistence and Carry Trust Until You Find It [your Dharma]

“Your dharma is already with you. It’s always been with you. It’s woven into your being. If we keep our minds open and curious, our dharma announces themselves.” —Jay Shetty

“Our dharmas don’t hide, but sometimes we need to work patiently to recognize them . . . mastery requires deliberate practice, and lots of it. But if you love it, you do it . . . Play hardest in your area of strength and you’ll achieve depth, meaning, and satisfaction in your life.” —Jay Shetty

Now, let’s take a look at the necessities of living your dharma.

You’ve found it. You know what it is. An analogy I often envision is one involving a car path with two neatly and clearly seen wheel tracks that represent my dharma – my path, my way of living and giving and savoring life so to contribute positively to the world as well as in so doing energizing myself due to my deep love for what I am doing. However, at the beginning of my journey to live my dharma, the wheel tracks that appear are similar to deep ruts with barriers so high whether due to mud or frozen compacted snow, if I am not on my path yet, it appears and will be very difficult to place my vehicle (myself) on my destined path.

But the absolutely exhilarating and motivating news is that I definitely without a doubt know that that is my path, my dharma, I just need to get over these obstacles that I know are temporary but impossible to surpass without the necessities shared below. So let’s take a look at them.

Learn the skill of (and then regularly exercise) Self-Awareness


Universally available to anyone who chooses to learn them, skills lead us ever closer to where and who we are trying to become. In my second book Living The Simply Luxuriously Life, two detailed chapters share the contents of our Life Toolbox, and one of the primary components is choosing to learn beneficial skills that anyone can welcome into their lives. Self-Awareness is one such skill.

We need to have the ability to acknowledge when we need to learn something new, when we don’t yet have the skills, or, as we will share below, when we need to reach out to others for help. We need to become aware not only of our own emotions and why we feel them, but how we (what we say and do) make others feel when we are in their presence so that we can take responsibility for ourselves, but also, if we have engaged with loving-kindness and sincerity, also have the strength to continue to be ourselves.

Once we understand what Self-Awareness is and then choose to learn the skill, while an ongoing journey of learning and observing, we no longer live in ignorance of why something is happening or isn’t happening. We now have given ourselves a powerful key to unlocking how to travel where we wish to go to live our dharma.

Nurture Your Strengths

Once you have a sense of your dharma, it’s up to you to set up your life so you can live it.” —Jay Shetty

Our Life Toolbox, discussed and broken down in detail in chapters 8 and 9 in Living The Simply Luxurious Life, involves two parts. As shared above, one part is the skills we can all learn, and the other is more signature to each of us. This second, and equally important part involves the unique strengths each of us has been gifted with and now need to realize we possess and then nurture them.

How we nurture our strengths will again be singular to what those strengths are, and therefore why we must become a student of ourselves. This will also involve the courage, once we discover what our strengths need to shine, to do what is necessary because often it will be contrary to what others understand or what the norm is for living everyday life.

For example, in my own life, I need an abundance of solitude to create and fulfill my dharma. However, in our extroverted and bustling social culture, my source of nourishment contradicts with what others understand or are told is a best practice. As I have shared many times here on the blog and in my books, when I finally honored what I needed, and returned to what I knew in my childhood brought me to life and energized me, the quality of my life increased beyond compare to anything I experienced while trying to ‘fit in’ or follow what society prescribed as the best way to live.

Do the homework of you (here are many posts to inspire and guide you), and then bravely, yet no doubt with great energy, nurture your strengths as you need.

Let the Strengths of Others Dovetail with Your Own

“It is trust in the limits of the self that makes us open and it is trust in the gifts of others that makes us secure. We come to realize that we don’t have to do everything, that we can’t do everything, that what I can’t do is someone’s gift and responsibility . . . My limitations make space for the gifts of other people.” —Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun

Do you remember the snowy car tracks we talked about above and how they can seem impossible to overcome at the beginning of our journey because we are not in them yet, but are so close? Well, as this perspective of the analogy involves snow, likely, or as it happened in my own life literally, that means I was stuck in the snow. However, I was inches from the car tracks that I knew once my wheels found I would be able to travel forward in with ease. But I couldn’t get on those tracks on my own. I needed assistance from others and the equipment didn’t have access to.

We cannot live our dharma without others. Not just any ‘others’, but others who will complement, educate and sincerely believe and support us along the journey we are traveling.

Repeatedly, the refrain that relationships will improve when we find our dharma is stated because we are no longer unnecessarily combating others due to a discontent within ourselves. We also become wiser as we now have more clarity about whom to connect with and who to reach out to.

Along my own life journey to discovering and then living my dharma, emotional support from my parents, especially my mother, has been vital. With each passing year I am reminded that it is not because one is a parent that one becomes gifted at being emotionally supportive of their children’s life journey, especially if their child’s journey is not one they understand. Indeed, this is a strength of my mother’s and I am grateful beyond words for her tenacity to hang in there with me as I figured out where and then how to live my dharma. My father as well, in his own way has been extraordinarily supportive, and really it is a team effort of strengths that dovetail in my parents’ relationship with each other that supports both myself and my brother because while neither of their children have chosen conventional career paths, they have encouraged us to soar in our own way.

In other words, the dovetailing with others’ strengths may materialize in business partnerships or contract work that you need to complete your job that you love but you don’t have the skill set to complete a necessary task as you prefer or need so choose to hire an expert in that field. Or the dovetailing may materialize through the emotional support of someone who stands with you during times of doubt and confusion reminding you that this is your dharma and you do have something to offer the world and you will navigate through this temporary obstacle.

As for becoming stuck in the snow, I needed five people to eventually get my car onto those tracks, and thankfully these helpers were there. I didn’t expect their help, I didn’t know them, but I was effusive in my gratitude and will never forget their kindness as I appreciated deeply their offering of their skills and strengths to help a complete stranger. Now to pay that forward.

“When you’re satisfied in your dharma, you can, without envy or ego, appreciate others who are good at another skill.” —Jay Shetty

Create the Routine

“Dharma brings you stability and peace . . . it is our responsibility to demonstrate and defend our dharma. The Manusmriti says that dharma protects those who protect it.” —Jay Shetty

Yep, we cannot arrive at our dharma alone, as shared in the above point, but we then need to take full responsibility and extend vast amounts of effort to honor our dharma. We protect our dharma, as the verb is used above, when we do what is necessary to bring it to the world and offer it in service to contribute positively.

The good news about the effort that is needed, because it will likely be quite a lot, is that we are energized when we are engaged in what is needed rather than depleted. This doesn’t mean we are not going to be exhausted both physically, mentally or monetarily from time to time. We will. This is part of being courageous, but as I we will see in the next point, the feedback loop is the best type of feedback loop, and it will occur when we take responsibility to protect our dharma.

However, we must not expend our energy unnecessarily or be wasteful with our investments which is why our routines become a priceless practice of nourishing our dharma. Routines in the form of rituals I like to call them, because as we shared in episode #373Simple Rituals to Enhance the Everydays and the 5 Characteristics of Simply Luxurious Rituals – these rituals are as nourishing and enjoyable as they are necessary to living the life of our dharma.

Beginning with your morning routine (Shetty shares a specific morning routine he practices – scroll to #7 in this post), running throughout the day and concluding with preparing for a deeply restful night’s sleep, our routines liberate us if they are designed and tailored properly to what we need to live our dharma.

Enjoy the discovery and savor the rituals you design because many of them will be wonderfully idiosyncratic while others will appear to be quotidian; however, because you have created them with self-awareness, you will know the benefit they bring into your life.

Cultivate an Enriched Environment

“When we have the confidence to know where we thrive, we find opportunities to demonstrate that. This creates a feedback loop. When you safeguard your dharma, you constantly strive to be in a place where you thrive. When you thrive, people notice, and you reap rewards that help you stay in your dharma. Your dharma protects your joy and your sense of purpose and helps you grow.” —Jay Shetty

It may be the HSP that I am, someone who is highly responsive to their environment, but since I was a young girl, I have known the powerful influence of my environment – both in places, decor, etc. and people. While it took time to consciously understand this realization, now that I respect the power of one’s environment upon their ability to relax, create or be stifled and drained, I have thoughtfully not only customized my own home, Le Papillon, but become thoughtful about where and with whom I share the moments of my days – during a regular work week, as well as weekend and on travel as well.

“Every location gives off a feeling, and your dharma thrives—or falters—in specific environments.”

Again, this all begins with knowing ourself and understanding how to nurture our strengths, and while some cultivations of enriching our environments will take monetary investment and much time, many can be done quickly and without expense. Simply tending to the auditory influences in our life – whether at home or at work – sound reduction or welcoming in music that inspires and calms, or, as we shared in last week’s podcast episode, spending regular time in nature as 10 ideas were shared for cultivating an artistic hearth & home.

“The more your personal spaces are devoted to single, clear purposes, the better they will serve you, not just in the fulfillment of your dharma but in your mood and productivity.”

When we understand the power influence of our environments on both our health, well-being and creativity, we then can make decisions we know are out of necessity not luxuriance.

Understand and then Feed Your Mind Well Consistently

“But how do we feed [our mind]? By what we read and hear. By who we spend time with. By what we do with our time. By where we focus our energy and attention.” —Jay Shetty

A fundamental component in the quality of life we each will live is understanding our mind and choosing to turn it into an ally rather than let it be our foe.

With multiple posts addressing this topic here on TSLL, the mastering and utilization of the mind as our ally will be a core lesson in TSLL’s soon to be available Contentment Master Class (video course). This essential life skill is a muscle to keep toned once we have implemented the skills into our life, and one aspect of keeping our mind in prime shape is to feed it well.

Each of the components shared in the above quote are details to thoughtfully, thus mindfully, be aware of and tend to. Read this post on the 16 Lifestyle and Health Benefits of Being Mindful and this post/episode about How to Live a Life that Nourishes Your Brain.

Gratitude as a Default Mode of Daily Transport

“When you start your day with gratitude, you’ll be open to opportunities, not obstacles.” —Jay Shetty

Shetty writes that when we continually practice extending gratitude, we begin to shift our mindset away from that of scarcity and into a mindset of abundance (something explored in-depth in this post). But perhaps we should back up a bit.

Let’s chat about kindness for a moment. Through the act of kindness, extending it both to others and ourselves, gratitude then follows. In other words, “kindness teaches gratitude”. While we may want others to be kind to us, the cycle begins with our choice to be kind, and that is how we create more kindness to appear in the world, and attract kindness to us which then prompts us to be grateful.

The opportunity to live our dharma each day, as demonstrated in the above list, requires conscious living and regular exercising of constructive habits and practices that enable us to both live a life that energizes us and equally gives to the world something it is seeking and will benefit upon receiving.

Arriving at our dharma may begin with an arduous first step and a ginormous amount of courage and effort to finally place ourselves on the wheel tracks we now know are the road where our dharma resides. But while the wheel tracks may be deep and muddy or snowy and difficult to reach at first, eventually that two wheel track, due to our continual honing of our expertise in the field of passion as well as contribution, becomes a level, pebble covered lane surrounded by the beauty of Mother Nature. Okay, maybe that is my vision of peace of ease of transport – the lover of the English countryside is coming out in me, but that is just it, we need visualization as well, because that holds us confidently on our path of living our dharma and eventually, it becomes our everyday experience.

May you courageously honor what you discover and savor the vitality gained when you dare to live a life that brings you to life and gifts much to others as well.

Photo credit: A goldfinch captured above my cherry tree photographed by my neighbor who kindly shared it with me.

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4 thoughts on “The 7 Necessities for Living Your Dharma

  1. Thank you for this insightful and thought-provoking post Shannon. Your timing is perfect (as always). The gifts you bring to the world enrich the lives of so many and I’m very grateful for all that I’ve learned from you. Thank you.

    1. Vickie,

      Thank you for stopping by and grateful to hear that this post offered something you were seeking. 😌 Thank you for your kind words. Wishing you a wonderful start to the week. 💛

  2. My understanding of Dharma is that it functions in complex ways
    It’s not just for philosophical discourse but to be personally realised and this is only possible through the practice of ‘Bhakti’ the devotional service to God. Dharma finds its highest expression in ‘Bhakti’ (devotion).and Bhakti is the essence of Dharma.
    Shannon I know you’ve said that you’re not religious so just wondering if it can be followed without ‘Bhakti. Kameela.

    1. Fair question Kameela, and to answer your question directly, yes, dharma, as secularly defined, not tied to any one belief system, can absolutely be a part of one’s life without devoting oneself specifically to a particular system of religious belief. Part of the reason Jay Shetty has adopted this term and taught it in his first book is because of his experience training to be a monk, and seeing the value of his practice applied to his life outside of the monastery, chose to offer this wisdom he gained, to all of us, even if we don’t ascribe to a particular system of religious belief, because he saw value that would bring more peace, kindness and fulfillment.

      When we apply ‘rules’ (meaning, one must believe a certain religious edict in order to practice something, or must practice it in exactly a particular way or it is wrong) to practices that can liberate us all and help us be more connected and loving, we actual defeat the purpose of being loving and connected.

      So while I use the term dharma is it because it is the closest term to what, regardless of one’s belief system or even absent of one, leads us to an abiding state of true contentment – we are both nourishing ourselves and contributing to the world in a positive way that puts into practice and acknowledges we are all part of the sea of humanity and each one of us has value and something unique within us to share.

      To be told we must all do one thing, or all live a certain way, is to limit the potential that resides within each one of us, and in my own experience, when we know how it feels to finally discover what we can uniquely give, and experience how energizing it is, we realize there is no concrete way to be in this world which is why we have to be brave, both in our courageous exploration to discover our true selves and in letting go so that others can discover that for themselves.

      Thank you for your question.

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