How to Navigate Your Soul Boat

Taken by my talented husband Ernie Bovenizer

Taken by my talented husband, Ernie Bovenizer , in Kerala, India

How comfortable are you with how you spend your days in this life? I read this article some time ago and got so much out of it.  It instantly gave me a soulful guidebook on how I can navigate life’s waters.  Most of the time I’m comfortable with how I spend my time.  The other 49% is forever striving for more.  More knowledge, more peace, more fun, more meaning, more money, more spirituality, more time, more energy, more fulfillment…and the list goes on.  This article questions the balance of four components in one’s life: dharma (duty, ethics), artha (prosperity, wealth), kama (pleasure, sensual gratification), and moksha (the pursuit of liberation). These are also called purusharthas, which roughly means “the purpose of the soul.”  Here are some Cliffsnotes from the article (although I highly suggest you grab a cuppa something delicious, sit your butt down on a comfy chair, quiet your mind, and read this article).

DHARMA:

“It’s about that which gives life order—about stepping up to your own responsibilities, about working within the structure to serve yourself and society.”  It “involves honoring your ethics—doing right by yourself, your family, your community, the world.”  Staying late at work when I don’t have to, paying taxes, being a mom…those are things I manage to do.  I definitely have a hole that needs to be filled by doing work (paid and/or unpaid) for the causes that I’m passionate about.

ARTHA:

“Artha is the material comfort you need to live in the world with ease. Moreover, artha is the stuff—the capital, the computer, the business suit—you need to get your dharma done. Artha is, simply put, that which supports your life’s mission. Just don’t get carried away by the notion that artha is everything, or that more is always better—easy traps to fall into in a culture like ours, which tends to measure success in terms of material gain only.”  The article talks about how there is dignity in being able to take care of one’s family.  Let’s face it, it IS important.  The question is HOW important and that’s different for everyone. I’ve always said that if I can provide a good education for my kids and be able to take epic trips while they’re still under our roof, then I’m good to go.  A sprinkling of fancy dinners and the ability to continue my handbag “collection” (more like pile), to grow, then I am really, really good to go.

KAMA

According to Rod Stryker, kama, or the desire for pleasure, is what makes the world go ’round. “Desire for pleasure is what drives all human behavior,” he says. “Kama relates to pleasure, and that can be sensuality,” he says. “But it’s also art, beauty, intimacy, fellowship, and kindness—it’s what brings a sense of delight to our lives. Every accomplishment has been sought for the pleasure that it provides. We live in service to a higher purpose, but along that path there is the pleasure we take from family and friends, art, love, and harmony in the world around us.”  I’m a fun-lover.  I love hanging out with friends and family and am constantly brainstorming ways to make this happen in my daily life.  I take most of my relationships pretty seriously — a good conversation with someone is worth so much to me. I’m doing pretty good here, but could use a lot more one-on-one time with my hubby.  And maybe more movie-watching.

MOKSHA

“Moksha, or liberation, is widely considered to be the pinnacle of the purusharthas. “The whole game is that you want to be free,” explains John Friend. “You want ‘freedom from’ and ‘freedom to.’ Freedom from suffering and from that which is blocking you from realizing your own power and connection to life. And you want freedom to express your own creativity as fully as possible, freedom to live fully and be happy.” I used to have a ton of time to do whatever I wanted BL (Before Luna).  It’s not just about time, though.  I’m continually trying to find the freedom to reach my full potential, both personally and professionally.  I try to be open to life and the universe — hopefully this will lead me to that freedom I’m craving!

“The key to working with the purusharthas paradigm is to constantly examine not only the essential concepts and their role in your life, but also how well-balanced they are. Are you working so hard to put your kids through school that your life feels like an endless grind? (That’s too much dharma, not enough kama.) Are you so trapped in pleasure that you’re neglecting your duty to your friends and family? (Too much kama, not enough dharma.) Have you become so focused on making money that you have no time to meditate? (Too much artha, not enough moksha.) Are you spending so much time getting blissed out at the yoga studio that you can’t swing this month’s rent? (Too much moksha, not enough artha.) The balance between them will constantly shift—by stage of life, by month, by week, even by the minute. The work of balance isn’t literal—it’s an effort to face the world with all of your pieces intact, to live in a conscious way that leaves no part of your Self behind.”

Take some time to parse out how your world is balanced!

Have A Little Faith

English: Religious symbols from the top nine o...

I came across this post and it made me happy.  It talks about how Stanford has a chaplain for atheists and agnostics.  For someone who isn’t religious but seeks out spirituality without subscribing to one particular religion, this is very intriguing. I fully support all my friends who find comfort in religion, but for me it only introduces more questions. I’m so not good with total surrender and am far too practical for it. I do want to be in touch with something intangible to ease my mind, heart, and soul, but don’t find it natural to put all that faith in one basket. Instead, I look for beacons of light within all religions and cobble them together to customize my own spiritual guidebook for getting through life. It’s a project in progress which I’m enjoying more as a full-grown adult. I’m surprised that gatherings like this don’t exist outside of a university campus (or maybe they do and I’m just the last to know). I think it would be brilliant to have a place to go every week or month to hear how people make sense of life’s ups and downs, free of how one religion tells you to get through something — you know, Buddhists might handle it one way, while Christians might do the opposite and Hindus hit it somewhere in the middle. If none of that speaks to you, then maybe you can find solace in science, nature or a simple act of kindness.  I’m not completely sure a support group is for me, but you just might get me there… especially if there are refreshments.