The Essence Of Who We Are
By Manuel “Bobby” Orig, Director, Apo Agua
Everyday Dharma: 8 Essential Practices for Finding Success and Joy in Everything You Do
By Suneel Gupta
An Ageless Practice that Empowers Each of Us to Discover Our Gifts and Experience Meaning in All that We Do
Find your Dharma—your inner calling—and learn to integrate ambition, work, and wellbeing to create a balanced, joyous life with this practical, life-changing guide from the beloved speaker, bestselling author, and visiting scholar at Harvard Medical School.
We’ve been conditioned, from an early age, to believe that one day we’ll reach a moment of “arrival.” But no matter how much we achieve or acquire we still don’t feel as satisfied or as fulfilled as we thought we would be. Exhausted we become burned out and cynical, questioning the purpose of it all.
An expert on happiness and work, Suneel Gupta argues that for too long society has been fixated on the Future of Work and ignored the Future of Worth. We’ve compartmentalized work and well-being and ignored the fact that both are essential to sustained success. We’ve assumed that outer success leads to inner well-being despite history showing us that this has never been the case.
In Everyday Dharma, Suneel helps us break this negative cycle. He begins by helping us identify our dharma, the essence of who we are. When you’re in Dharma, you feel confident, creative, and caring, with a sense of purpose that shines through your life and work.
Finding your Dharma empowers you to let go of anxiety, follow your wildest ambitions, produce your life’s work, and experience true joy.
Acclaim for the book:
“Gupta blends his experience as a successful American entrepreneur with the wisdom of his Indian ancestry, offering pragmatic advice through compelling stories. If you want to achieve your dreams, overcome setbacks, and reach your heart’s desires, Everyday Dharma needs to be on your reading list.”
– MARTHA BECK, New York Times bestselling author of The Way to Integrity: Finding the Path to Your True Self
About the author:
After losing touch with his dharma, SUNEEL GUPTA went on a journey to find it again. As the cofounder of RISE and visiting scholar at Harvard Medical School, Suneel travels the world, deconstructing how extraordinary performers overcome the most difficult moments. His work has been featured by Vanity Fair, Fast Company, and The New York Times.
WHERE WE BEGIN
We’ve been conditioned from an early age, to believe that one day we’ll reach a moment of “arrival.” Get good grades, go to a good school, get a good job, make good money, and we’ll be fulfilled. Even as we get older, and realize that life isn’t quite so simple, we still manage to convince ourselves that if we can just get that next sale, next job, next promotion–then we’ll be finally happy.
Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar at Harvard University calls this the “arrival fallacy.” Every time you hit a target that’s supposed to bring you lasting joy, the goalpost moves again. And when the chase is never-ending, when we are constantly in pursuit of a feeling we can’t quite obtain, our tank inevitably runs out of gas. We become exhausted, we burn out. And we quietly start to question the purpose of it all.
Because if outer success (wealth, status, achievement) isn’t leading us to a feeling of inner success (joy, fulfillment, personal growth), then what’s the point? What’s the purpose of hard work and ambition if getting what we want only leads us back to the emotional place we were before?
A few years ago, the author felt that he wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Nearly everywhere he looked, people seemed lost and angry. Lost because if there is not point of arrival, then where the hell are we on the map? Angry because we went to school, showed up every day, and did all the things we were supposed to do – only to find that we were no closer to the sense of joy that we have been chasing all these years.
So a lot of us checked out. We disengaged. We quit quietly or left our jobs. When this happened in masse, they called it the “Great Resignation.” Experts went on television to argue that it was a flash in the pan, a ripple effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. What they didn’t understand is that this sense of dissatisfaction had been building long before the virus disrupted our lives.
In 2015, a joint working paper from Stanford and Harvard reported that health problems arising from workplace anxiety accounted for more deaths each year than diabetes or Alzheimer’s disease. And in 2019, the World Health Organization included “burnout” in its International Classification of Diseases, naming it an occupational phenomenon.
For too long, we have fixated on the future of work and ignored the future of worth. For too long, we’ve dismissed “joy” as being too flimsy to fit into a place in business. And for too long, we’ve assumed that outer success will lead to inner success, despite history proving again and again that this has never been the case.
LifeLife is the expression of the desire of the soul to manifest and to share what it uniquely perceives and feels. Columbus's essence is deep in discovery
Buddha is the essence of wisdom, the triumph of wisdom
Christ is the essence of love, the essence of wisdom, the triumph of love, the triumph of Wisdom.
Dharma is a Sanskrit word loaded with meaning. Its definition has been interpreted by communities around the world, from Buddhist monasteries to Burning Man camps. For your journey ahead, we are going straight to the source. To the most ancient and storied scripture of dharma, the Hindu book of living—the Bhagavad Gita.
The Bhagavad Gita says that each of us has a dharma, or a “sacred duty.” Duty to whom, exactly? To the fire burning inside of you. Some call this purpose, others call it your gift. The author’s grandfather who he calls Bauji, named it your essence.
His Bauji believed that we all have an essence, something inside of us that was uniquely assigned by the universe. This goes deeper than talent or skill. It’s a calling. An inner necessity.
Your essence doesn’t care about power, promotions, or possessions. It only cares about one thing: expression.
There’s a saying in the Gospel of Thomas: If you bring forth what is within you, that thing will save you. If you don’t, it will destroy you. That’s the thing about your essence. It is an inner flame that either lights up the world around you or burns a hole inside you.
Each of us gets to choose between expression or emptiness. But no one can escape the choice.
It’s pretty simple, really. When you’re expressing your essence, you’re in your dharma. You come alive in a brand-new way. You feel confident, creative, and caring. You are no longer asking for permission to do what you love. You are serving others with energy and kindness.
And you are experiencing true joy—not just from the goals you hit, but from the actions you take.
After the author’s inner flame went dark, he went searching for a spark. He began digging into the stories of people who had rediscovered their essence. He saw how the principles of dharma were written about by Victor Frankl, preached by Dr. Martin Luther King, and practiced by Mahatma Gandhi.
He learned firsthand that outer success rarely leads to inner success. But when you begin with inner success – when you start by expressing your essence – you are on a clear path to outer success as well.
Whether you’re looking to change your career, reset your way of life, or strengthen what you already have, this book is designed to help you reconnect with your essence and live in that place every single day. A place where you will be free to follow your wildest dreams, produce your life’s work, and experience true joy along the way.
UNCOVERING YOUR ESSENCE“Your dharma is the truest expression of who you are.” –Sahara Rose
Dharma = essence + expression.
Your essence is who you are. Your expression is how you show up in the world. Your essence is your calling, and your expression is how you take that call. The author’s ancestors had another word for essence. They called it Sukha.
Teacher, doctor, lawyer. These are occupations, but your sukha is much bigger, broader, and more deeply ingrained than any one job title. Helping people grow, aiding in others’ health, and standing up for the defenseless. Each of these is an essence.
And yet from an early age, we are conditioned to skip past essence and go straight to an occupation.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a question we have all been asked, from kindergarten to college. The answer they expected was always a job title. You couldn’t say, “I want to boost people’s confidence in their appearance.” It was, “I want to be a fashion designer or a fitness instructor or an orthodontist.”
This carries into adulthood. “What do you want to be?” turns into “What do you do?” Our identity and our job title become intertwined. We become convinced that we are our job—and consumed by what other people think.
In the 1980s, researchers at Dartmouth University devised an experiment. If you were a participant in the study, a professional makeup artist painted a fake “scar” on your face. Imagine a bright red, lumpy-looking blemish from your right ear down to your cheek.
You were then asked to go into a room and have a sit-down conversation with a stranger. Your job was to observe their behavior—how they responded to you and the scar on your face.
But there was a twist. Seconds before you go in, the makeup artist asks if they can give your scar a “touch up.” Instead of touching it up, however, they wipe it off entirely. So you enter the room believing you still have a scar on your face.
Later, researchers asked each participant whether the stranger had noticed their scar. Absolutely, they all said. In fact, the stranger couldn’t stop looking at it. Some participants claimed that the stranger looked away because the mark was so hideous.
The Dartmouth experiment illuminated a basic human truth: we tend to view ourselves through the eyes of others. We believe we are what they see. In turn, we make choices that aren’t in line with what we want, which leads us farther down a path that doesn’t feel like our own.
The purpose of this book is to bring “who you are” and “how you act” into harmony. We start by reconnecting you with your essence, your sukha.
“Finding your essence” might seem daunting. But the truth is your sukha is already inside of you. And as the author’s friend Mila discovered, sometimes all it takes is a simple shift in perspective to see it again.
Mila had been fixated on the job title of “teacher.” Now she realized that being a teacher was an occupation, not an essence. Her essence was to “help people grow,” and expressing that essence didn’t require a classroom.
She could become corporate trainer, an executive coach. She could strive for a management role and help the members of her team grow. She could make a lateral shift to HR and focus on nurturing other people’s career.
Suddenly, Mila began to breathe more easily. It was as if she had been in a pressure cooker, relentlessly trying to find her “one thing,” and someone had lifted a release valve. For the first time since college, she felt open to the possibilities of the world.
With a clearer sense of her own sukha, Mila began reaching out to colleagues for ideas on how to express it. This time around, she was enjoying herself. When you know your essence, the search for an expression is part of the fun.
THE FULL-HEARTED DEVOTION
In The Alchemist, Paul Coelho shares a story about a young shopkeeper seeking the secret to happiness. The boy travels forty days by foot to the castle of the wisest man in the world. When he finally reaches the palace, the wise man agrees to share the secret—but only after the boy explores the castle.
The boy agrees, but before he sets out, the wise man hands him a teaspoon carrying two drops of oil. “As you wander around, carry this spoon with you without allowing the oil to spill.”
The boy walks around the palace completely fixated on the spoon. He returns after a couple of hours, proudly showing the wise man that the drops of oil haven’t spilled.
“The quality of success you will experience in your life ultimately depends upon the tiny choices you make every minute of every hour of everyday.”–Robin Sharma
The wise man asks, “Did you see the Persian tapestries that are hanging in the dining hall? Did you see the garden that took the master gardener ten years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in the library?
The embarrassed boy admits that he hadn’t seen any of those things. He was too fixated on the spoon. “Then go back and observe the marvels of my world,” the wise man insists.
So the young shopkeeper sets out again, and this time he notices everything—the lovely gardens, the blooming flowers, the majestic mountains. He returns with awe, recounting all the beauty he’d seen.
“But where are the drops of oil I entrusted to you?” asks the wise man. The boy looks down to find that the spoon is empty.
“Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you,” says the wisest of men. “The secret to happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never forget the drops of oil on the spoon.”
The drops of oil in this story are our duties, while the surrounding beauty is our dharma.
The duties we face can seem immediate and urgent that they absorb all our focus. Even when we are clear on our dharma, we don’t always have the time to invest in it.
Duties and dharma can often seem like archenemies, as if one is always trying to squeeze out the other. And because duties are often nonnegotiable, our dharma is usually the one to get cut when the schedule is tight.
Bhakti is the practice of “full-hearted devotion.” You can think of bhakti as the opposite of distraction. While distractions take us away from our dharma, bhakti bring us closer.
And yet bhakti is less about the devotion to time, and more about the devotion of heart. We tend to focus too much on the number of hours we bring to a task—and not enough on the quality we bring to each hour.
Monks, for example are deeply devoted to the practice of meditation. But they don’t meditate around the clock. Their days are also dedicated to duties -working the land, maintaining the monastery, and preparing meals.
The illusion we sometimes have is that extraordinary people spend their days entirely focused on their purpose. Not true. In fact, many of the world’s greatest thinkers worked full-time jobs.
Poet T.S. Eliot was a banker.
Artist Richard Serra delivered furniture.
Novelist Kurt Vonnegut was a car salesman.
Writer and artist Henry Darger was a janitor.
ENERGY OVER TIME
In the late nineteenth century, two strangers—one a titan in Eastern philosophy, the other a giant in Western science—happened to be in the same audience for a play headlined by French actress Sarah Bernhardt.
Both men caught the attention of Ms. Bernhardt’s eye. After taking a final bow to a standing ovation, she pointed them out to her stage manager and requested that they visit her backstage. Both men showed up at the exact same time.
They couldn’t have been more different. One was visiting from India—dressed in white linen and wearing a saffron-colored turban. The other was a Serbian immigrant dressed in a three-piece suit.
As they awkwardly waited for the actress, the Indian man broke the silence. “Hello, I’m Swami Vivekananda.” The Serbian man extended his hand.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Nicola Tesla.”
By the time the actress joined Tesla and Vivekanda, the two men were locked in conversation. Vivikanda was drawing dharma frameworks in the air, while Tesla animatedly connected those principles to the scientific world. How was it possible, Tesla wondered, that these ideas were written about thousands of years ago? That’s when Vivikanda introduced Tesla to a concept that would influence how Tesla saw the world, Prana.
Prana is the animated force behind your dharma. It is an energetic current that buzzes inside of you, making you feel alive and engaged. When you tap into your prana, you feel lit up, energized, and creative. When you don’t, you can feel depleted, apathetic, and burnt out. The tiniest task can sound overwhelming, and the smallest setbacks can seem incapacitating.
Prana offers you extraordinary source of energy, and it isn’t even something you need to go find. Just like your dharma, it is already inside you. Yet, we often ignore this natural supply of energy, relying instead on hustle and grit to squeeze more time into our schedule.
While our time is a limited resource, your prana is limitless. There are only so many hours in a day, but there’s no ceiling to the creative energy you can bring to a single hour.
You know what’s its like to spend a lot of time on something and get very little done. We also know that one “lit up” hour can sometimes equate to a week’s worth of creativity.
Robert Henri once wrote that the job of an artist isn’t to make art. It is to put yourself in “that wonderful state which makes art inevitable.” Prana is that wonderful state.
The spontaneous meeting with Vivekanda helped Tesla plug into his own prana. He later told audiences that if you want to make the most of your time, you had to think in terms of energy, frequency, and vibration. When you tap into this energy, this prana, Tesla said, “you hitch your wagon to the powers of the universe.”
RITUAL: ENERGY MATCHING
There’s a limit to how much time you can bring to a task—but there’s never a limit to how much energy you can bring to a block of time. Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in about a month. A Clockwork Orange, The Gambler, and On the Road were all written within a few weeks. These authors produced great works at an incredible pace because they were so good at channeling their prana. And you can do the same.
When examining a task, don’t just consider how much time it will take—but the quality of energy it will need. Then bring awareness to the periods of your day when you feel sharp – and match those to the blocks of time that need your prana the most.
COMFORT IN DISCOMFORT
There’s a Buddhist story called “Prickly Porcupine.” It was a brutal winter and a group of porcupines huddled together for warmth. But the closer they got, the more they poked and needled one another. The body heat was helpful, but the pricks were painful.
Eventually, they disbanded to avoid the irritation. On their own, however, they found the harshness of winter unbearable. They realized that running away wasn’t the answer, so they returned to the huddle.
They would have to learn how to find comfort in the discomfort. To embrace a way of life that the author’s ancestors referred to as Upekkha.
With upekkha, you’re not distancing yourself from the stings of the world. You’re embracing the unpleasantness with an inner evenness. Your goal isn’t to create “outside space” but to cultivate “inner space.”
Neurologist and Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl wrote, “What a man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather a striving and a struggling for a worthwhile world.”
When it comes to dharma, difficult roads can lead to brilliant destinations. If you run from the pain, you also separate yourself from possibilities.
HIGH PLAY“When work becomes play, and play becomes your work, your life unfolds.”–Robert Frost
When Phil Jackson played in the NBA, he had his favorite mantra taped to the inside of his locker: “Make your work your play and your play your work.”
Those words would later become the core of Jackson’s philosophy as a head coach. He believed that if he could get his players to spend less time obsessing over winning, and more time connecting with “the intrinsic joy of the game,” two things would happen. Work would begin to feel like play. And counterintuitively, that would lead to even better work.
Jackson was regularly mocked by commentators and coaches for his “hippy vibes” but no one could deny his results. He led his teams to an incredible eleven championships and shaped the careers of legends like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
The author’s ancestors described Jackson’s approach to life and coaching as Leela, which translates to “high play.” When you’re in a state of leela—work feels like play, and play feels like work. You’re having fun and also performing at levels that previously seemed unobtainable.
Leela runs counter to what we’ve been taught, right? Play is what you do when you aren’t working. And there’s a certain way to think and behave when you’re working, which is entirely different from the ways to think and behave when you’re playing.
What Jackson demonstrated, and science has backed, is that blurring the lines between work and play is more than a recipe for happiness – it’s a recipe for success.
FORGET YOURSELF TO FIND YOURSELF“Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” –George Bernard Shaw
The author’s grandmother or Nani grew up on the border of India and Pakistan, the daughter of a local school headmaster. To help her father unwind after work, his Nani would sing one of his favorite devotional songs.
On this particular day, she chooses a passage from the Bhagavad Gita. It’s message is clear: the road to your dharma will appear when your attention shifts from serving yourself to serving others. This selfless service is a quality that the author’s ancestors called Seva. Seva is the belief that the fire within you isn’t sustained by what you get, but rather by what you give.
When his Nani finishes singing, she looks up at his great grandfather, eager for approval. The headmaster gazes at her lovingly. “That’s the song I’d like you to sing this Sunday.”
Seeing the confusion on his daughter’s face, the headmaster explains that a great leader will be visiting their tiny village. “Someone who truly embodies the spirit of seva.”
When the day arrives, nearly everyone in the village gathers around the town’s center. The headmaster uses his booming voice to quiet the crowd and explain that this visit isn’t a social one. Large parts of India were starving to death, and this visitor had come to raise money for food. “We might not be wealthy,” said his great-grandfather. “But we have food and shelter, which is more than others. Let’s give lovingly and selflessly.”
That’s when he brings the author’s Nani to the center of the circle. She nervously scans the crowd. After an encouraging nod from her father, Nani begins to sing.
At first, her voice is shaky. But by the second line, the trembles smooth out. From the corner of her eye, she catches a glance at the special guest. He looks old and thin, wearing glasses and white garb. He sits on the ground in a cross-legged position.
The crowd is engulfed by his aura. He’s like a magnetic beam drawing and channeling their attention to the final lines of Nani’s performance.
When she finishes, he pops from his cross-legged position like a man half his age. He approaches Nani with his hands in prayer, exuding a mix of strength and warmth.
“That was a lovely song, child … my name is Mohandas,” he says. “They call me Gandhi.”
Whenever the author talk about Gandhi with his students, he can detect hesitation in the room. People tend to see him as beyond reproach, too saintly to be relevant in today’s world. After all, his nickname was the mahatma, “the great one.”
They are surprised that Gandhi spent most of his life failing at everything he attempted. He was painfully shy and a mediocre student.
Gandhi went to law school but was quickly handicapped by a fear of public speaking. During one of his first cases, he became so nervous that his hands clammed up and sweat seeped through his suit jacket. Embarrassed and ashamed, he fled the courtroom and never returned.
So what happened? How did a man with low confidence, a tarnished reputation, and a deep-seated fear of public speaking rise to become the leader of one of the largest independence movement in history? By prioritizing seva above all else and making it the doorway into his own dharma.
Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
When authentically practiced, seva purifies your effort and elevates performance. Because when you remove the motivation of credit, you no longer subdivide your energy. The part of you that was worried about the reward is now actively focused on the work itself.
President Harry Truman realized the power of seva when he said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”
LETTING GO AND TAKING CHARGE
As an Indian kid growing in America, the author often felt torn between two competing philosophies. Inside their temple, he learned the importance of letting go and surrendering to the flow of life. Outside the temple, he was taught to take charge and grab life by the horns.
Truthfully, neither seemed perfect. Western control sometimes felt like a recipe for stress and anxiety, while Eastern surrender hardly seemed like a formula for success.
It took him a long time to realize that these two philosophies—control and surrender—complement each other like a sailboat and the wind.
The art of bringing control and surrender into harmony is what his ancestors called Tula. You can think of Tula as “balance,” or more precisely “to put on an equal level.” You’re not elevating surrender over control or vice versa, but rather seeing both as essential to your dharma.
Anthony de Mello, a Jesuit priest and a psychotherapist, would recite a saying that nicely sums up tula: “Trust Allah but tie up your horse.”
De Mello shared the parable of an elderly man who prayed he’d win the lottery. The old man would say, “God, I have been a devout worshipper. Now I’m old and I need some help. Let me win the lottery … it will help me in my old age.” He prayed and prayed for months with no luck.
After three years the man screamed out loud, “God give me a break!” God finally responded, “Give yourself a break … buy a lottery ticket!”
With tula you’re not just sitting there and praying something will happen. At the same time, you’re tuned in enough to what’s already happening so that you can be moved by natural currents. This can only happen through a careful partnership of control and surrender.
Gandhi’s Salt March (non-violent protest) was not just an act of seva, it was also an act of tula. It was a perfect mix of taking charge and letting go—just enough effort at just the right time – and it changed history.
The author’s grandfather was an embodiment of tula. His Bauji was deliberate with his time, and yet always open to the potential of a moment. He was loosely structured throughout his days, tuning in to where he is needed. Watching him work was like watching a skilled sailboat captain.
Neither Gandhi or his Bauji surrendered themselves entirely to a higher power. They also never believed that they were acting alone. There was a wind available for them to harness, and it was also important to know which way it was blowing. To never oppose that natural force, and always to use it to their advantage through timing and trust.
The longer you’re on the path of your dharma. The more visible this power becomes. Great artists and athletes often talk how their finest performances didn’t just come from them, but “through them.” They marvel at moments when they put in less effort and reached greater heights.
These moments are tula sweet spots. They live at the intersection of control and surrender—where making things happen meets letting things happen.
ACTION LEADS TO COURAGE
You’ve made it this far. You’ve learned how to discover and devote yourself to your dharma. Now, finally, we turn to the importance of acting on it.
The legendary dancer Martha Graham once said that what’s inside of you can only be expressed through action. If you don’t act, it will never exist in any other medium. Your essence will be lost forever.
Kriya is the action you perform for the sake of your dharma. Without kriya, without deliberate action, your dharma slips from hope to regret.
Expressing your essence requires movement and participation. Plenty of philosophical books discuss the importance of “being.” But dharma is action-oriented—it’s about both being and doing. With kriya, you’re doing from the depths of your being.
We’ve been conditioned to take action only if we’re sure it will work. When you’re about to walk through the doorway of your dharma, doubt often creeps in and whispers three crippling words: I’m not ready. I’m not ready to step into that role, to run with that idea, to speak my mind.
Before long, your calling seems like a pipe dream. Imposter syndrome sets in. You feel like you’re not good enough, deserving enough, or worthy enough for this dharma to be yours.
So what do we do? We wait. Instead of acting, we search for certainty. We go looking for evidence that we’ve got what it takes to bring our dharma to life.
Santiago Ramon y Cajal, widely considered the father of neuroscience, observed how people would “thrive on the thrill” of setting goals but crumbled when it was time to act. He believed that being ready was a choice, not a feeling. That if you choose to act, the feeling would follow.
That theory grows to what neuroscientists now call “behavioral activation.” Through deliberate action, you’re taking action and letting courage catch up along the way.
In 1960, Marian Wright Edelman was a senior at Spelman College. Feeling a strong pull toward the Civil Rights Movement, she had already joined and attended sit-ins. But she wanted to do more. She wanted to make fighting for justice her life’s work. She just wasn’t sure.
Like so many others at the time, she looked to a preacher from Atlanta for answers.
When Dr. Martin Luther King came to Edelman’s campus, she expected him to unfurl a map and share his step-by-step vision for the movement. She expected to find comfort in his confidence, courage, and certainty.
Edelman’s expectations were shattered that day. Dr. King walked up to the podium like a man about to deliver a eulogy. He seemed weighed down by anxiety, doubt, and despair.
Dr. King didn’t lay out a plan or a road map. Instead, he told the young and hopeful audience that he was unsure about what the future held.
Yet the reverend made clear that doubt and action are not opposites. That courage isn’t the absence of fear, but the ability to pair doubt with action. Dr. King may not have had the answers, but he told his followers that certainty can never be a prerequisite for action.
Inspired by Dr. King, Edelman went to Mississippi to register Black voters. When she got to the Delta region, she saw unspeakable levels of poverty. Black people were starving due to laws that intentionally limited their access to food. Dharma was knocking at Edelman’s door—and before doubt could muscle its way in, she took action.
Edelman began cold-calling journalists and policy makers. She convinced national leaders, including Senator Bobby Kennedy, to take a tour of the Delta and witness the suffering firsthand.
Edelman then founded the Poor People’s Campaign, which set out to bring impoverished people from every corner of the country to Washington, DC. There, they would begin a massive, multi-week demonstration, putting the hardships of the poor on America’s center stage.
Many doubted that Edelman could pull off such an ambitious undertaking. She had serious doubts herself. But Edelman had a secret weapon. She managed to convince Dr. King himself to come on board and lead the demonstration in DC.
With Dr. King at the helm, Edelman had the kind of momentum that even her doubters could not deny. Leaders emerged from around the country to support the Poor People’s Campaign, and Edelman entered the spotlight as a rising star.
But just before the Poor People’s Campaign was set to launch, Dr. King was murdered.
In the midst of everything falling apart, however, Edelman remembered an image of Dr. King. Not the memory of a man boldly leading marches in Alabama. Nor the recollection of him addressing 250,000 activists at the Lincoln Memorial.
She saw a young preacher from a podium at her college campus. A man filled with doubt, openly expressing the same sense of uncertainty and fear she was feeling at this very moment.
That’s when she fully understood something. Dr. King hadn’t been successful because of his courage. He was successful because he took action, and let courage catch up along the way. If her mentor could be gripped by fear and still push forward, then so could she.
Edelman’s actions led to expanded food stamp access, free school lunch programs for impoverished children, and the creation of the Children’s Defense Fund.
Action leads to courage. “You don’t have to see the whole staircase … you just take the next step.”
WHERE WE BEGIN AGAIN
Whether you realize it or not, your dharma has already come alive inside you. You’re going to start noticing changes in your creativity and aspiration. You’ll see shifts in the way you make choices, serve others, and respond to challenges.
Be assured that you’ve changed, that you’re a different person now.
You understand what it means to have an essence, which is deeper than an occupation and free from the need for outside approval.
You see how your duties can actually fuel your dharma—and how your dharma can fuel your duties. You get that it’s far better to be full-hearted and half-scheduled than fully scheduled and half-hearted.“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
You know how energy and dharma are intertwined. That when you embrace rhythmic renewal instead of incessant grit, you hitch your wagon to a bottomless source of power.
You’re able to find comfort in the discomfort, the tiny space between impulse and response that, when opened just a tad, can give you back your freedom.
And you’re not playing the Game of Someday, you’re playing the Game of Now. You’re no longer waiting for courage to take action. You’re taking action and letting courage catch up along the way.
The author have a daily mantra, inspired by Ram Das, that helps him bring it all together.
Love, serve, believe.
Love the part of you that wants nothing more than to express itself to the world. Spend one-on-one time with your dharma each day. Listen to it with an open heart. Take it everywhere you go, even into parts of your life that seem unrelated. Remember that your essence has been with you from the start and will always be a part of you. Loving it is the same as loving yourself.
Then, lose yourself in service and switch the spotlight from yourself to others. Embrace your ambition and shed your expectations. Service is the purest form of expression. When you shift the focus to others, you turn your dharma into a mission and become more dedicated to it that you ever thought possible.
And finally, believe. Believe that when you’re in your dharma, you’ve already won. This doesn’t mean you always succeed, but you always learn and you always grow.
Love, serve, believe—each one fuels the other. The more you love, the more capacity you have to serve others. The more you serve, the more you believe in your ability to express your essence to the world. Which brings you back to a feeling of love. You’re doing what you love – and loving what you do.
What do you think?