Wednesday, June 15, 2011 at 1:31PM

As humans, we are instinctively aware that there is a reason for our existence. Starting in early childhood, we begin the patterns of behavior that bring us closer to (or further from) our PURPOSE, or dharma. We might go our entire lives working toward it without ever knowing what it is. Are we born with a calling or do only truly determined, diligent people meet their goals? If you never know your true purpose, does it mean you didn’t work hard enough?

About a week ago I found a paper I had written in junior high. The assignment was to write what you’d be doing in fifteen years—or, by the time I was 28 years old. My answer was humorous, but also very enlightening. I listed many potential jobs, including being a scientist, a writer, and a mother. But each time I countered it with a sentence that said—“but I’m not sure if that really interests me.” At the end of the paragraph, I summed it all up and said “I know that whatever I’m doing in fifteen years, I’ll be happy.”

I had to smile! I have never thought of myself as a goal-oriented person, but always pretty satisfied to work hard at what I’m doing.  I was relieved and delighted to see that I was the same way at age 13! What a yogic thought to have at that time—just be happy, Gretchen! Adding to the sweetness of this treasure was the comment from my teacher, it said: “A very “Gretchen” point of view.”

 I had a “point of view” in seventh grade?! I’m a GENUIS! I joke, but it did make me feel better. I could see that for all my questioning (and I question things a lot), I’m not lazy! Rather, I have managed to avoid aspiring toward short-term, self-imposed, or even false goals by consistently taking steps toward one main path. I am still on the path I have always-intrinsically-been on: to be happy.

That’s not to say I don’t have other goals for myself—having honest and respectful relationships, keeping my mind and body healthy, providing for my family, authentically representing myself are a few close to my heart at all times. I started thinking that this is the difference between goals and intentions. If it is our intention to commit to the standards we set for ourselves, then we’re always working with it in mind, as part of our purpose. But if we set our sights on an abstract target for how we want to be, it feels tangible, separate from us, and therefore avoidable.

So here’s the question—whether your dharmic path has been an obvious one, or still eludes you, does your behavior align with your intentions? Do your minute-to-minute choices keep you on your path?

 Close your eyes and begin to breathe—find an even, smooth breath that brings you to a relaxed and open place. Now, think about your goals--allow all of the goals for yourself, your career, your relationships (with yourself and those around you), your health/wellness, etc to rise up and surface without judgment or guilt. Don't wallow in how close you are to accomplishing any of them, just let them come forward. Based on all of the aims you’ve had for yourself, can you find a central theme? Set an intention for how you want to live/be overall. Then ask yourself: Does my behavior align with my intentions? Do I actively take steps and measures toward the things I WANT for myself? Possibly you lie dormant out of fear of failure or lack of confidence...possibly you "entertain" the fantasy without ever really doing the work. Examine your behavior with honesty--not criticism. Just let this idea sink in and in the days to come, observe how you make decisions--from what you put into your mouth, or how you answer someone's text, to how you spend your evening or view your role in your workplace--these are all opportunities to bring you closer to the purposeful path you have for yourself. How do you teach people to treat you?Are you consistently inviting respect, love, and honesty into your world? As you ponder these question, continue breathing evenly and smoothly. If emotions arise, acknowledge them and keep focusing on the breath. Sit with these questions for a minute (or several minutes) before coming back into your world.

New and experienced students alike, I want you to realize that YOU make your rules. You set the parameters in which you live: they are not set by some external standard. Every time you look outside yourself for what you need, whether that is love, comfort, confidence, stability, strength, direction, or happiness you'll come up short. Start within. Mindfully manage your own thoughts and your own behavior—you have the power to constantly redirect yourself over and over again. Make sure you stay your path—that alone could be your purpose!