One of the most basic questions we humans will eventually ask ourselves (if we live long enough) is, “Why am I here? What’s the purpose of my life?”
We live in a society that’s so externally focused that it’s easy to forget we might be walking the planet for a deeper reason than to make our mortgage payments, bone up on the latest technological advances, or develop rock-hard abs. Caught up as we are in answering e-mails, meeting work deadlines, getting to the gym, and maintaining a social life, we can lose sight of our sacred calling, our highest purpose in life.
Senior Scholar-in-Residence and Kripalu Ambassador Stephen Cope refers to sacred calling as “the great work of your life,” which is also the title of his recent book on the Bhagavad Gita, one of the primary texts in the yoga literature. This Hindu devotional work, which translates as “song of God,” is the central scripture of karma yoga, or the practice of selfless service. Stephen says it describes “a very explicit path for transforming a life of passionate action into a spiritual life.”
The word “karma,” Stephen explains, means “action” in Sanskrit, and the Bhagavad Gita describes a life of action in the world, but “action that is done so skillfully that it transforms both us and the world.”
Stephen doesn’t necessarily advocate quitting your day job in order to achieve this kind of transformation. Selling insurance could be a sacred calling as much as making music or writing poetry.
“Our calling can be absolutely anything,” he says, “but it must be authentic and it must be ours.”
The practice of karma yoga, or selfless service, first involves the discernment of your true calling and then passionately throwing yourself into your deeply felt vocation, relinquishing any concern for success or failure.
“This requires the practice of yoga in order to deepen one’s attunement to inner calling,” explains Stephen, “and then it requires the capacity to be total and wholehearted in the pursuit.”
He says that by gradually learning to relinquish the fruits of our actions, by surrendering the need for an outcome and focusing instead on mastering our calling, we’re better able to cultivate an inner life of spirit. “We eventually learn to surrender our actions to the divine consciousness within us so that we become not the doer of our actions, but the channel for divine action.”
When this starts to happen, we begin, step by step, to develop a profound connection with our own inner guidance. “We begin to let go of concern with success in the eyes of the world,” Stephen says, “and become more concerned with attunement to our own idiosyncratic call.”
Rather than trying to control or resist experiences, we surrender to them and simply flow. “There’s a wonderful sense of ease that comes from living this way,” he says, “a sense of being part of something much bigger than our small selves.”
Grasping and craving give way to attuning to the inner wisdom already present inside. Fulfillment emerges, Stephen says, “as our own actions join with the power of Spirit to transform our little corner of the world.”