BG 3.35: It is far better to discharge one’s prescribed duties, even though faultily, than another’s duties perfectly. Destruction in the course of performing one’s own duty is better than engaging in another’s duties, for to follow another’s path is dangerous.
If Krishna were in human form today, maybe he would have said the same thing to Parker Palmer, the author of the book Let Your Life Speak. In his book, Palmer shared:
I lined up the most elevated ideals I could find and set out to achieve them. The results were rarely admirable, often laughable, and sometimes grotesque…. I had simply found a ‘noble’ way of living a life that was not my own, a life spent imitating heroes instead of listening to my heart.
The book is about the author’s journey in finding his authentic self and as he narrates what he went through, yogic teachings resonate in my head. Here are some excerpts from the book:
The willful pursuit of vocation is an act of violence toward ourselves—violence in the name of a vision that, however lofty, is forced on the self from without rather than grown from within. (4)
We arrive in this world with birthright gifts—then we spend the first half of our lives abandoning them or letting others disabuse us of them. As young people, we are surrounded by expectations that may have little to do with who we really are, expectations from people who are not trying to discern our selfhood but to fit us into slots. In families, schools, workplaces, and religious communities, we are trained away from true self toward images of acceptability…and we ourselves…betray true self to gain the approval of others. Then—if we are awake, aware, and unable to admit our loss—we spend the second half trying to recover and reclaim the gift we once possessed. (12)
If we are to live our lives fully and well, we must learn to embrace the opposites, to live in a creative tension between our limits and our potentials. We must honor our limitations in ways that do not distort our nature, and we must trust and use our gifts in ways that fulfill the potentials God gave us. (55) God does not ask us to conform to some abstract norm for the ideal self. God asks us only to honor our created nature, which means our limits as well as our potential. (50)
Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic selfhood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks; we will also find our path of authentic service in the world. True vocation joins self and service…“the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deepest need.” (Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC, p.119) (16)
What also struck me in Palmer’s writing is the start of his journey: depression. This was the same condition that pressed me to start my own journey five years ago. One of my companions in my darkest days was the book The Wounded Healer by Henry Nouwen…who happens to be Palmer’s mentor. Now I do not know how you’d call that.
This is a unique book that contains yogic philosophy, written by a hardcore Christian.