Passion to Purpose: A Journey to the Unknown
By: Jessi Luna
It was a tight knit group that sat in the Seven Springs shala one Appalachian spring afternoon, nestled among the sheltering cedars, sweet gums and pines. Our eyes were closed, imagining how we would move forward into our future selves. As I asked questions about how this life will feel, I looked around and noticed a student’s face - we’ll call her Ana - so full of joy even as her eyes filled with tears. Just a few weeks ago she had arrived, wracked with anxiety over what to do with her life, trying to decide which path to choose. It had been such a joy to watch her step back and into herself, allowing new visions to arise.
In my 8 years leading groups through transformative retreats, workshops, and teacher trainings, the tears always flow when asking questions of being faced with The Unknown: What can I give to this world? How can I unearth my true self from the false beliefs it’s buried under? How can I stand out with my skills and knowledge? How can I discover my unique gifts in this lifetime? What is my purpose, my dharma, my path?
These questions always seem to bring anxiety, yet I believe we can transform that anxiety into curiosity. The resulting introspection will create a better world for our children’s children. We must ask ourselves these questions to discover our true nature of our given gifts and recognize our inner passions.
In this era of scientific achievement, our Selves have become The Great Unknown. We don’t know all the answers, and even when we think we know we may be not be listening to our true inner voice. Sometimes we pursue what we feel we should: what society guides us towards following pressures of our family and friends. We commonly mis-identify the passions of others as our own, leading us on a path of disappointment and self-doubt. Sometimes we think we know, and we make elaborate plans for the exact way our path will unfold. Yet, life is never linear, and this attachment more often than not leads to more disappointment and doubt.
So what are we to do to face this conundrum? How are we to sort out what we “truly” want and are meant to be doing in this life? As I’ve learned through my own experiences, a great place to start with is in nature. By observing her patterns and systems we can gain great insight on our own lives. For example: Permaculture teaches us small and slow solutions. To answer The Great Unknown, we don’t need to know exactly how it’s all going to work out. We just need to be aware and willing. Taking one baby step at a time toward a more balanced existence.
Once we bring awareness to our true gifts - the ones that make our heart sing - and we fully take ownership of these, that’s when they become our passions. When we fully commit ourselves to following these passions, we begin to see clarity in a direction that we can move our energy, that’s when we find our Dharma.
What happens from there is a beautiful dance between Self and the Universe. It all starts with simple awareness, not longterm big solutions.
Ana’s tears turned to a face of distrust. I witnessed the loss of her hope as her cheeks sank. “I’ve examined all my skills and gifts,” she shared with me later, “and I just don’t think any of them are my passions. I don’t know if I have a passion.”
I know it’s easier to read than to believe, but the truth is: we all have a true passion, we just may not recognize it. Maybe others see it, maybe not. Maybe we are focusing on our short term desires rather than our true calling. Regardless, our first step in following our Dharma is recognizing our path and calling it out.
To examine this, I like to bring in the Johari Window model. Let’s shift our brains from this more esoteric, idealistic thought pattern to a more discriminatory thinking process. Both are equally important as we create, plan, and implement our life’s dreams. In our Kula Collective Facilitation Intensive course, we dive into the pedagogy of facilitation, group development, and personal goal setting. One of the tools we use is this Johari Window chart:
This model is quite simple. There are passions within us which we know and others know as well - these are wonderful to continue to develop, depending on where you wish to put your energy.
There are passions within us which we know but others don’t - these are the ones which we want to focus on shining bright to our world.
There are passion within us which we don’t know but others do - these are passions which can be identified by our peers, friends, and facilitators when we come together in these types of learning and growing retreat and training environments.
Finally, there are passions within us which we don’t know and others don’t know either. The Great Unknown! The Sweet Spot! We can use the Johari window to bring awareness to this space so we may begin a process of guidance from the unknown to the known.
“But I’m just not a talented person,” continued Ana after blurting out that she has no passions, “other people have special skills, but all my life I’ve just been mediocre, in the background, not special.”
This is an example of another layer that I’d like to add into the Johari model: the False Knowns, or the mistaken Identity of Self. Because all her life Ana had been told or conditioned through experience that she is not talented and in the background, she now believes her identity as not special. With this belief, even the first step of awareness of our gifts is impossible.
In Stephen Cope’s Yoga and the Quest for the True Self, he explains, “In yogic science, the project most central to the discovery of the real is the penetration into the delusion of the unreal…the true self is discovered only in the process of exposing the false self…our whole task is understanding and revealing the false self, because once freed from it everything that is left is true self.”
If believe in a False Self is true for you, which it is for all of us to some extent, become aware of this. Write a list of your beliefs about yourself, and then ask yourself if each one of those is true in your heart. Do this in an open and safe space so the mind can remain quiet so you may hear the whispers of the heart. Once we begin to release the False Knowns - what we have been conditioned or told to believe - we can enter into the journey of discovering the Unknowns with confidence.
At this point I invite you to stop and ask yourself, does this thought of discovering something about yourself that you don’t know and others don’t know either scare you or excite you? To begin this path of discovery, we must all cultivate a state of pure curiosity. What we will discover we don’t know, and that’s okay, but we do know it will lead us on a new path of passion and purpose.
Ana came thinking her Teacher Training would be all about getting fit and flexible through practicing asana. In this process, her flexibility of her own Self-awareness expanded as well. As budding yoga “teachers”, we must do the work to know ourselves fully and wholly. This is where deep personal transformational work becomes so necessary. Ana embraced the journey to move through the Exploration of her challenges and strengths, the Empowerment of Self, and the Expansion of her passions into this world and lifetime.
Jessi teaches a Vinyasa based practice to combine elements of dance and natural movement with traditional yogic sequencing. She incorporates attention to rhythm of the breath, and allows for organic movement to flow in each pose. She is grateful for the journey of yogic creativity and loves to share this movement of bliss with others along the
Jessi, along with her husband Zach, are also in the process of creating a Holistic Retreat Center, Seven Springs, in her mountain home of East Tennessee. Seven Springs is a place of natural abundance and cultural diversity where people learn how to create holistic sustenance for themselves and their communities. The space seeks to provide an innovative and transformative space for local and global communities to experience high quality holistic education. Retreats offered vary from yoga, massage, natural medicines and foods, creativity, social innovation, team-building, eco-building and permaculture.