Hello My Yoga Friends:
Happy New Year! May the New Year bring you an abundance of good things!
I am grateful for 2012. It was good to me in many ways. Yes, there were a few rough patches as well, but the ancient wisdom ‘count your blessings’ helped me in accepting them and moving forward with gratefulness.
Today I would like to talk to you about an email I received recently. It gave me an opportunity to reflect back on my own journey and the reasons why I am on the path of yoga.
The e-mail read:
“I have been doing my spiritual practices for over 15 years, regularly and sincerely, but I don’t seem to be getting anywhere. I was searching for answers, but after all these years I am more confused. I am losing my faith and interest in the practices…….I don’t see any point in continuing….”
First of all, know that it is okay and normal to feel this way. You are not alone. People experience this feeling of disappointment not just on the spiritual path, but in other fields as well, whether it be sports, music, science, business etc. There could be many different reasons for this.
Since being regular and sincere on the path is not an issue for you, perhaps you should assess your expectations on the spiritual path.
What is it that you want to gain from your spiritual practices?
Some people follow a path simply to improve their physical and mental health. If they practice regularly and properly, they see the benefits and they happily continue on the path. They see a point in continuing.
Some people follow a path because they have this wrong understanding that it would help them get rid of their problems. They expect that because they meditate and pray every day, they should not face difficulties or failures in life, or they might get better jobs or life partners. I know someone who used to look for winning lottery numbers in his meditation, his logic being that meditation provided clarity to see. Like this, people carry so many wrong expectations and logics in their minds. Patanjali calls it ‘viparyaya’ , meaning wrong knowledge. It surely brings disappointment. Spiritual practices do not get rid of your difficulties. Instead they give you the strength and wisdom to deal with them.
Some walk on the path in search for answers. They want to know the Truth. They want to know God. They want to get enlightened. All these are abstract and complicated expectations, which often give rise to more questions and concepts, and can result in disappointment and frustrations, which can continue for a long time until one obtains a certain amount of maturity on the path.
The maturity doesn’t come just by doing a lengthy practice of asanas and meditation every day, though some start feeling mature without actually having matured. Such people come into a delusion, which can continue for a long time until something happens to puncture their delusion. Daily practice of asanas and meditation provides a strong base, but to build on it further it requires a higher level of practice, which is understanding the knowledge of yoga properly and applying it in daily life. It requires effort, alertness and interest.
With this level of practice, maturity begins to dawn and you realize that the path of yoga is not there to solve the mystery of life, but to guide you how to live and enjoy the mystery.
A highly matured yogi is also called ‘purushotam’ which means a great, refined and nice person. This term provides a fresh perspective on yoga, that the wisdom of yoga is there not to provide answers but, if followed, to make you a better and great person. So instead of searching for answers, if you use the wisdom of yoga to become a better person, it would bring some spiritual maturity in you. You will feel closer to yourself. This is a simple way to be with your Self.
Practicing to become a better person is the true meaning of abhyasa (practice) mentioned in the Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Making effort to improve yourself is the true meaning of Self-effort mentioned in Yoga Vasistha.
Bhagvat Geeta and other scriptures of yoga describe many qualities of an accomplished yogi. If you want to become accomplished, you will need to cultivate those qualities in you. I will talk about some of those qualities in my next post.
We already know that there is a lot in us that we can improve upon. Start from there. Make effort to overcome your weaknesses. Be honest with your intentions behind what you speak, think, and do. Improve them all in a playful manner, like a child learns how to walk. He falls, but gets up and starts walking again
Practice Hatha Yoga to make your body and mind healthier and stronger.
Practice Karma Yoga, Raja Yoga and Gnana Yoga to remove the mental restlessness and disturbance. Use the knowledge of yoga to discriminate between right and wrong.
Practice Bhakti Yoga to nurture your Self.
Unless you take this responsibility, your journey will remain a struggle. You will keep blaming the path regardless of which path you travel on.
Give rest to your questions, concepts and expectations. The more questions and concepts you have, the less alert you become. Even to notice your own growth you require alertness. In fact, a certain level of maturity is already happening in you but perhaps you are not seeing it.
Lord Krishna says to Arjuna,“I am present in every being but an accomplished yogi feels my presence.” This is the reason I am on the path. I want to become a better person. I want to cultivate the qualities of an accomplished yogi in me. I want to flow with life, and not struggle against it.
Just like, through effort and practice, an accomplished musician becomes one with the music, same way through abhyasa and self-effort, an accomplished yogi becomes one with the Self.
You have no choice but to continue. When life is continuing, how can you stop:)
May you enjoy your journey!
With best wishes,
Next Blog : Qualities of a yogi as described in Bhagvat Geeta, and my 15 minutes energy booster yoga.