We are nearing the end of our 4D journey. The next couple of chapters are going to help us understand what to do when we struggle with The Four Desires process. The first of these steps is “The Art of Practice.”
To better understand the Art of Practice we can step back and take a look at the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
Recall Sutra 1:12 from chapter 20: abhyasa vairagyabhyam tat nirodaha – Through the repeated practice of non-attachment there is mastery. In that sutra we also come across the word for practice abhyasa, to endeavor or repeat.
If we just repeat something over-and-over again is that abhyasa? No. Practice, just for the sake of practice will not lead us to happiness and the fruits of Yoga. There are two key ideas discussed in Sutras 1:13 & 1:14 that expound how our practice should be done and how we can measure our progress; with sustained effort and being there.
Sustained Effort– How to practice
Patanjali states that practice (whatever yours may be) should be uninterrupted, done for a long period of time and with devotion. These three ingredients must be present to receive fruitful results. When I struggle with my practice, I find revisiting these three themes quite helpful. When the results of my practice are less favorable, it is usually due to absence of one of Patanjali’s guiding principles.
I usually have to increase my devotion in the practice, instead of just doing it. If that’s the case I light a candle, remember to honor my teachers or chant more. These extra steps remind me of the respect and gratitude I have for this precious time I spend with my Self. Making this shift breaks up any stagnation in my practice. If you feel your practice is inconsistent, it might be helpful to commit more fully to it. Envision the benefits of a more regular practice. It helps to adjust your focus and effort rather than change the practice or give up on it all together.
When practice has been firmly grounded over a long period of time, uninterrupted, with honest devotion, only then can the student hope to tame the thought waves of the mind. At this point, the highest state of human experience is found in stillness.
How much time we spend with each practice however is unique to each individual. For this reason, Patanjali didn’t tell us was how long is long. He did however let us know that when a practice is done with sustained effort and reverence it leads us to the pinnacle of human experience, the benefits of Yoga.
“Being There”– Measuring Your Results
Patanjali describes the highest goal of Yoga: “the stillness and mastery over one’s mind that reveal the highest states of human experience.” We measure the results of our practice by our long-term happiness and prosperity. It is important to observe how your practice is affecting practical, day-to-day aspects of your life. Yoga is pragmatic.
We should get in touch with our method of practice because “practice” looks different for everyone. We may need to stick with one meditation, or increase our practice of yoga nidra. As I recall, discovering my own Dharma code felt like a practice, which I engaged in daily.
As you work through your own practices and find those minor (or major) road-blocks refer back to these two key concepts, chances are you just have to refine something or press on. We can do a lot, but without having a means to measure the progress, we may get lost in the act of doing, and never feel or experience “being there.”
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Rod Stryker travels to the largest spiritual pilgrimage in history in 2013. I’ll be there. Will you?