10 Sep Sadhana (spiritual discipline)
When we are children, it is necessary for us to have some kind of framework or discipline within our lives. This helps to make us feel safe and creates a strong foundation for the future. And as we grow into adults, we realize that we too need this same kind of ritual in order to keep us focussed and ‘in check’ and to stop our minds from going ‘haywire.’
As we grow a little older, we strain against discipline and do not want anyone to be telling us what to do. I was very much the same, and avoided the concept of discipline for a long time as I felt it was boring and restrictive. However, when I started my yogic path I realized that I found a lot of comfort in discipline and rituals and so now I have become a creature of habits, and now meditate every day, making sure that I give offerings around my house and studio. I have 5 statues and 3 altars around my property where I practice these offerings.
Every weekday early in the morning, (before sunrise,) I go to my studio to meditate and practice some asana, chant some mantra, do pranayam and mudra pranala. This is a very special time for me as these practices allow me to cultivate a one focus mind (ekagrata) and a mental withdrawal of the senses (pratyahara). They also allow me to connect with my higher consciousness and not get high-jacked by my mind. This is the secret of life; to connect to the very source, so we may relax in the knowledge that the source is guiding us all the time.
The reason we do our practice daily is to remember to come back to our heart and stay away from the unruly mind that makes our life miserable. We also practice daily ritual to help us to remember who we are and to connect with consciousness -with spirit, through the heart space. Rituals express our unity with spirit.
Patanjali talks about this in Yoga Sutra 1.12 — abhyasa vairagyabhyam tat nirodhah: By practice and detachment this (mind chatter) can be stopped.
This is exactly what we teach in yoga. We teach students to have sadhana (spiritual discipline) and this comprises of many rituals, (or disciplines.) We use invocation, symbol, symbolic action like mudras (mudra psychic gesture) and set intentions, asanas, pranayamas, etc. I always start my yoga class with my hands in anjoli mudra and chant the mantra ‘om’ followed by the saha na buvatu mantra. I always finish my class with shanti path.
Requirements for a true sadhana or spiritual discipline include:
- Inner space.
- Not subject to other world appreciation.
- Important act that you must perform every day that is not subject to external reality.
My personal sadhana purpose is to express and realize my divine potential through these rituals and practices. This helps me to navigate through the ebb and flow of life. It’s always a place that I can go back to at will and when needed. While I understand that some people may think that rituals are irrational, superstitious, or perhaps primitive, they actually give us consistency in our life by connecting us to a higher power. Rituals bring us back to our heart, where love, peace, contentment and compassion reside.
There are many kinds of rituals we do practice however, (almost without realizing they are rituals of a sort,) including mourning, marriage, birth and rites of passage. Throughout history human beings have found solace in rituals, including Aborigines, Native Americans, Hindus, Greeks, Asians, Egyptians, Arabic people and Europeans. Unfortunately, we seem to have lost that in modern life and have become too identified with our ‘mind’ to connect with spirit daily. We have become enslaved to this power which the mind seems to have over us and we need to learn to surrender it and take the time to connect with spirit on a daily basis.