My teacher gave me a mantra a few years ago but I still feel like I know nothing about yoga. I occasionally go to a hatha class, sit for meditation, and dabble in pranayama, but what I’ve realized from talking to veterans of spiritual practice is that it takes years to train ourselves to become yogis. Consistency is my biggest obstacle, and being relatively young (32), developing a disciplined practice in an enticing and distracting world presents a huge challenge.
Like the old adage says, “Wherever you go, there you are.”
Like many, I want instant results. For us rookies, progress can never come fast enough. I am often tempted to quit and take up something new, but that’s not the answer either. Like the old adage says, “Wherever you go, there you are.” When the urge to bolt hits full force, here are a few things that keep me from sprinting to the point of no return. Maybe they’ll be of some use to you.
Trying to sit for meditation when there are six loads of laundry in the hamper, dishes in the sink, or unpaid bills is virtually impossible. A lack of self-trust sets in—“If I can’t take care of something as simple as my apartment, what makes me think I can transform my spirit?” A cluttered environment is the external manifestation of a cluttered mind (my mind must look like the set of Sanford & Son). When I clean my living space and keep it neat it gives me the confidence that I can do the same thing with my mind.
Becoming aware of what we’re telling ourselves requires constant monitoring. If this sounds hard, guess what—it is. Often we don’t hear how we talk to ourselves until we’ve committed a foul: “How’d I make such a mess of this?” When this happens, quiet the mind and ask yourself, “What was I thinking when I made that choice?” As we start to become aware of our inner dialogue, we begin to notice how what we’re telling ourselves lands us in the penalty box. Now, due to the lovely laws of karma, there’s a good chance a similar situation will come up again. When it does and the old dialogue tries to slip in, we can catch it: “Aha! That’s what you said to me the last time—and remember what happened?” Then we have the opportunity to make a different choice.
Do not try to meditate. Just relax, take it easy on yourself, and observe the breath. That’s all. Drop your worries. In fact, drop all active thoughts. Nothing matters for now. Simply watch the breath.
These simple practices are enough to keep me in the game for a while longer. I’m removing the strict mandates on how my practice should be progressing. Instead I’m going to observe the process—and more important, watch how I treat myself and others throughout the day.
Granted, this seemingly haphazard path to transformation isn’t much use for a veteran practitioner, but if you’re a rookie like me, it just may help you get to the big leagues a little faster.