I wish I could count all the times that a student has asked “How do I get better at yoga?”
“How do I ‘progress?’
“How do I get to the point of doing the advanced poses?”
Along the way these questions have aided me in developing my most lacking quality of Patience! I’m an Aries, you see, and apt to speak the first words that come to mind!
Along with the development of my patience ‘muscle’, so to speak, yoga has been instrumental in helping me to develop the much-desired quality of Discipline! (I’m an Aries, you see!”
Sadhana is the Samskrit word for self-discipline. It is the determination and focus we need for self-development, the kind of subtle effort that becomes part of one´s thoughts, life and routine. Most people dislike the very thought of discipline. It sounds heavy, forced—almost synonymous with coercion.
For a yogi, discipline has a lot to do with taking care of one´s mind. Indeed, the very first words that Patanjali wrote in his Yoga Sutras were Yoga … Chitta vrtti nirodha. Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.
Ah, the mind. The mind. Our best friend…or our worst enemy!
The fire – the determination that is oh-so-necessary for self-development, then, is called Sadhana. Developing the self means we are responsible for creating and sustaining our inner stage—our mood—always. In simple terms, whenever we feel that something is not right, we think of practical methods to transform it
For example, let´s say we are feeling a bit down or frustrated. Before letting sadness settle in, we take necessary action. It might be that our inner self needs to be cared for and understood; it might be that just by listening to music we love or singing, we let it go. The fact is, we are aware and tending to the inner workings of our mind.
Like most valuable qualities in this life, Sadhana is something we learn to develop. And there is another very interesting aspect of discipline…it is much easier to succeed in this approach in the context of coming together as a group. Hmmm. Why??? I wonder.
When a group of like-minded individuals connect for a higher purpose, an energy field is created. The Greeks called it egregore. The more people´s thoughts and activities are harmonious, the more the gathering becomes a network of sharing, sustenance and service.
Once we begin developing spiritually we start to gain confidence and inner powers—it might be new enthusiasm and creativity, tolerance, the capacity to discern and so on. It won’t take long for us to realize that the biggest challenge on the path always has to do with one’s own ego and desires. These may be expressed in various forms—old habits and concepts, the ways we like things to be done, the things we expect from others—whether it is recognition or help. The list is long because we are talking about human nature in our time.
It may also happen that at a certain point one feels stuck for some reason and not able to move forward. There will be opposing forces too, both internal and external. We live in a society that is not designed or conducive to spiritual development; there are times when we feel we are swimming against the current.
It is at this point that we might feel the benefit of belonging. Those who come together for the purpose of spiritual growth give us an idea of our progress.
In this holographic world, everyone is a mirror, which means we can always see ourselves in others if we want to. This is an exercise of the intellect and works as an opportunity to see what is reflected back to us.
Tests and obstacles will continue to come from all sides, including from those in the group. (Visualize the always-late-comer-yogi entering the room, and flopping down the mat while all other yogis are in Savasana!) Yet seeing the way more mature people develop consciousness and deal with difficulties becomes a great way for us to learn how to act and handle things in a practical manner.
The more our awareness grows and we accumulate new energy, the more we feel able to give support to others. This giving is another blessing, for it is also the means of our own sustenance. To be of service to others is a great chance to improve our karmic situation, it is a fortune we can always create and it doesn't necessarily need to be something visible. Our role in the community might be that of giving support through our inner work and presence, for example.
The same is true with the opposite. What we do, even when no one sees, may bring different kinds of damage to the energy-field of the group.
Another positive thing about being part of a gathering is the constancy that we may sometimes lack when alone on the path. Even for those who meditate often, it´s far too easy to get disconnected and lose oneself in this world of distractions.
To have like-minded friends or a good support group is something we might like to consider if we are determined to develop spiritually. Even though our sadhana will always remain individual, the gathering is a place for exchanging love and sustanance. And there are days when we certainly need it.