5.23.2011

Thoughts on Daily Practice

How is it that, after years of doing this practice (not Ashtanga necessarily, but some kind of asana practice) and never once having regretted it, my mind can still lay siege on my intentions with a slough of doubts and fears as I unroll my mat?

The resiliency of the reluctant mind is astounding.  Every day I do my practice.  Every day I make it through, and every day when it's over, I am a happier, freer person than I was before.  It's a well established pattern.  And yet, many times my mind finds room to question, to consider, as I inhale my arms up for that first Surya Namaskar, that perhaps this is not the best idea.  After all, I'm already tired and I've got the whole series ahead of me.  I might need the energy later.  I should probably just take a nap/have a snack/read a blog instead (hint, hint...).

This tendency for skepticism in the face of obvious truth has been the source of a number of personal revelations thoughout my (relatively few) years of practice.  Sometimes it feels as though I'm stuck in a wheel, learning the same lessons over and over.  Until one day when the lesson is somehow not merely learned but absorbed, assimilated into my being.  Another veil falls and a new and vivid world appears before me.  Sometimes the veil falls and flutters softly to the ground, and sometime it must be roughly torn away.

This aversion to freedom, the only way I've been able to interpret my persistent reluctance to practice, is a strong samskara, a deep, dark rut that requires a hard climb up and out before redirection can take place.  Every day that I choose to practice in spite of the mental chatter, I dig myself a little bit further out of that vacuous rut, arriving just slightly nearer to the light, making a clearer, brighter way for myself in the future.  Every practice makes way for the next, every day it gets a little bit easier.  But even now, with a few years of daily practice under my belt, days and weeks and months of both gross and subtle evidence piling up in its favor, even now I have to fight to shrug off the resistance, the laziness of body and mind.

What's the point of all this?  I'm not sure.  I suppose it is simply to say that regular practice -- daily practice, if possible -- is so important because it is the beginning of the journey toward essential truth, the path to freedom.  Daily practice is the constant, perhaps the only one in life.  It must be created and cared for, developed with attention and nurtured with tenderness for it to fulfill its purpose, which is nothing but a clear lens with which to look into the self.  When we choose daily practice, when we commit to shed the blinders and face the naked truth day after day, we are choosing to care for ourselves, to do what is right for us no matter what.  In this sense, the practice itself is an expression of unconditional love, something that can be difficult to understand and even more difficult to access in our lives.  But daily practice makes it easier.  In other words, yoga helps.

10 comments:

  1. Megan, This post comes at a perfect time for me! I spent this morning looking for videos and podcasts of yoga lessons, while toying with the idea of trying to do yoga everyday. A light morning routine and a night time one too since I find myself stretching every which way in my bed every night trying to do some yoga positions to calm my body and mind. Your explanations of how daily practice must be cared for and nurtured is absolutely right. Yoga cares and nurtures us, and we should do the same. Thanks for the push to commit!

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  2. hey! thanks for the link to my most treasured yoga book! and I couldn't agree more ... yoga does help. This is a very inspirational post!

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  3. I think this is really quite brilliant, good stuff. Swenson has said (since you are doing the Year of Swenson, while I will only be down south doing the Two Weeks of Swenson) over at a wonderful interview at Richard Freeman's place, that the mind does not want us to practice.

    So we deceive the mind. "Hey mind, how about we roll out that piece of rubber and inhale? Hey mind, how about we see if we can inhale and raise our arms at the same time?" and so on.

    Last week I talked myself into a Primary-plus practice, when really, I didn't want to practice at all. Yes, some deep samskara, some resistance to doing the "real yoga," as was put a long time ago by someone different. Fear of change, of doing the work, of achieving the egolessness (let me tell you, the ego FIGHTS).

    Let's say hello in Austin in late June.

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  4. Very nice post, Megan. Very heartfelt and genuine. You have inspired me to write a follow-up post (see my latest post).

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  5. i'm with you. same struggles daily! but happier post practice!

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  6. As always, love reading your words, hearing your thoughts.

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  7. Andrea - Excellent! I'm so happy that you're building a regular practice. There are tons of tutorials and mini-classes available online for free. A few are listed on my resources page (Yoga Today and MyYoga Online both offer free yoga videos for streaming at home), and of course Youtube is an amazing resource with all kinds of information. Good luck with your daily practice!

    Loo - You're welcome! Your post about the vintage Swenson book really touched my heart, and I can't even think the words "yoga helps" without thinking of them. What a great find that was!

    Patrick - Thank you for your kind remarks. I listened to that Freeman/Swenson interview a couple of weeks ago. It's fantastic.

    Absolutely, let's say hello in June!

    Nobel - I'm honored to have inspired a reaction post at the Dragon's Den!

    Yoginicory - Strange, isn't it? I can't help but wonder how much longer the mind can have these doubts.

    Dottie - Thank you so much for reading. It fills me my heart with joy and appreciation that I might be able to touch the lives of those around me with my words.

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  8. I can't agree more. I've been wondering the same thing. Great post!

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  9. You have really nailed it, dude. This is an insightful summary of one of the most wonderful, exciting things about daily practice: a little step, every day, out of some deep samskara (some so deep I don't see them yet), a little step towards clearing the lens, a little step towards truly grokking what my mind, in haze, is groping towards understanding.

    Plus, man, don't it make you feel awesome?

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  10. So beautifully and honestly written, and inspirational too. Possibly my fav post of yours yet :) But I did enjoy your "belly dancing" video too, that was seriously awesome :)

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