When we commit to the practice of yoga, it can become very time-consuming. As our consciousness rises, we find that the practice continues off of the mat, into our overall lifestyle. It often influences the way we choose to eat, the movies we watch, and the company we keep. Each one of us will encounter tough stretches during the longer arch of life-long practice. Sometimes we deal with the death of a loved one, the dissolution of a marriage, or a major career shift. At these difficult moments, we really need our practice to guide us. Cultivating devotion can bring us to our mat and meditation cushion during the tough times, and the good times. Devotion is the key to consistency.
Devotion is when we fall in love with the process of practice. One day, we realize we are improving our sense of ethics and overall congruence with our society, the earth and fellow earthlings. There is a spark in the heart, as the yoga starts to offer positive feedback in our nervous system. Devotion is the when we practice for the sake of the practice itself. In a devotional yoga practice the heart is involved and we are looking past our fit body, chaturanga arms and the “yoga butt”. How do we cultivate this sense of devotion, which inspires us to practice with consistency?
Find a teacher with more experience than you
My teachers are Sharon Gannon & David Life, Eddie Stern, and Rudra. Each one has done more sadhana (spiritual practice) than me, wakes up early, has a scholarly side with regard to Sanskrit texts, and has devoted the rest of their lives to the path of awakening. Their shakti (spiritual energy) is very high, each one is a great communicator, filled with discipline, and shows love in their teachings. On days where I feel down, or a bit tired, all I have to do is think, “what would Sharon do”? and I overcome my listlessness. A Master’s example inspires the junior to work consistently. Also, one who has walked the path before us is qualified to offer guidance when we have a setback or get stuck in a circular oscillation of energy. I asked Eddie Stern for life advice three times during the ten years I studied with him. He was a generous Man, who simply listened to me, and in doing so, my own inner light started to shine brighter. Wisdom takes time to develop, for it is experienced-based. So choose your teacher wisely because it can be a deeply inspiring part of your practice.
Wake up Early
We master what we do from 4am to 7am. Most people are masters of sleep. The Bhagavad Gita calls the wee hours the “sattvic time”. This is when our mind is most reflective and clear. We can get a jump on our day, by rising early. It is a disciplined action, and is telling the body that it is not in charge, instead our will is in charge. The wire to the above is in your hands in the early morning because fewer intentions are in the air, as most people are in dream land. This is the best time of the day to meditate because you will have deeper experiences and realizations that positively transform your life. It is pure devotion to commit to the early up. Whenever I meet someone who is an early riser, I give them a nod of the ol’ head to show my respect. Self mastery is an inside job. I like to acknowledge discipline as a way of connecting to another’s inner vibration. I draw motivation from focused people.
Buddah left a road map. So did Patanjali, Milarepa, and the Seers of the Vedas. The Sanskrit texts of yoga have instructions and recommendations for stilling the mind, and attaining peace. By studying the Yoga Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Upanishads we get incredible tips, techniques and inspirations that accelerate our attainment of knowledge. Study, gives our intellect something enlightening to rest upon. This act of devotion to the Self is priceless, and saves a lot of time that would ordinarily spent wandering. Violent films, video games, late night drinking, social media, and advertisements all vie for our attention. If we give in consistently to these channels we lose energy. Study adds value to our mind and subtle body.
Surrender to the longer arch of time
Devoting one’s life to Self Awareness, transforms our ordinary attachments to the body, into a higher purpose. For example, if we encounter a lower back injury and need a break, we will not buckle if we rest and our body gets a little softer. Also as age, we may do fewer physical practices and engage in subtle practices like chanting mantra and do more meditation. Surrendering to our practice, means we are gentle with ourselves, and can remain mentally flexible during times of change. If we have young children, raising them can become a practice unto itself, and consume most of the psychic space on our mental hard drive. Practice usually needs to be adapted to each new decade of life. Devotion through time will add poise and wisdom to your choices and personal evolution.
Community is super important on the spiritual path. When we develop friendships with others who are committed to the spiritual path, it adds inspiration to do the hard work involved in maturing. Close your eyes and ask the Universe for friends who value spirituality, who wake up early, eat well, study and follow through on their word. By keeping the company of elevated minds these positive attributes can rub off on you as well.
Go into your own heart. Connect with the flame inside of yourself and channel your emotions towards enlightenment of your mind. Love is a powerful driver. Connect the dots so you feel love for your mat, love for each bead of sweat that falls off of your nose, love for the word “Shanti”, love for mother earth, love for the animals, love for the water, and reverence for all lives. Everything, ever, is only love.