Developing a Daily Practice
“The major crisis of our culture is not one of IQ—intelligence quotient. The problem we face individually and collectively is one of WQ—will quotient.
Will Power = your power of choice!
The power of choice – You choose to be sick or healthy, our power of choice is connected to our health because choice is involved in every detail of our lives. You choose to do yoga practice to stay healthy in body, heart, and mind, you choose to eat good or bad foods, you choose to think good or bad thoughts.
You have a choice as to whether you want a daily practice or not—or to develop any positive habit.
Between the heart and the mind
In yoga philosophy our center of will power is our 5th chakra (located at the throat), herein lies our challenge—it lies between our heart and mind. Our mind tells us we need to go home and wash the dishes, run our kids to soccer, take care of that unplanned event that popped up, etc. Our heart reminds us how good our yoga practice is for us, the energy, the connection, the breathing and movement. We then end up in a holding pattern between the heart and mind. The way to break through this holding pattern is to unite the power of your heart and mind—make a decision that unites the reasoning of your mind with the feeling of you heart. I have tried to help a bit with this challenge by educating your mind about the benefits of your yoga practice. Also know that you can do your yoga practice and tackle what ever it is you need to do—your yoga practice will give you strength and will power. Again it is a choice. And may I remind you, your mind . . it lies to you! The age old advice of follow your heart is wise . . .
The next time some unplanned event comes into your life, exercise your power of choice!
Along with exercising your power of choice, try an intension or sankalpa. This should be a temporary “mantra” (we should also have a separate life long intention) that will help you establish what you are trying to create. An example of a sankalpa I used; in 1990 I left a full time professional job of Purchasing Manager at Flight Systems to begin a career in fitness and health. In the process of leaving a good job and starting at the bottom of a new industry I had to remind myself “to succeed at this I must be willing to sacrifice who I am for whom I might become”, and this became my sankalpa, my mantra. I taped it to my mirror and repeated it to myself every day! Another good little mantra or sankalpa for establishing a regular practice is Pattabhi Jois’s famous saying “Do your <my> practice and all is coming.” This is reminder to do your practice without attachment, just do your practice and what is to come will be.
Another nice intension is the famous Buddhist saying “om mani padme hum” which translates loosely as “when your heart and mind are united anything is possible”. This mantra helps you overcome the holding pattern when our heart and mind pull us in different directions.
In choosing your sankalpa, it should not be “goal oriented” as this will produce an attachment to the outcome setting you up for failure (more on that below). It should be something that supports a new thought pattern, is in the present, and in the first person (I or me).
On the path to cultivating will, exercise your power of choice and set your intentions—this will help your intentions become your reality.
Abhyasa and vairgya (practice and detachment)
Practice requires cultivated effort over a long period of time, this is not the easiest path—it will require work. Once you develop stick-to-it-iveness you become firmly grounded and from that work arises self confidence.
The secret to stick-to-it-iveness is detachment. If you practice something expecting an outcome there is a highly likelihood that you will not get the outcome you expected, this can be frustrating and sabotaging to what you are trying to create.
For example, many people start yoga because they want to be healthier and/or lose weight. In actuality it takes approx one year of consistency to get those benefits! First your body has to go through changes, it has to get stronger, lose tension, and become a better fat burner. It is after these traits develop that health and weight loss follow. Our society has become spoiled with immediate gratification, that if something takes time and effort we don’t want to put in the work.
Being detached from your works is the recipe for happiness and success; practice without having to be rewarded, give without expectations, love without being loved in return! Practice this on your mat, at your job, with your family and friends, and with your special someone. No expectations! just give and do your practice.
On the patch to cultivating will NEVER GIVE UP (abhyasa)–ALWAYS LET GO (vairgya)
They work together: Practice leads you in the right direction, while non-attachment allows you to continue the inner journey without getting sidetracked into the pains and pleasures along the way.
DISCIPLINE = FREEDOM
If you have discipline to do what you need to do then you do not need someone imposing that on you. In the Sutras discipline is one of the Niyamas, Tapas; Tapas means to burn. The sutras states that if we have tapas to do our practices even when we don’t feel like it, this discipline builds heat in the body which burns away the mental impurities that keep us from our practices, making it easier to continue. DISCIPLINE IS AN IMPORTANT ATTRIBUTE TO CULTIVATE IN OURSELVES!
How to develop tapas? Is suffering necessary? Probably a little, the Buddha says that all of life is suffering, the sutras say that tapas burns away impurities in our body and mind giving us clear seeing, with clear seeing what we saw before as suffering we now realize is not suffering . . . There are going to be days when we don’t feel like doing our practise! Most of the time we don’t feel like doing our practise we need to do it anyway! But there will be days when we need to modify our practise, to soften it a bit—that is ok and part of being compassionate with oneself. But practice the 51% rule, most of the time you should do your full practice, if you notice that you soften your practice more often than following through with the entire practice you may need to dig a little deeper with your tapas.
- Think of tapas as consistency, the willingness to follow through.
- Get passionate about your practice—this makes it easy to follow through.
- Tapas will make you stronger and more resilient.
In Cultivating Will:
- Exercise your power of choice when non-scheduled events of your life arise.
- Set your intensions
- Practice with detachment
- Develop discipline