Four Chapters on Freedom: Chapter 2 - Sadhana Pada
But understand one thing: the trajectory of our spiritual lives - no matter what our path, whether it’s a progressive path or a direct path, whether it is a devotional path or otherwise - the trajectory of our spiritual lives and of all spiritual awakening is toward surrender. Adyashanti ~ The End of Your World
Asking for help has never been something that comes naturally to me. And I say this with no sense of pride, I realise this is actually one of my weaknesses. For that reason I always admire, and fall a little bit in love, with people who are able to be honest in communicating their need for support. Because they probably also find it difficult to express their needs but they have found a way to do it anyway and in doing so they demonstrate courage and strength. When we express ourselves and our needs many of us feel more vulnerable, and vulnerability is not easy but I have come to realise that it is an essential part of spiritual growth.
Sadhana: a consistent and conscious spiritual practice undertaken with the intention of realising our higher self.
Over the years my practice has shown me that the only way to evolve is to face the obstacle, because inevitably that obstacle is the best way to really move forward. The solution we are searching for is usually waiting for us in that one place where we have been avoiding to look, which tends to be within us. Sadhana is spiritual discipline. Discipline may seem like nothing more than a form of restriction but the purpose of sadhana is not to revel in our the ability to exercise control. The real purpose is to create an environment in which you can learn something. Spiritual discipline involves reducing the amount of external distraction we have in our lives in order to be able to observe the Self. By undertaking a committed practice we create a space that becomes an optimum environment in which we can grow.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali speak of 3 steps to liberation. The first step is tapah, which means “self discipline” and “to burn” or “create heat”. In the context of a yoga practice, asana is often the limb which is most commonly aligned with tapah. When we practice we create heat in the body, we literally sweat. So on the grossest layer of our being, which is the physical body, we begin a purification process. When we undertake a sincere and consistent asana practice this purification process begins to work on the more subtle layers of our being. We become more attuned to our energetic and mental inbalances.
At this point the second step presents itself, which is svādhyāya, the study of oneself. Svādhyāya is encouraged and enhanced through yoga practices. Anything that can elevate the mind is beneficial to this practice, so reading spiritual texts, the repetition of mantra, concentration and meditation, are all tools that can help to remind us of our true nature. These practices have helped me to become aware of my need to be more open. Practices such as meditation have revealed many long held and deep rooted beliefs that are ultimately holding back my evolution in consciousness.
The third step is Īśvara Praṇidhāna, which is translated as surrender to God. I think the first step, tapah, is an easy one for most of us to take, especially if you are naturally rajastic. The second step, svādhyāya, is more challenging: it is one thing to be aware of our patterns of behaviour but it is another thing completely to actually make a change. This third step Īśvara Praṇidhāna, I feel for myself at least, is the most challenging: surrender. Surrender to something higher than oneself. Which brings me back to the subject of vulnerability. Because surely the act of surrender requires the biggest expression of vulnerability. What is it that we are surrendering? I think it is the idea that we are individual. The notion that we are actually even in control. Our intense grip on this body, this life and these experiences. The illusion that this life is anything more than a journey that is simply here to remind us of who we truly are.
Every so often I get a clear, tangible, realisation of this truth. However, much like my Pincha Mayurasana, my journey towards overcoming my aversion to facing into vulnerability, to being entirely open, to surrendering to this truth, is still a work in progress. But as the famed Pattabhi Jois saying goes “practice and all is coming". And this really means everything that makes this life experience so valuable. The highs and the lows. The rushes of confidence and the crippling anxiety. The darkness and the light. The leaps forward and the frustrating repetitive spirals caused by samskaras. The uncomfortable revelation of truths that show us where we have been ignorant. This is life. And life is always presenting us with the opportunity to study ourselves. It is a constant teacher of the art of surrender.