For most of us, this effort requires patience, persistence, and some means to renew this commitment. The obstacles are many: the countless stressors of daily life, the subconscious beliefs and habitual thinking that compel us to defend the ego-identity we’ve formed, the physical or psychological pain that can sidetrack our energy, and the constant messages of our consumer culture offering us a quick fix of pleasure—a poor substitute for the natural contentment we aspire to experience.
So how do we sustain that vision we may have formed in moments of clear insight and inspiration? The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali refer to this challenge specifically in Book 1, sutra 30. This sutra names nine different obstacles that, if unchecked, can end up completely diverting us from the path we chose. Book 1, sutra 32 clarifies the importance of establishing and sticking with one specific method by which we begin to master the mind and thoughts.
No doubt, developing a meditation practice into a strong habit is one of the primary ways we can remain inspired. And if a regular practice penetrates deeply into our consciousness through consistency and enthusiasm, it will give rise to moments of healing silence and a taste of the unchanging peace within. It may be that nothing will renew our intention to awaken more than feeling for ourselves the profound benefits that it can yield.
Another form of great support is a community of like-minded spiritual seekers. Our practice may seem to plateau for long periods of time with no real progress. Sharing such challenges with others can uplift our spirits, inspire us to have more compassion for ourselves and each other, and keep our efforts in perspective.
I have also found a great benefit from creating a personal prayer or affirmation that I repeat at the end of each meditation session and before each meal. I created this prayer as a way of affirming to myself in my own words what I deeply believe to be true, based on my own experiences and the teachings of Sri Swami Satchidananda. It varies somewhat each time but goes essentially like this: “Let me remember that all I really need to be happy is to feel this Presence I can sense now, so that I can be free from clinging or longing for anything outside, free to serve as an instrument of the Divine, free to be mindful, humble and grateful, and free to enjoy everything I do.”
While I may not feel it deeply every time I repeat it, this prayer reminds me of how I can live with peace in my heart, serve in ways that are fulfilling, and have faith that I am learning and growing despite the mental ups and downs I may experience. It can be very helpful to remember that it is challenging to sustain an enthusiastic pursuit of such an exalted goal as mastering the mind as we navigate the sometimes stormy waters of life. So it behooves us to remember that not one moment of effort is lost—all the spiritual study we do, every meditation session, each repetition of a mantra or affirmation, every instance of devotion or genuine service is an essential step on the path.
Through repeated practice, we will begin to experience moments free of habitual thought patterns, and see ourselves and our relationship to the world in a fresh way. We will begin to feel our connection to each other and all of nature. Over time, our accumulated practice will gradually restructure even the subconscious mind so that we are no longer compelled by old beliefs and fears, and approach life with a sense of deep belonging, inner contentment, and wonder.
About the Author:
Swami Ramananda is the president of the Integral Yoga Institute of San Francisco and a greatly respected master teacher in the Integral Yoga tradition, who has been practicing Yoga for more than 35 years. He offers practical methods for integrating the timeless teachings and practices of Yoga into daily life. He leads beginner, intermediate, and advanced-level Yoga Teacher Training programs in San Francisco and a variety of programs in many locations in the United States, Europe, and South America. Swami Ramananda trains Yoga teachers to carry Yoga into corporate, hospital, and medical settings and has taught mind/body wellness programs in many places. He is a founding board member of the Yoga Alliance, a national registry that supports and promotes Yoga teachers as professionals.