An interview with Rod Stryker |
Rod Stryker’s book, The Four Desires, explores the four motivating forces in life and how a steady spiritual practice can bring those to fruition in a way that helps us live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. He believes that the aim of practice is to remember our wholeness, as well as to rest in peace and healing—inherent qualities with which we all come into life. In this second part of our two-part interview (the first appeared in our Fall 2011 issue), Rod shares his personal sadhana experiences and the advice he received from his spiritual teacher
Integral Yoga Magazine (IYM): How can we overcome resistance to doing our Yoga practices daily?
Rod Stryker (RS): I’ll relate a personal anecdote from about thirty years ago. I had been practicing Yoga for about two years before meeting my first teacher, Kavi Yogiraj Mani Finger––a South African Yoga master. The very first time that I did my practice after being initiated by him, I felt as though meditation was opening a door to the sacred part of who I was, a part I had never known before. Each and every time I practiced, I felt uplifted and could sense that I was experiencing something sublime. However, after about three months, despite these experiences, I realized that I wasn’t practicing every day.
My practice meant so much to me, my teacher meant so much to me, and yet a day or three could pass without me doing it. I wasn’t certain exactly why I was resisting it or what to do about it, but I cared enough that it troubled me. Wanting a steady personal practice, I eventually went to my teacher and asked, “How do I practice regularly? I want to, but part of me resists because some days I don’t actually do it.” He gave me an answer I was not expecting. “How does it feel when you don’t practice?” he asked. It didn’t take me long to respond: I didn’t feel as confident, I didn’t feel as inspired or free or open or creative. I didn’t feel at home.
“Good,” he said, “so you know what it feels like when you don’t practice?” I said, “Yes.” He continued, “To have a regular practice, remember the pain of not practicing and put it at the front of your mind.” His response was so counterintuitive. I imagined that he was going to tell me, “Remember how wonderful it is when you meditate, when you do your practice.” But instead, he asked me to remember the pain of not practicing and of being ever mindful of it.
Many decades later I would learn that his advice was consistent with what psychological research suggests about the process of establishing a new habit. Human beings generally begin, or will sustain a new habit, only if the pain of not doing it is greater than the pain of doing it. Thus, the strongest motivation for a human being to establish a new habit, is the desire to avoid the pain of their old habits. Only after at least forty days—depending on how ingrained our old habits are—and we start experiencing the benefits that our new behavior is providing, do we become motivated by the pleasure/benefit that the new habit provides.
Now, more than three decades later, I don’t have to remember the pain of not practicing; I am inspired to practice daily in large because of the pleasure it provides. At this point, I don’t have to remember, “Oh, it’s so painful if I don’t meditate.” Because the pattern of meditating is so ingrained in me, and I’m so mindful of its benefits, that I’m motivated by the gifts it provides. Perhaps readers can benefit from the same advice that I got, which was: Be honest with yourself. At the forefront of your mind remember what it feels like when you don’t practice. Do you really want to have to live with the pain of not practicing? Do you want to continue to not avail yourself of something that could possibly affect the whole of your life? You have a choice; you can choose happiness; committing to a regular meditation practice will go a long way to leading you to more meaning, clarity and freedom.
IYM: How do you make time for a daily practice?…
Read the rest of this article in the Spring 2012 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine.