Episode 24: "To the keep and intent practitioner, spiritual success comes quickly." These are the words of the great sage Patanjali. In this episode, we'll be exploring this Sutra and how it subtly points to one of the many ways modern yoga practitioners unwittingly sabotage their yoga practices and their spiritual progress.
These teachings are made possible by people like you. Learn how you can help on my Patreon page. CLICK HERE.
LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK WITH A COMMENT BELOW
“To the keen and intent practitioner, success comes very quickly. The time for that success further depends on whether the practice is mild, medium, or intense.”
Welcome to Real Yoga, a podcast dedicated to helping you use yoga's ancient wisdom to unlock your life of radical happiness, connection and meaning right here, right now. I'm your host, Eric Walrabenstein, and I'm glad you're here.
These are the words of the great Sage Patanjali, who, thousands of years ago, penned the yoga scripture called The Yoga Sutras.
Now, I'm fully aware that many of us have rather complex, or even confusing, relationships with scriptures—from the yoga tradition or other religions.
For some of us, they're interpreted as moral codes for living. Others think of them as guidelines to follow in order to win God's favor. But for our purposes here today, I would invite you to think of them as something else: as handbooks, operator manuals, if you will, that describe for us how we can use these bodies and minds of ours to achieve awakening—awakening to the truth of who we really are beyond these meat puppets that we've been told is our identity.
Now, the Yoga Sutras is different from a great many scriptures in that it's, well, understated and lithe and single-minded in its focus on providing actionable insights. Unlike many other scriptures, the Bhagavad Gita and the Bible, come to mind here, in the Yoga Sutras, you'll find no complex cast of characters. No history. No storyline. No drama.
And this of course, is not to put down scriptures that lean on the devices of plot or historical context. I have great respect for the powerful wisdom that lies in all of the sacred texts.
But back to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras: in this work, Patanjali takes a different tack, a simpler, more aerodynamic approach.
It's a simple, well measured, step-by-step formula for spiritual awakening. All dispensed in 196 brief, but potent, Sutras or phrases, each one speaking to a particular part of the spiritual journey.
The Sutras we started with today: “to the keen and intent practitioner, success comes very quickly, and the time for that success further depends on whether the practice is mild, medium, or intense.” These are the words from the 14th and 15th Sutras of the 196 that make up the work, and it should be obvious, they suggest that our spiritual progress depends on the intensity and the sincerity of our practice.
To which you may think, “Yeah, duh!”
Because let's face it, it is kind of obvious. That a keen and intent practitioner who is practicing ardently would see results faster than some lay-about who manages to wander into yoga class only a couple times a month.
But here's the funny thing about that.
While it seems obvious that a more earnest practitioner would benefit more profoundly than others. The fact is that so many of us miss the mark when it comes to embodying that earnestness. Despite our intentions to nourish ourselves spiritually, our actions don't quite measure up.
Imagine you wanted to lose some weight, I don't know, 20 pounds, 30 pounds. So, you decided to put yourself on a strict regimen of diet and exercise.
You vow to eat super healthy and cut down on red meat, eat plenty of vegetables, and make sure you're feeding your body what it really needs. And then you go and get yourself a gym membership, hire a personal trainer, and she develops the perfect workout to help you achieve your weight-loss goals.
And then you get going: You eat right. You exercise every day for three days, and then you take a break for 27 days.
And then the next month you do it again. You hit the gym, you eat all the right foods for three days, and then take a break for another 27 days.
And the question here is, how likely are you to meet your goals? To lose the weight, to get fit, to feel vibrant and healthy?
If you are working towards your objective only three days a month, or about 10% of the time, it's not very likely. I'll bet you’d agree.
In fact, you might even be bristling at the ridiculousness of the example, and yet this is precisely what most yoga practitioner…strike that…what most spiritual practitioners do.
This is not to say that most people practice their yoga only three days per month, but it is to say that most of us invest in our practice less than 10% of the time—which of course is akin to the three days a month in our dieting example.
You know, I became curious about this when I first started teaching yoga some 30 odd years ago.
I'd watch people come to class, they'd step onto their yoga mats and practice diligently for 90 minutes. They'd soothe their bodies, they'd nourish their nervous systems into this calm and spacious state of being. And then they'd serenely drift out the doors of the yoga studio and just as diligently start undoing all the nourishing goodness they did during their yoga practice.
Out the door, they'd go and start right back into filling themselves full of toxins.
The distractions and overwhelm caused by the phones and the social media, the steady diet of doom and gloom on the news and on the web, and the mindless reactions and the limiting beliefs that would unnecessarily turn them into victims of their lives.
And no time at all, most people would plunge right back into the anxiety and the worry and the drama that they worked so hard to escape. And in almost every case it would start the very moment they stepped off their yoga mats.
Here's the problem.
Each of us has 24 hours in every day, and even if we're extraordinarily dedicated yoga practitioners, and as such, let's say that we're practicing or meditating or praying a full two hours a day, which let's face it, is way more than most of us can manage.
But even if we did, if we ardently practiced two full hours every day, seven days a week, we'd still be falling short of that 10% of effort we found so laughable in our dieting example.
It's two hours of mindfulness and connection versus the remainder of the day, a full 22 hours that are too often spent in distraction and overwhelm and doubt and anxiety. It doesn't take a mathematician to figure out how that's going to pan out.
And this brings us to the real conundrum.
It's the fact that there's hardly a soul on the planet—at least a soul who has a family, and a job, and a life—that can log enough yoga and meditation and spiritual practice to even start making a dent in things.
In other wordsa, unless, unless we can conceive of a way to weave our practices into our lives, that is to say, instead of needing to wall ourselves off from the world to do our spiritual practices, to wall ourself off in our meditation room, or in the yoga studio, or the church or the temple.
If we could remain connected to our spiritual intentions and our spiritual practices in the real world: while standing in line at the grocery store, while being stranded in a colossal traffic jam, or while having an argument with a feisty family member. That would change everything.
And the fact is that we can weave our practices into our daily lives.
And it turns out that this is the strategy that dramatically changed my life.
You see, before I worked out how to truly weave yoga into every corner of my life, I felt well spiritually stalled. And I guess, if I'm honest, it wasn't just spiritually.
Because back then I was really struggling with an entire range of awful symptoms from a lingering case of PTSD, from anxiety to insomnia and depression and anger.
My life had been taken over by this struggle that seemed like it would never end.
But to be clear, It wasn't for a lack of diligence on my part because at the time I was meditating every morning and every evening. I was dropping into the old yoga studio three to four times a week. And I was spending much of my weekends studying and practicing at the San Francisco Zen Center.
By conventional measures, I was a spiritual workhorse and yet making hardly any progress.
Here's what I've discovered.
Many of the more traditional yoga practices like postures and breathing and even meditation can be challenging, if not downright impossible to weave into daily life.
I mean, what are you going to do? Pop into tree poses in the middle of a meeting with your boss, or close your eyes and disappear into a meditative trance when you get a flat tire?
Of course not.
And this is where it begins to really pay off to get creative, and that means to look beyond the appearance of our spiritual practices, and to see clearly the intent behind those practices.
Another way to put it is to understand how a particular practice is designed to work on the body and mind, and to really get clear on the particular problem or the imbalance that that practice is seeking to remedy.
Because when we have this level of understanding, and I'm talking about not just clarity on what to do, but clarity on why we're being asked to do it, it's from that place that we're able to create spiritual practices that do lend themselves to being integrated into daily.
From engaging in a meditative, mindfulness exercise that you perform as you eat your lunch, to starting an Enjoyment Journal to magnetize your mind to perceive the blessings in your life, or even engaging in self-reflection practices that illuminate and even neutralize sabotaging habits that have been keeping you playing small‑maybe for your entire life.
Of course, none of this is to replace our formal yoga and meditation practices that are done in the confines of the meditation spaces or our yoga studios, or our churches or temples, but rather to supplement them so that we can break through that meager 10% mark and start making real and lasting progress towards the peace and the connection that we deserve.
So, the question is this: “how might we make our first steps to start meaningfully incorporating the power of yoga, the power of spirituality, into our daily lives?”
And step one Is to stop treating a part of your life as a spiritual, like the part where you're in the yoga studio or the part when you go to church, or the part when you're sitting in meditation, and then treating the rest of it as mundane.
Because the fact is that every moment of every day is pregnant with a spiritual opportunity. That is an opportunity to make real change in how the body and mind relate and respond to the world around you.
The more opportunities we're able to take advantage of, the more in Patanjali’s words, “keen and intent” we become. And of course, the more profound our personal and spiritual transformation becomes.
And I can tell you from personal experience, it works—like magic in many cases.
I know because I've seen it in my own life with my own practices, and I've seen it with others from incorporating this approach into the BOOTSTRAP yoga system that I created for the U.S. Military. That, by the way, has helped over 6,000 of our troops and veterans heal from debilitating cases of chronic stress.
And now, it's the cornerstone of what we do inside of the Bright Life Yoga Collective, providing our members with a steady stream of informal off-the-mat practices that can be woven into daily life in just minutes a day.
But I want you to know you don't need me to do this, although I'm happy to help.
The fact is that your transformation into an ever more keen and intent practitioner and into someone who reaps the real spiritual gold for doing so, is a process that any of us can engage in if only we're willing to put the right effort.
Well, that's all the time we have for today. I hope today's conversation has inspired you to begin weaving your yoga and other spiritual practices into your daily life.
And as always, thanks for listening and please remember: This podcast is made possible solely by the generosity of listeners like you. So please, if you can, support me over on my Patreon page, and when you do, I'll gift you with some of my most powerful yoga practices and guided meditations as my personal Thank you.
You can check it out now at www.patreon.com/ericwal.
Finally, if these kinds of teachings are something you would like more of in your life, consider joining us inside the online Bright Life Yoga Collective, where each week you'll join me to go even deeper with this ancient wisdom. Plus, you'll get weekly yoga and meditation practices to transform your entire life.
Learn more at my website at www.ericwal.com. So, thanks again. I hope you have an amazing week, and if there's anything I can do to serve you, please don't hesitate to let me know. I'll see you next time.