This month, we are asking ourselves, “How can we apply the teachings of Yoga, like the ones found in the Yoga sutras of Patanjali, to guide our behavior in day-to-day life?”
Ideally, each of us takes time to create goals that are modest enough to be sustainable, and ambitious enough to have an impact on our spiritual growth. Doing so requires that we develop a healthy relationship towards our own bodies and minds, like a parent who wants to train her child with compassionate encouragement. When we establish a very doable commitment and stick with it, we build the willpower to overcome the moodiness of the mind. At the same time, we can be sensitive to the genuine need to adapt or interrupt our efforts, without losing all of our momentum. A guitar string must be neither too tight nor too loose to play well.
Here are some of the ways that I recommend integrating Yoga practice and teachings into daily life.
- Create a personal mission statement that expresses your vision or understanding of your true purpose in life. Write it down and use it as a guide to make big decisions and set personal goals. If spiritual growth is really important to you, you can take concrete steps, like the ones that follow, to build it into your life.
- Practice releasing inner conflict. Judging or denying the unwanted aspects of your being creates suffering and dissipates the energy needed to grow. On any journey, to take even one step in the right direction, you must first know where you are. Try accepting painful experiences as messages that point out where you need to bring healing attention. Just as we all want to find the root cause of physical pain, you can reflect deeply on the roots of your suffering and see if you are expecting or wanting something so much that it is hurting you.
- Practice being free of thoughts about how things should What does it mean to act and think free of preconceived notions of how you should look or behave? Use a regular practice of Hatha Yoga to cultivate a non-judgmental awareness, listening for what the body needs instead of imposing some image on it. Establish a daily practice of meditation to disengage your mind from the habitual thoughts that normally play like a broken record—arranging for some future moment to be happy. Then you can experience the deeper Spiritual Self which is already at peace beneath the busyness of the mind. Make practice goals for Hatha Yoga and meditation.
- Practice one spiritual teaching in depth by writing it down and posting it for a period of time, such as one week. Try incorporating that intention into the way you do anything for that time period. Some examples are practicing contentment, compassion for others, or gratitude. Focusing on a specific principle is a positive way of aligning actions with the Spiritual Self, and letting that inner Self guide you.
- Dedicate your service or regular work. Make all that you do into a spiritual practice by finding a way to put your heart into it. Your work can be done as an offering to God, as a way to serve the well-being of others or simply as a way to allow the energy of love, not fear, to express in whatever you do.
- Support your goals. Think of all the ways like-minded friends can inspire and enrich your spiritual path. Find and make use of nearby spiritual groups or even one practice partner to share your efforts with, read from the teachings of Yoga masters, and/or attend group classes and meditations. Consider creating a checklist to keep track of the goals you establish.
When we reinforce spiritual values in all aspects of life, we begin to experience moments free of limiting beliefs and identities, and see ourselves and our relationship to the world in a fresh way. We begin to feel our connection to each other and all of nature. Over time, a comprehensive practice of this kind will gradually restructure even the subconscious mind. Then we will no longer be compelled by old ideas and fears and can approach life with a sense of deep belonging, inner contentment and wonder.