When one only has knowledge, one speaks. When one gains wisdom, one acts. Having a practice for yourself comes into your life when you see that the lifestyle of seeking the truth and your higher purpose is a priority over anything else. The “else” in question usually refers to external gains that have proven to not be able to provide lasting happiness or peace. Nothing is ever enough when seeking material or external success like wealth, fame, power, family, career, etc. If you analyze this carefully you’ll see the truth in it, even if it’s a hard pill to swallow. And if you already have realized this truth, then you likely have found a practice for yourself that keeps you seeing the essential versus the nonessential. If you haven’t found a practice yet, then you might be feeling frustration in what seems like an endless vicious cycle of filling a void and running after the externals to find comfort, only to realize quickly that there’s no substance in that external. The void is only felt because we lack insight and wisdom of our essential nature and true Self.
This is the point when a little yet powerful light bulb has to turn on in you driving you to want to seek out this true nature. If you don’t have this little light, you won’t find a practice. This light might come from experiencing glimpses of the benefits such as peace and feeling grounded, or you trust the teachings of the ancient sages who have walked this path before you. It’s important to note that yoga never teaches us to trust blindly. Instead, it teaches us to question what we are learning. So, if you’ve chosen to follow the path of ancient sages, you have to put their advice to practice and have find logic and truth in their wisdom. Through assessment and reflection, you understand this is the best way for you.
Having a consistent spiritual practice is similar to this. The teachings in the Bhagavad Gita urge the seeker to study and reflect within the sattvik hours of 4am and 6am. This can seem preposterous for those who love the snooze button and the comfort of their bed. However, the suggestion seems reasonable for those who see that the external comforts only provide temporary relief and that reflecting upon the teachings can help them become wiser, which leads lasting happiness.
And this is what I finally realized during my last trip to India to visit my guru, Swami Parthasarathy. I had been trying to study for a few years without applying this basic principle and studying whenever I woke up in the morning. I saw some benefits but, something told me I needed a new perspective. My trip to India came at a pivotal time when I was completely depleted and drained from life responsibilities. Between healing from my own injuries, taking care of my husband’s injuries caused by a bad ski accident, plus so many other “fun” life situations that came at once, I had lost myself. I went to India knowing that a change had to happen. And that’s exactly what I got.
How I Found My Practice
The Vedanta Academy near Pune, India provided the perfect schedule and setup for me to be able find a reset button to all the hustle and bustle of my entrepreneurial life. It exemplified what was essential versus what was nonessential. All the extra drama we carry gets dropped off as we see how we complicated we can make our lives. What is essential is seeking a higher ideal. What is nonessential is getting wrapped up in everyone else’s drama and opinions of yourself. What is essential is choosing the right priorities to help you along your path to self-development and eventual self-realization. What is nonessential is attaching yourself to the material and depending on that for your happiness. The list goes on and on.
The way to know what is essential is by developing your intellect. The intellect is your ability to be objective, to reason, be rational, and think for yourself. This differs with your mind, which is described in the Bhagavad Gita as the house of your emotions, preferences, and desires. The mind can be strong and ends up controlling you and your impulses. Any addictions you have are an indication that your mind has taken over. If you are able to control your mind’s impulses, then that means your intellect has picked up its head and you’ve strengthened your intellect. In addition, the intellect will help you decipher between which choices will help you move closer to your true Self and which will take you further away from it.
Establishing Your Space
One decision that my intellect made sure I made upon returning to California from India was to establish my study space in my house immediately. I sectioned off my low study table so I was seated on the floor while studying to strengthen my back and open my hips. I already had my sitting cushion but, I needed some more items to help me stay focused at 5am in the morning. I got a desk lamp with the right kind of lighting that was conducive to early morning light, a floor seat with a back rest on it, a dharma wheel for stretching my back muscles, and a book seat which holds my book in place while reading.
My Daily Practice
My practice consists of setting up my space the night before. This meant that my computer, notebook, pen, pencil, and Bhagavad Gita were already in place so I would have to do the least amount of extra work in the morning. All I have to do is wake up, brush my teeth, walk downstairs, and hit play on my e-learning video and begin my studying. I study for an hour and then go about my day. The rest of my practice includes the physical practice of yoga, additional exercises for my injuries prescribed by my physical therapist, and breakfast. Then my workday begins. I go about my day observing the lessons I learned that morning, applying and embedding them the best I can. Around 9pm, I start to wind down and prepare myself for bed. Ideally within the hour, right before bed, I end the day with introspection. Introspection involves doing a play-by-play of my day from waking up to the moment right before starting introspection. I recall every action I took without adding analysis or judgments. I do screen shots of my actions of the day in my head in chronological order. This practice is used to bring to light the amount of intellect one already has. Everyone already has a certain amount of intellect even if they aren’t using it. This exercise of introspection allows one to start using the intellect one has. This differs from the reasoning behind why we study in the morning. We study in the morning to develop more intellect. The way to develop your intellect is to be able to reflect on your studies, which includes questioning everything you’ve learned and also not taking anything for granted.
A practice needs consistency and commitment. This means focusing on one practice at a time. If you try a little of this and a little of that, it can be difficult to gain momentum and strength in any direction. It can be helpful to fixate your attention on one practice. Make sure to do your due diligence in finding the right teacher that you feel comfortable with by considering their instruction style, personality, and style of yoga they teach. Question them and make sure they are logical and help you make choices that make you walk towards your true Self and not the other way around. If you’re a jack-of-all-trades, you’re a master of nothing. Commit to one thing and keep building little by little. A car driving at night uses headlights to get to their destination many miles away even if the headlights only illuminate a few yards in front of them. Similarly, your practice may illuminate only a few moments of your day, but eventually you’ll get to your destination.