Friday, 1 February 2019

The Importance of Commitment on the Spiritual Path

Man, is life full of distractions.  I'm reminded of this constantly with my cell phone.  There's something that pops up in my mind and I get on my phone to Google the question, when I notice I have some new emails. I stop to look at those and there's an interesting article I start to read.  A text message pops up and I jump over to it and start chatting.  When I'm done, I put down my phone and it dawns on me I never did look up the question which was the reason I picked up my phone in the first place.  This is just one example of the many distractions in our world and technology, at least for me, has exponentially increased the distraction rate.

Distractions are the obstacles for being able to go inward, sit still, and connect with what is truth.  This is exactly why meditation is a challenge and why practice and commitment to practice is essential. 

Sadhana is the Sanskrit work for daily spiritual practice.  It takes commitment and re-commitment when you do get distracted, which is definitely going to happen.  Commitment is a practice of intention that has to happen daily, even multiple times a day.

When I think of 12-Step programs like AA, NA, Al-anon, the phrases they use over and over are all about helping to commit, re-commit, re-commit, and re-commit.  "Take it one day at a time" means focusing on a lifelong goal can be so overwhelming and hard to grasp, leaving the door open for the mind to distract and go elsewhere, namely relapse back into old patterns that aren't helping us. Many people I have worked with who are overcoming addictions have daily practices to help them recommit to sobriety for that day.  It's much easier to commit to doing something different for a day than for a lifetime.

I like the word 'intention' for the purpose of commitment because, at least for me, it allows the reality that I'm not going to be perfect and that's okay.  I can learn when I falter through distraction and come back to an intention. For example, I used the saying, "I'm 100% responsible for my life" for one year as my intention.  I was not perfect in this at all, but each day I came back to it and I could learn from the times I did blame instead of take responsibility. Then I'd recommit to this intention.  Eventually, it's helped me pause and recognize more and more what is going on inside me when the urge to blame comes up so I can meet it and consciously choose a different path.  This practice alone has helped me immensely on a life intention of living a more peaceful and content life.  It's a practice I continue to use and commit to daily.

From the Yamas and Niyamas, the ethical practices of yoga, one Niyama is focused on the importance of commitment and intentions: Tapas or Self-Discipline.  Tapas literally means "heat." In relation to a spiritual path, it is the self-discipline of staying in the present with life challenges or 'the heat of life,' to burn away our limitations and impurities in order to become closer to the Divine, to Truth.  Deborah Adele, in her book, "The Yamas and Niyamas: Exploring Yoga's Ethical Practice," she writes, "Tapas is the day to day choice to burn non-supportive habits of the body and mind,
choosing to forsake momentary pleasures for future rewards."  This takes commitment and re-commitment.

One other obstacle to keeping commitments comes back to perfectionist thinking, all or nothing thinking, or black and white thinking.  Either we are good or bad, successful or unsuccessful.  This thinking keeps us stuck in old patterns because when we make mistakes, which I guarantee you will do as you are human, we think, "That's it, it's over."  When really this is an opportunity to learn, dust yourself off, recommit and get back on the path of your intention.  Think about learning to walk.  If a child quit after one try, where would it be?  A child tries again and again, starting from just learning to roll over, then to crawl, then to pulling itself up and finally working on taking steps.  It takes, on average, 11 months to do this, with constant, daily practice.

Remind yourself of this when you are trying to change habits. Especially since you not only have to learn a new habit but unlearn an old one.  Be compassionate to yourself!

I'm saying all of this to come back to why committing to a daily Sadhana is so important.  Figure out what this looks like for you and the dive in!  Be prepared to falter, to be distracted and have to recommit.  This is all the normal process of changing and growing. Eventually you will be doing it without much effort because being in this practice is to enjoyable and will be living it!