Sadhana

What is Sadhana?  It’s a committed prayer.  It is something which you want to do, have to do, and which is being done by you. …Sadhana is self-enrichment.  It is not something which is done to please somebody or to gain something.  Sadhana is a personal process in which you bring out your best.  ~Yogi Bhajan

However simple the sadhana is, if you work at it everyday, slowly, step-by-step, it will create a new level of freedom inside you.  ~Sadhguru

*  *  *

The following is a true, raw story about my journey with sadhana.

3:27 am.  Tear soaked pillow.  3 months of sleepless nights and nightmares.  Pieces of my heart jammed in the pit of my stomach, thumping hard enough to choke my breath.  My mind raced out into the astral abyss, only to return with the same thoughts of entrapment and despair, guilt and fear. 

I felt like there was no way out of the emotions I felt.  I was smart enough to know that I put myself in this situation, that I made conscious choices that led me to this place where everything was crumbling down on me now.  I was also smart enough to know that these dark feelings were temporary and that I could choose happiness.  But day in and night out, I only fell deeper into depression and thoughts of happiness and self love were eons away.  Even though I knew better, I just didn’t seem to care.

“List all the things you are grateful for,” I would tell myself everyday.  And sure, I would begin the list with loved ones, recognizing all the amazing people in my life who have relentlessly encouraged and helped me, as well as reflect upon all the adventures I had experienced around the world….

But within minutes I would start to cry again, or even worse, want to lash out in anger toward someone or something.  I felt worthless.  That all I had accomplished meant nothing and that I didn’t deserve to get myself out of this hole; that I should just rot in it.  I was angry at myself.  I didn’t like myself.  And I couldn’t shake it off.  Sure, I pretended I was happy when I was around my friends and family, but inside I was withering away, piece by piece.  Where was the person I was the last 3 years of my life?  Why isn’t she strong enough to get back to where she once was?  I was losing myself fast, and if I didn’t do something soon, I was afraid of what might happen.

“If you want things to change, you have to change.”  These words echoed in my head often during those months, but only as a whisper.  Until one day, however, when I woke up with those words screaming at me.  I was exhausted of living this way and deep down my soul knew it. 

So I came up with a plan.  Since yoga asana has been close to my heart for many years now, and I knew the benefits of the practice, I decided to make it a point to do asana everyday.  In addition, I gave up drinking alcohol and resolved to focus on a vegetarian and vegan diet.

*  *  *

There’s a beach community I frequent where I was going to spend the next 30 or so days, and it was a perfect setting in which to implement my goals.  I had studied under a few disciplined and incredible yoga teachers there in the past, and I knew this would help me stay committed. 

**Let me interject for just a moment—it is truly astounding the ways in which we are continually manifesting our ideas and beliefs.  When we take action toward something we want or believe in, we see signs of it popping up in our lives.  We attract people, opportunities, and resources that help us along our journey.  And this is exactly what began to happen to me…**

My third yoga class back on the beach was with one of my favorite instructors.  He began class by leading us in a call and response chant of the mantra “Hare Krishna, Hare Rama.” I immediately remembered how much I missed chanting, as it is great moment to connect with the divine.  This then led us into our Ashtanga practice and ended with a long Shavasana in which my teacher began to read to us.  Low and behold, guess what the topic was?  Yes.  Indeed.  Sadhana—the art of daily spiritual practice.

It was the first time I heard this word despite all my years of studying yoga.  However, I believe strongly that ideas, books, people, and places come into our lives exactly when we need them to, and this was no different.  Without knowing it, I had begun a tradition of sadhana so that I could re-empower myself.  It was apparent that I was ready to begin this practice, for here was the sign I needed to know that I was on the right path.

For me, sadhana meant that I would preform a daily ritual of some form of yoga (asana, pranayam, mantra and/or meditation), as well as pledge to not drinking alcohol and commit to eating a more raw, plant-based diet.  The goal was to start rewiring old habits from the inside out in order to gain more self-love and more control over my life.

Within 2 weeks I could see small results; I felt stronger in my asana practice, I could retain my exhale longer, I felt lighter and I had more energy.  Little by little, I felt more dignified and content, while those feelings of agitation and depression began to dissipate.

After 33 days of devotion to my sadhana, I was flying high!  When I practiced parivrtta trikonasana (revolved triangle pose), for example, I could finally place my right palm firmly into the ground as opposed to just my fingertips.  In Marichyasaa C, I could actually bind on the right side!  By practicing every single day, I advanced at a faster pace and could literally FEEL my body changing.

After 33 days of devotion to sadhana, I found myself using my pranayam techniques to control my negative emotions. 

After 33 days of devotion to sadhana, I looked leaner and felt cleaner.  The alcohol was beginning to melt away and my muscles began to take its rightful place on my arms, stomach and legs. 

After 33 days of devotion to sadhana, I realized how vivid and memorable my dreams now were.  This was something I did not expect, but I realized right away that I could use my dreams to learn and reflect upon the growth I was making in my daily life. 

Things began to fall into place more effortlessly.  My self-love began radiating out toward others.  I reclaimed my lost creativity.  Opportunities for more self-love, healing and inspiration came my way and I seized them with vigor.  I became more humbled and more grateful.  It became clear how powerful I actually am, for I can modify my old habits, I can redesign my life and I can revive the love and light that lay dormant in my heart any time I want to.  Through fostering a deeper spiritual relationship with myself, I began to further understand how crucial it is that I develop a life of paropakara, or doing good to others.

After 33 days of devotion to sadhana all I can do is marvel at how far I’ve come and how much farther I have to go.  It is a never-ending journey of the self in order to move through this life in the most gracious, virtuous and content way as possible.

I encourage all of you to simply practice one thing, just one thing, every single day, and see how powerful and transformative the ritual of sadhana can be in your lives, too. 

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