Developing a Grounded Practice

By Rudra Shivananda

Thanksgiving is a day to recognize all that we have to be thankful for. We give thanks to family and friends for their continuous support and to our various teachers for all that we have learned.

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It is an opportune time to consider the gift of a spiritual practice that we may have been graced with by any spiritual teacher. Many sages have declared that a life is only worthwhile if one has had the good karma to be put on the path of spiritual evolution through the teachings of a true teacher.

The best thanks that any teacher can ask for is that his students can actualize his teachings. For spiritual instructions, an effective or firmly grounded practice called a sadhana is necessary to achieve the goals for higher consciousness.

How then to develop such a practice? According to Patanjali, “a practice has a firm ground when attended to for a long time, without interruption and with devotion to the truth.”

First, it is taken for granted that success in a spiritual practice will require a significant amount of time – how long it takes can vary due to the intensity of individual effort as well as the individual karmic problems that need to be cleared. We do not start at the same spot like in a race – everyone starts at a different state and some will reach their goal sooner while others will reach a little later and therefore we need to give up any expectations of success within a set time-frame. We tend to get bored and lose interest when we have to do something over and over again for years – this is a great obstacle that has to be overcome. Remember that success may come in little steps or may
come in large jumps depending on the type of path and amount of blockages.

Second, there needs to be continuity in the sadhana. A regular practice is more effective than one characterized by stoppages and intensive effort of short duration. Imagine what kind of result you would get by brushing your teeth every 7 days instead of every day. Even fifteen minutes or half an hour once every day is better than two or three hours of practice sporadically.

Finally, we need to be convinced that the practice can give the results desired – this is what is meant by being devoted to the truth. Before we start the sadhana, we need to have a basis for the faith that the practice actually will work – this comes from the given lineage of previous successful practitioners on the same path and from the example of the teacher as well. Without a foundation for the faith, it would be difficult to persevere for the many years of regular effort required.

Let us keep the words of Patanjali in mind as we give thanks for the spiritual grace that we have received, that we may keep alive the flame of sadhana within us during these difficult times.

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