A Daily Practice in Patience & Self-Acceptance
One of my first encounters with meditation was on my first trip to India. I was spending a few weeks studying yoga at an ashram in Rishikesh. While I have always somewhat enjoyed austerity, I had a hard time making it to the 4 am meditation classes — partly because it was really hard to get out of bed so early in the morning, but mostly because I did not really understand what meditation was about.
It seemed to me that meditation was for monks, gurus and people who liked silence and solitude. What were they doing sitting there with their eyes closed and why was it productive? I was totally fascinated by the yogic sciences I was discovering – the chakras, the yoga asanas, the vivid dreams, learning how the body holds emotions and memories, the notions of karma, destiny and choice – but meditation just didn’t make sense to me, or match what I thought I was.
When I returned to Canada, I established a daily yoga practice and, in my spare time, delved into a self-directed study in ayurveda, mind-body sciences and systems of Eastern spirituality. As I explored these paths and a new way of living, my health improved and, in many instances, I was experiencing a more subtle enjoyment of life. At the same time, life was showing me very clearly — through intensely challenging work situations and relationships — that there were still really out of alignment with what I knew I was capable of. I had a rich inner world, but felt powerless in delivering a clean expression in my day-to-day life.
I realized that I could land exciting career opportunities, have adventures around the world, date handsome men and have really cute outfits, but that these fleeting highs were not really what I was looking for deep down. Tired of the superficial, I wanted to address and heal the deeply ingrained belief systems, compromises and stress-responses which were diminishing the fulsome expression of creativity, fluidity, love and well-being that I felt was possible — that I had tasted several times. It was this time of deep and painful friction which fueled my inward search.
I sought to refine myself further…. But how?
My first steps into the world of meditation came as I encountered friends (and eventually teachers) who would show me– usually through their remarkably serence behaviour, rather than their words — what was possible through a daily self-commitment. I remember meeting a colleague of mine who had a great impact on my development: I told him I was really into yoga. He told me he was really into meditation. We looked at each other sideways and then wondered if we were supposed to be rubbing off on each other somehow.
My daily meditation practice (called sadhana in Sanskrit), has brought an unshakeable force into my self-connecting, serving as a source of renewal, strength and subtle certainty.
What is a Sadhana?
The Sanskrit word ‘sadhana’ means ‘practice’, ‘technique’ or ‘daily discipline’. Sadhanas can take a variety of formats, depending on the tradition or goal. In general, the purpose of sadhana is to bring greater awareness into your life.
Your sadhana or daily practice serves as a platform for establishing a more subtle state of being. Ultimately, it serves the unfoldment of your evolution in consciousness, your higher potential and the recognition of your oneness with all that is.
The Benefits of Daily Practice
There are several benefits to maintaining a daily meditation practice. These benefits vary from the immediate to the more subtle, depending on the nature or purpose of your practice. In general, those beginning to make a commitment to a daily sadhana generally notice:
Improvements in overall health, mood and energy levels
Lower stress-response to challenging situations, including a reduction in anxiety, nervousness, depression, overeating, etc.
- A renewed sense of excitement toward your life
Refinements in intuition and subtle perception
A greater sense of balance and contentment between the inner and outer world
- A lessening of (and ultimate freedom from) limiting belief systems which had been held in the past
I mentioned how resistant I was to learning meditation when I had my first opportunity to do so in India. It is totally natural to encounter resistance in yourself as you establish yourself in a daily practice. Any new habit requires patience, openness and a certain degree of commitment.
I once met a woman who told me that she loved her meditation practice, but confessed: “On some days, I just cannot meditate!”. Her comment had me reflect on my own practice, and on the resistance I have had on days when I feel more dense, strung-out or overwhelmed by life’s challenges.
Resistance can come in many forms, but will generally be experienced as physical discomfort, emotional turbulence (such as a strong frustration toward a certain person or situation) or high levels of mental agitation (such as wanting to clean every corner of your house and iron tomorrow’s clothes and send a few text messages before beginning your practice). Resistance can be caused by several factors, including diet, habits of self-judgment, over-attachment to “doing”, or a fear of going within.
Each time you practice, you first have to come to terms with the state of your interiority — which includes any anger, fear, pain, frustration, self-avoidance and self-condemnation that you have been living.
However unpleasant these experiences may be, a commitment to sadhana requires moving past this turbulence. The peaceful self-acceptance required in sadhana cultivates a deepening of self-love, courage and commitment.
Welcome the Turbulence
Actually, your practice is especially beneficial on the days when there is greater resistance. Resistance or inner agitation in practice is just an indication that we are letting go of something, that stresses are being released or that a long-held pattern is moving out of our system. I promise you that if you can pass through this reaction with patience and kindness, without self-judgment and without abandoning your sadhana, it will quickly pass. More importantly, you will notice after the storm that you have grown in ways that you did not expect.
Welcoming any inner turbulence eases your progression into a higher frequency and a new way of being. So muster up the sweetest smile you can in front of your inner storm, accepting any seemingly imperfect releases (anger, anxieties, repeat thought patterns) in this process. You are not what you experience.
Quietness of Commitment
Imagine a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being your worst possible state (ignorance, darkness, anger, sadness) and 10 being your personal best. Your meditation practice will always move you, let’s say, 1 or 2 notches up the scale. So it doesn’t matter if you are feeling like a level 2 or a level 8 on any given day. What is most important is that you continue on a daily basis to come back to your inner landscape and accept whatever your daily rating is with loving commitment. It’s like climbing a mountain: one minute you are wondering if you can endure any more of the climb, and the next you have a beautiful view from above.
Your sadhana is the most powerful tool you have to accelerate and support your spiritual growth. Through committed practice, we can slowly watch bad habits drop away, and become more of our real self. Sadhana brings clarity and radiance to our individual expression, across the entire spectrum of roles we choose to fulfill. From the higher state, we can act in direct alignment with our purpose, and naturally serve as a force of solidity for others. This is the gentle way to inner peace, and self-fulfillment.