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Faith can take you a long way YSP 1.20

1.20: shraddha virya smriti samadhi prajna purvakah itaresham

For the others, faith engenders energy that reinforces the memory, allowing concentration on wisdom – translation by Bernard Bouanchaud

Others follow a five-fold systematic path of 1) faithful certainty in the path, 2) directing energy towards the practices, 3) repeated memory of the path and the process of stilling the mind, 4) training in deep concentration, and 5) the pursuit of real knowledge, by which the higher samadhi (asamprajnata samadhi) is attained. – translation by Swami J.

In last week’s aphorism, Patanjali was discussing concentration for those who are borne well advanced on the spiritual path. Here’s the recipe for the rest of us. The ingredient list looks something like this:

  1. shraddha – unconditional faith, trust, confidence, belief, certainty.
  2. virya – energy, strength of will
  3. smriti – memory, intentful remembrance, mindfulness
  4. samadhi – deep absorption of meditation
  5. wisdom– not just facts and figures but deep-seated knowledge.

I’ve always said that the practice of yoga is a practice of faith. Sure, there’s’ some immediate benefits of releasing muscle tension and that relaxation bit at then end that’s not to be discounted. But personally, and this is just MY observation, that isn’t what brings people back to the mat day after day after day. That isn’t what keeps yogis practicing even when it feels like no progress is being made.

I think I come back time and again because at some core element of my being, I have faith. I have faith that no matter what is going on, spending a little time on my yoga mat or meditation bench or just breathing, will improve the situation. Now, this faith didn’t develop in a vacuum. It’s there because I have encountered instances in the past when this is exactly what happened. Things were bad, I practiced, they were less bad. Back hurt – hurt less after practice. Hips were annoyingly tight  — noticeably less so after practice.Head buzzing – feels clearer after practice. It didn’t take me long to make the following correlation – small amount of time in yoga practice yields big results. Conclusion: yoga is worth the effort.

My life did not get any less complicated because I studied and practiced yoga. Bills still had to be paid, groceries bought, family raised, and the freaking bathroom does NOT scrub itself. My paid work was just as difficult, just as trying, just as soul-sucking as it had always been. The only thing that changed was ME.

I got better at letting go of the interpersonal conflicts at work. I became more skilled at letting go of the things over which I had no control and stepping up to the responsibility of handling the things that I did. In the AA Serenity prayer, this would be “the wisdom to know the difference”.

The faith I developed from my own experiences gave me the faith to continue the journey. I kept with my practice, good times and bad, because the reward was in the practice itself. Life is still challenging. Arguably, 2010 was one of the most challenging years of my life to date but unlike all the previous times of gut-wrenching crisis, this time I had tools and skills to help me navigate the uncertainty.

Throughout it, and trust me, it’s not anywhere near over, yoga has given me the tools to know that whatever happens, it’s going to be all right. It brings me back to my meditation bench time and time again. The cultivation of mindfulness has been such an important part of recovery. As I still my thoughts, lessen those fluctuations of the mind that Patanjali spoke of way back in YSP 1.2, I feel stronger about my Self.

For the first time in my adult life, I have no clear idea of what the future will hold. And yes, I’ve experienced a great deal of anxiety over that uncertainty. But at the end of the day, it’s all right. Whatever the outcome is, I’m okay, because I’m not my ever-changing body, nor my fluctuating emotions, nor my turbulent thoughts.

This is faith – shraddha. This is why I, and millions of people just like me, practice yoga faithfully and consistently. We do it because the quality of our life depends on the clarity of our minds.

That’s all for this week. I’m off tomorrow for a day long workshop on meditation, which is perfect for me. It’s going to be followed up by an 8 week course on meditation practices. I’m very much looking forward to it.

Talk to you guys next week, Thanks for reading and Namaste,





About Kate MacKay

I'm a certified Viniyoga teacher, in Fredericton, NB. I was a 9-1-1 operator and emergency services dispatcher for 22 years. Surprisingly, the two worked well together, or as I liked to put it, from the sublime to the ridiculous -- all in a day's work. I'm currently off work as a result of a stress-induced cardiac condition that's thrown a few crimps in my lifestyle. I'm not actively teaching yoga in the classroom right now and probably won't for several more months. That said, this blog is one of the forms of practice I can do and I thank you for joining me in this exploration of all things yoga.

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