When I think about strength, I don’t immediately think of a yogi sitting still for hours on end engrossed in peaceful serenity. But what is strength? Is it strength of mind, perseverance, will-power and determination? Do all these strengths of character surpass even the brawn of a bulging bicep. Let us explore.
Perseverance as defined is doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. How many of us have found some difficulty in any area of our yoga practice, whether be it with the yoga asanas or in meditation practice? Whether that difficulty is physical or an emotional struggle or even just our own mental restlessness, we’ve all experienced setbacks in some area of our yoga practice that could cause us to say, “No, not today”.
I asked myself recently, how often I would meditate if it simply was just when I felt like it? The answer came: the only way to have a meditation practice is to do it regularly. Daily efforts create the habit and that is where the will-power and perseverance come in to create that pattern. It’s not always easy and we don’t always feel like it. Just like weight lifting, we continue daily and gradually we build mass and strength in the muscles targeted. In a yoga practice, there are those times where we have to persist through one more down dog we don’t want to do or sit still for another 5 minutes when the body wants to move. But the strength that comes from the dedication of continuing on is real strength and once you cultivate it, no one can take it from you. We all know how it feels to become really good at something. There is an initial confidence that builds upon itself and translates into all other areas of our life. That’s the moment when we can to start relax into it, feel more at ease.
So what are the elements needed in order to create this type of dedication or perseverance? For me, it’s love. Love is the first deciding factor in anything we do. That act of bhakti, or devotion is the dedication to that thing, person, place or thing that you decide will help you. Whether it’s a yoga routine or a partner that you deeply love, you make the commitment. For me, meditation is an act of love, or devotion. It’s a cause and it’s an effect. I meditate because I love God, I love the universe and I love to experience the inner stillness it brings. It’s also an effect because I receive great joy from meditation and a stillness and clarity that I don’t experience from any other place in life.
When I’m busy the first thing I let go is usually the practice but ironically, it’s actually the glue that binds everything together and makes things work. It brings us to the right place at the right time , to say the exact right thing and take the actions we need to make it all effortless. Meditation took years of engrained practice and it took dedication to make it a regular habit. After 15 years, it is now one of the most beneficial areas of my life translating into all other areas. Life is not compartmentalised; every benefit or gain in an area directly affects other key components. When I don’t meditate I find my peace slips away and things take a lot more effort when usually they’re effortless. (People know when I don’t meditate. Let’s just put it that way.)
The second aspect of undertaking any new aspect of life is the determination or steadfastness. The determination comes from the fact that you know that what you are doing greatly benefits you and/or others and you just commit to it. Whether it’s committing to a yoga routine or committing to a partner, all the short term pains are worth going through for the long term gain. Nothing comes easy, there are always initial bumps in the road. Learning a new posture such as crow or headstand at first glance seems so scary and advanced. The initial practice time it takes to make that educated leap is part of the process. Initial discomfort, gradually becomes comfortable and even pleasant. But then suddenly, we may even find ourselves at that point where we’re actually in the pose, suspended in mid air and it’s supported by ourselves — our strength and our determination. We are held in that space as we take the leap.
I know meditation is good for the mind and I’m willing to work that muscle. Just like brushing my teeth, I don’t go out of the house until the mind has entered a place of connection and peace or at least I’ve made the effort to do so.
I had a student comment that just by sitting still for 5 min in meditation he was able to piece together an article he had been meaning to write for some time. This is not uncommon to find this type of inspiration in such a short time. I will say that over 15 years with a meditation practice I have seen many up’s and down’s. There are many times you just don’t want to do it, but you do it anyway and it seems dry and methodical. But the effort and the willingness through the dry spells is part of what defines success. Imagine an Olympic athlete quitting after just a few attempts at his sport, would he be an Olympian? Probably not. Every step counts. There’s a famous yogic saying: “Banat, banat, ban jai!” Translated into “diving, diving, at last there!” Start by taking a step and then continue to build upon every step, deeper and deeper and just like that, one day, you’re there. So keep going, you’re almost there!
Om and many blessings!
“Sun Moon Meditation”, Painting by Clarity West
MEDITATION FOR STILLING THE MIND
To set you up I want you to imagine this:
As we are walking through our everyday life, we are bombarded by massive amounts of information. Just imagine how many billboards, cell phone towers, messages, calls, texts, jeeps, traffic lights are flashing all around us. Now add all your agendas, thoughts, ideas, plans, regrets, hopes, fears for the future. It’s a lot of information to take in. Now imagine you are walking a dog down the street on a leash and he is untrained. He is rushing about pulling you all over the place. How enjoyable is your walk to work going to be? Now imagine you have dog on a leash and he is trained and you are walking calmly down the street with him at your side, focused on what you want to do that day, what calls or deals to close, great inspirations come to you and your mind is peaceful and focused by the time you arrive. How enjoyable would that walk be?
Well imagine now that the Dog is your mind and the leash is your breath. When your breath is calm, and you are focused on it, the mind follows suit. It quiets down and obeys you. Who is the master, you or the mind? When things get hectic or even when you’re simply walking down the street or at the office, pause, take a few breaths and notice where you’re at. Slow it down. Become focused and aware of your surroundings, take (2) deep inhalations and exhalations and affirm: Everything is well. I am well. Now go back to your work day. See what results come just as an effect of this simple yet powerful observation.
by Clarity West
Clarity West is a yoga/meditation student/teacher residing in Metro Manila. Originally from Vancouver, Canada she co-owned a raw vegan restaurant called Eternal Abundance with her partner. She is an avid health foodie and loves to practice what she preaches. On the side she creates art pieces and works with children in the painting arena. She teaches regular meditation classes Sundays in Urban Ashram Manila, click on here to find out her schedule. …. or you can find her on the beach or in Palawan recently at Bahay Kalipay, a raw food healing center.