Sadhana or spiritual practice refers to any practices that support the sadhaka (spiritual aspirant), in their spiritual evolution.
If you are reading this you may already have a daily spiritual practice or perhaps it’s more of an irregular / occasional practice and maybe you don’t practice at all, but if you are reading this I assume you are interested or at least curious about the possible benefits of having a daily practice.
Benefits of daily practice:
What we do first thing in the morning sets the tone for our day. When we start our day with mindful practices we develop our ability to be present for the rest of our day.
Having a spiritual practice doesn’t mean that unexpected things don’t happen or unwanted situations don`t arise, however we are more likely to be able to breathe deeply and remain calm in the face of adversity.
One of my favourite writers Pema Chodron says something along the lines of ´The best thing we can do for the world and for ourselves is to know ourselves´.
You may think ´Well of course I know myself, I am me!´ and of course, we all know ourselves to some degree, but I can share from experience that I didn’t know myself as well as I assumed I did and I only realised this when I started meditating daily.
Our mind tends to think it knows the absolute truth and we often forget that what we believe is not necessarily true. We also tend to have a biased perception of ourselves. Whether it’s positive or negative it’s rarely the whole picture.
When we start our day bringing our awareness to our thoughts, we will soon discover that there is a wide variety of thoughts appearing and dissolving rapidly, some pleasant, some unpleasant, hopes and fears arising from our subconscious mind for a moment until another one takes it place.
The more we practice sitting with ourselves and observing our thoughts the more we can see ourselves as we are and in the process we can also learn to integrate and love all the parts of our being.
Realising the nature of our ´monkey mind´ as the yogis call it, reminds us that all humans live with a running commentary most of the time, which can help us be more compassionate with ourselves and everyone else.
I believe each sadhaka should create their own sadhana depending on their needs, their level of practice and their preferences, however I also believe that a spiritual practice should include some physical movement, breath and meditation.
Different practices have different benefits (inc. regulating our nervous system and promoting vitality) but they all share a mutual goal: optimise the body and mind in order to enable the harmonious flow of energy through the physical and subtle body to strengthen the connection to the divine (within and without).
From a young age we are taught that daily movement is essential to physical health, however it is only in recent years that I started hearing of a few schools including meditation in their daily activities. Many studies now reveal that daily meditation helps with stress management, depression, insomnia and many other modern woes.
Since the teachings of Yoga consider the mind, the body and the spirit as directly linked, our sadhana should include all 3 and therefore will benefit our overall health.
Ultimately the spiritual path leads us to our own awakening. Although we may not be enlightened after sitting in meditation for 20mins or even 3 hours, we gradually become a little more conscious every day. This does not mean that we don’t have moments of absent mindedness when we meditate daily, but through the practice we strengthen our ability to be present and so we are more likely to notice when our mind has wandered.
Enlightenment or self realisation is simply the remembrance that we are part of the cosmic web of existence or in other words we are everything and everything is us. This is not always easy to perceive in this seemingly separate reality.
The importance of enlightenment is that only then can we tame our insatiable ego who tends to want more even if it means that others have less or none at all. Of course many of us try our best to be conscious about how much we ´take´ but there is still a dramatic disparity in the distribution of wealth Worldwide and I truly believe that the awakening of the majority of the world population is essential to bring back equality and harmony on our beautiful planet.
Now that we’ve looked at a few of the benefits I´ll share a few tips to create a daily spiritual practice.
How to create a Sādhanā
- Be realistic
When creating a Sādhanā it is important to be realistic about how much time you can dedicate to your practice on a daily basis. Instead of committing to a daily 3 hour practice that you know you may not be able to stick to, it may be wiser to commit to a 20 – 30min practice that you are more likely to be able to do.
- Include Body, Mind and Soul
or Movement, breath and meditation
As previously mentioned I believe that each practitioner should create their own spiritual practice, choosing from the multitude of practices that exist And I also think it is important to dedicate time to the different aspects of our being, body, mind and soul.
Now you may ask how to do that. As aforementioned there are many practices to choose from and it is important to create a practice that is holistic and enables you to connect with your body, with your mind and your spirit. We could say that you could achieve all 3 in meditation however I would still recommend having a 3 part practice that includes movement, breath and meditation in no particular order.
The movement can be asana (yoga postures), Tai Chi or any kind of mindful movement. I emphasise the mindful aspect of the movement as this is what helps us feel embodied or present in our body. We can do yoga poses all day but without mindfulness we are not quite practicing yoga.
- Be patient
We are living in interesting times where gratification is fast and easy. All we need to do is grab our phones and we can find endless informative, entertaining, shocking, articles, photos and videos.
This easy access to information that would have once required hours spent in a library looking for specific books and more hours looking through different books for specific sections has created an unrealistic expectation of how easy things should be. As a result many people sit in meditation 5mins and get frustrated that they are not able to control their mind.
I am happy to share, in the hope this can be encouraging for some, that despite meditating daily for the past 8 years I rarely experience mental void longer than a few seconds.
I like telling people this because most people tell me that they are not good at mediation as their mind is too busy.
In The First and Last Freedom Osho recommends that we practice a meditation technique for at least one month before we decide to change techniques.
- Find what you like
There are endless practices you can do and they vary widely but you don’t need to try them all before creating your daily sequence. You can pick from practices you’re already familiar with or you can ask for guidance from a friend and/or guide, you can also use apps and/or youtube to get started though I do recommend moving away from these as soon as you can.
This is an important element of sadhana. The reality is that if we wait until we feel inspired to practice we may practice once or twice a month. The idea is not to go to spirituality when we are feeling desperate but to have a daily practice that supports us in our life.
Trust the practice – Since spiritual practices aim at connecting us to the innermost subtle part of our being our ego can feel threatened and start to sabotage us with the many reasons why we shouldn’t practice. If this happens remind yourself that the practices you are doing are ancient methods which have worked for thousands of years.
Just like with any activity, the more we do it the better we get at it.
Although with spiritual practices we want to be mindful not to get caught in the illusion that we have become more spiritual and are therefore better than anyone. This is sometimes referred to as Spiritual Ego. Nevertheless it is natural for our ability to sit still to improve just as our strength and flexibility evolve as well. Therefore I recommend reviewing your sadhana every 6 months (with the summer and winter solstice for example) asking yourself if it needs to evolve in any way, perhaps lengthening, intensifying or softening the practices depending on what you need and updating them accordingly.
Thank you for reading and thank you for being interested in this topic.
If you would like some support with creating or reviewing your sadhana please feel free to reach out to me. I offer 1 to 1 sessions and am happy to assist you as best as possible.
Love and light to All,