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Yoga’s Dedication to Discipline

by: Kathleen Flanagan

Previously, dedication and discipline were two things I shied away from. In the past I had serious commitment issues. My history will show that I haven’t been the best at long-term relationships. Finishing what I start hasn’t been my forte. I’ve been flitting between jobs for years. I don’t follow recipes, I can’t pick favorites and I have an uncanny desire to move the moment I feel settled in one place. I’ve been writing a book for ten years and it has mutated into an entirely new piece of work every 3. I can’t seem to get to the end of things because I get distracted and bored in the middle of them.

I love yoga. I loved yoga the moment we met. It took me 8 years to commit to my first teacher training but I. Am. Hooked. I have not gotten bored with yoga. Although, I can’t say I haven’t gotten distracted. And happily, there is no end in sight – simply because there is no end.

Somewhere along the line, I started wondering, why? What’s this for? What’s this about – this Yoga?

If you’re following Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and the 8 limbs of Ashtanga yoga then you might say that the Yoga’s about the Yamas and the Niyamas that get you to the Asana and then the Pranayama and after sensory withdrawal and concentration we move toward the meditation and we do it all because we want to reach Samadhi. Enlightenment.

Or do we?

Or do I, I should say? I don’t know the answer. You see. I’m not a religious person. I know yoga’s not a religion, but the deeper I got the more I thought – yes it is. And I’ve never been a person in search of God. In fact, I have actively resisted the search for whoever that is.

The other morning I was Aum-ing and I thought if someone walked in right now they’d wonder: what kind of religion is this? Following that came the realization that the whole practice I have decided to dedicate myself to is about becoming one with God or rather, the Universal Consciousness or One with the Truth.

Which made me feel both excited and nauseous.

I don’t know God, nor have an idea of who that is. I do however, chant to Ganesh and believe that the purification mantra can shift the vibration of things to the same frequency. I do believe that chanting Om Namah Shivaya will help me through a dissolution phase and I do believe in celebrating Navaratri.

I recently returned from Guatemala on a Journey to Self (teacher training with William Duprey) and I found my Sadhana. I recognize that this is my Life Work, so I do my sadhana. I devote to it every morning, without fail – for the most part. From start to finish it’s about an hour and a half. Some days I love it, for stirring up all kinds of questions – questions that also happen to answer themselves once I figured out what to listen for. Sometimes it feels so good and my body moves more easily, which makes me feel accomplished for having been so present. Occasionally, I drop into meditation more easily and feel more peaceful because I have spent less time caught up in distractions. Other days, it’s a distraction in and of itself. I resist the practice and I’m aggravated throughout its entirety.

But this is Yoga. Finding Balance. In the middle of distractions or clarity – knowing that you’re doing the work instead of avoiding it. This is Tapas. Maybe I don’t need to climb the ladder of limbs of Ashtanga yoga to find my way toward spiritual fulfillment. Maybe I’m already here, having worked my way through them only to fall down to the second rung again. I’ve decided to hang here on tapas for however long it feels this good because self-discipline is an aid to spiritual progress.

Having commitment issues is my old story. I want to make progress, pick favorites and sink in. Bored no more in the middle of making progress, I want to finish sentences, paragraphs and chapters. After all, the end of one thing means the beginning of the next.