Spiritual Journey

At the beginning of the new year I made a commitment to daily yoga practice and meditation. Like an excited new student eager to learn, I dove in the uncharted waters of Buddhism with the hope that this spiritual journey would help answer all of life’s mysteries.

It went well for a while, but soon my devotion drifted as the snowy weather transformed to sunny skies, and distraction got the best of me. Daily practice turned into three times a week. I let myself get lost, but if I have not yet found my compass, I may at least know which direction to look for it.

I’m meditating again. I’m training my mind to be still. This isn’t easy, but it wasn’t meant to be. To help me from losing my way, I recite my favorite verses taught by the Buddha.

“Don’t try to build your happiness on the unhappiness of others. You will be enmeshed in a net of hatred.”

“Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Joy follows a pure thought like a shadow that never leaves.”

“As an archer aims an arrow, the wise ail their restless thoughts, hard to aim, hard to restrain.”

“A trained mind brings health and happiness. The wise can direct their thoughts…wherever they choose.”

“Do not give attention to what others do or fail to do; give it to what you do or fail to do.”

“One who conquers himself is greater than another who conquers a thousand times a thousand men on the battlefield.”

“Be victorious over yourself and not over others. When you attain victory over yourself, not even the gods can turn it into defeat.”

“Wake up! Don’t be lazy. Follow the right path, avoid the wrong. You will be happy here as well as hereafter.”

“Give up anger, give up pride, and free yourself from worldly bondage. No sorrow can befall those who never try to possess people and things as their own.”

“Refrain from evil deeds, which cause suffering later. Perform good deeds, which can cause no suffering.”

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Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Just Try

I’ve been practicing yoga consistently for two years and each pose gets a little easier after months of repetition. Standing forward-bends used to strain my back, and even with my knees bent, my fingertips barely brushed the ground.

But after years of practice, standing forward-bends are one my favorite asanas. I can lay the palms of my hands flat against the floor, with straight legs, and the sensation that runs through my body is no longer straining, but rather soothing and relaxing.

It took time to get here, and even after two years of practice, six to seven days a week, I still have to do the modified version of many of the poses. I’m not yet strong enough to carry the weight of my entire body on my hands — but I will be — with more practice.

Aside from practicing yoga daily, I also meditate, and study and learn from books how I can deepen the spiritual impact yoga has had on my body and mind. I have altered my eating habits to fit a more compassionate diet because plant-based foods complement yoga better than any other diet.

Yoga has become such an integral part of my life, I was not surprised when I woke up this morning having dreamed of doing yoga.

In my dream, I was sitting on the floor with my legs spread apart. A man, who I assume was my teacher, sat across from me.

“Fold your body over your leg,” he said.

I lowered my body over my leg until my forehead rested effortlessly against my thigh, and my arms stretched forward and my hands bound evenly around my foot.

“I didn’t know I could do that,” I said to my teacher.

“That’s because you never tried.”

I opened my eyes this morning to the most powerful dream I have ever dreamed.

Just Try.

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Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net