IGNITE: Five Core Attitudes and goals of a Yoga Practice

‘Fire’ by Jo Prendegast

My word for March is Ignite.

What are you igniting this month? What fire is burning in your soul that wants to be expressed? How does it want to be expressed? What form does it want to take? What poem is being whispered deep into your heart to find expression in your life?

When I think about the word IGNITE what comes to mind is a bright fire that starts as a small flame, and when fed, slowly grows into a large bonfire.

I have noticed lately a tendency of mine to get excited about things and start projects and ideas, without the following through with ongoing work and persistence. This means things start out exciting but don’t necessarily develop into something.

So in response what I must do is be more careful about what I am starting. And usually the way I do this is through investigating my motives. Why am I igniting this particular idea? What is the energy behind the ignition?

Is the energy coming from a place of love and expansion or fear and contraction? Is it coming from a mentality of abundance or a mentality of scarcity? Is it growing from a place of fullness or from a place of grasping emptiness? What will the purpose of the tree be once the seed of the idea is sown and grows?

I believe that a part of my pattern of starting things and not following through stems from a lack of faith. In order to really be able to follow through with my projects, I need to have strong faith that I am on the right path and that the projects will grow. I need to develop more trust throughout the process so that I can continue working each day towards the realisation of the project. And then I need to cultivate and nurture the energy required to complete the project.

This corresponds to the Patanjali yoga sutras 1.20 which state that in order to reach Samadhi (the highest form of concentrated meditation and the goal of yoga), aspirants need to cultivate these five core attitudes and goals.

The five efforts to cultivate (1.20) are:

  • Shraddha: Developing the faith that you are going in the right direction
  • Virya: Committing the energy to go there
  • Smriti: Cultivating memory and mindfulness
  • Samadhi: Seeking the states of samadhi
  • Prajna: Pursuing the higher wisdom

In an asana or a pranayama practice, it is easy to see how essential these five efforts are to a successful and satisfying practice. Without Shraddha or faith we would not even get on the mat. We need to really believe and know in our hearts that this path is valuable, that this path will take us where we want to go, and that it is right and correct for us.

Without Virya we would easily succumb to one of the obstacles like sloth, dullness, cravings, doubt or negligence. Whether it is a regular yoga practice, or a project, or a relationship, you need to be committed in order for this to come to fruition. In order to receive the fruits of your practice, your project or your relationship, you need to be all in. This then gives you the energy you need to continue each day.

Without Smriti, the cultivation of mindfulness and memory (what was the practice like yesterday?), we would not be able to reach the state of Samadhi and thus would not be able to access the higher wisdom of Prajna.

Samadhi is the state of intense absorbtion and one-pointed focus that is reached through a deep and committed practice. This is the state in which you realise freedom in the mind through this concentration. I find that a concentrated practice of making art is another path to the state of Samadhi.

The sutra that follows this one then talks about nine ways to practice according to different intensity levels brought to the practice. From mild, to medium to intense levels of practice and mild, medium and intense levels of conviction. To progress along the path you need a both a conviction that you are on the correct path and a regular practice. And depending on your life circumstances, you may be practicing at any one of the different levels. But just because you may be dedicating many hours a day (a high level of intensity) to practice, this may not correspond to progress on the path towards Samadhi if you level of conviction (faith) is only mild.

I started on the path of yoga because I discovered that all of my conflicts came from inside of me. And I saw clearly that all of the conflicts out in the world are outer manifestations of the inner conflict that goes on daily inside of us. From there was born my conviction to dedicate myself to the practices of yoga and meditation, with the intention of liberating myself from suffering and cultivating inner peace. I wanted to end the war inside. My conviction is still strong.

And I realise that I need to bring this conviction more to the forefront of my life in all of my endeavours. As one of my yoga teachers, David Lurey used to say: how you do anything, is how you do everything.

So if you want to change a pattern that you have, you can just choose to focus on one particular sphere of activity, and with a microscopic focus you will be able to see dissect the pattern from its conception (where and when did this one start in your life?) through to its growth (what fuels this pattern?) and see its results in your life (what are the outcomes?). With my particular pattern, I see the outcomes are that because my energy is too spread out and I start too many things, I end up losing focus on what’s really important to me.

Remember to always bring strong compassion into the situation whenever you are investigating patterns. While the energy of IGNITE (for starting things) is firey, the energy of giving space is the mysterious element ether. We need to provide a big wide space of love and compassion to our pattern so that we then release judgements that might be holding it in place.

What are you igniting this month? How do you maintain the fires burning when your energy wanes for your projects? What is it that motivates the lighting of fires under your own projects?

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