Sustaining Practice When Life Gets in the Way
Let’s face it, we all get “life-d” at some point. You know exactly what I’m talking about. You leave your yoga class or finish a spiritual book and feel like you can conquer the world, and then boom! Your car gets rear ended, the kids get sick, work gets crazy, and you feel like you’ve lost every bit of spiritual progress you’ve ever made. The good news is you haven’t, and today’s blog is all about staying connected to your spiritual knowledge, even when you feel like you’re a lost cause.
1. Stay In The Room
While hot yoga is not my personal yogic path, I appreciate one bit of wisdom it offers its students. Stay in the room! This is a valuable metaphor for life.
During those difficult times when you feel your routine is off and you’re not aligned with your spiritual path it is crucial not to get too down on yourself. Mentally stay in the room. Remind yourself to take take a small step and do your spiritual work today, even if it is just five minutes of meditation, prayer, or one sun salutation. It might not feel like much at the time, but it will act as a sign post as you make your way back to your best, most devoted self. You are still on your spiritual journey and can reconnect whenever you choose. Slowly increase the time and effort you are putting into your scheduled practices every day. Don’t let how long you have been away from doing your full routine intimidate you. The first day back is the hardest, so just do it, no matter how small.
These small steps are crucial for your mindset as well. EVERYTHING feels more intense when we don’t know what to do next. If you’ve been off the wagon for a while, you might not know where to begin. So start small and remind yourself you are still in the room.
2. Fake It ‘Til You Make It.
Let’s not sugarcoat it. Those first few sun salutations might be brutal after an absence. Your heart might not be in it, especially if you are currently dealing with some major life circumstances. Maybe a relative has fallen ill, your child is having trouble in school, or taxes drained you financially. During your first few attempts at practice your mind might be everywhere but your mat. You might wish you were doing something else altogether. Just do it anyway and know it will become organic again in time. You will be shocked how quickly both your body and mind dive back into their great capabilities. If you have to fake your enthusiasm at first, go ahead. It won’t be long until you are eager to resume your daily practice.
3. Practice Is Cumulative
The energy we put into our spiritual practice over time adds up and the benefits we receive are cumulative. This is a crucial point because it is easy to write off our efforts as “too small” or “not enough”. This is especially true when your mind keeps wandering to how great you were doing before you fell off the wagon and how your current state is nowhere near what you want to be. Sound familiar?
Think of you spiritual practice as a spiritual bank account. Every day when you get on your mat or meditation cushion you are making a deposit into your bank account where it grows and compounds over time. This provides stability and security in your life. Just as you do with your checking account, withdrawals from your spiritual bank account are expected. Anyone who has ever had a new baby knows you might go a few months or years without making regular deposits into your spiritual bank account. The same is true if you are caring for a sick relative or on a family vacation with limited time to yourself. It is easy to lose track of your spiritual path entirely during times like these. But you don’t have to! Stay in the room and be mindful of every deposit and withdrawal you make. Make the smallest deposits you can into your spiritual bank account every day. It’s ALWAYS worth it. Would you tell yourself or your child not to deposit $10 because it is “too small” an amount? Of course not! Money is money! Our spiritual deposits work the same way. When you have to make a withdrawal it’s all right. It’s all about keeping a positive balance.
Just as you can’t expect to go into overdraft and still pay your bills, neither can you neglect your spiritual bank account for long and expect to move through life with any semblance of joy, peace, or clarity. POSITIVE BALANCE!
4. Put Your Big Deposits On The Calendar
One of the reasons I make an annual pilgrimage to India is because I know it will fill my spiritual bank account and sustain me for a long period of time. When I return home, my levels of discipline and inspiration are overflowing. I never have trouble making time to get on the mat. I do it with love.
It works the other way too. My daily practice at home becomes even more focused and disciplined when I know I am approaching time with my guru, Sharath Jois. I want it to be abundantly clear to him I have put in the daily work. So, having this incredibly valuable deposit to my spiritual bank account in my calendar sustains me both before and after the trip occurs. It never just affects me for one month. It inspires me for several months of the year.
This concept is exactly why leading yoga retreats is a huge passion of mine. I recognize not everyone is ready to go to India for a month at a time, but anyone CAN make the choice to replenish their energy and inspiration. This is why I lead local, one day retreats in addition to exotic trips abroad. It need not be expensive or grand but it does need to happen. When was the last time you took the time to refill your cup?
Having spent time in India with yoga students from all over the world I can say with 100% certainty that Americans do not take enough time to feed their souls and replenish. This is not the same thing as going on vacation, sipping umbrella drinks on the beach, or running around with your kids from morning until night. Those things aren’t wrong, but they won’t feed your soul in the same way. Many people don’t even make the time to read a book at night, for fear of missing yet another important work email or PTA responsibility. Sometimes when we finally do have the chance to rejuvenate, we are so depleted that we don’t even look forward to or make the most of it. Burnout is now a badge of honor worn in our country and it’s not cool. Can you tell I’m passionate about this topic?
So if you’ve been pondering taking yourself on a spiritual retreat, even if it is for one day, put in your calendar and get the ball rolling. It might feel scary. You might be afraid everyone else in your life will resent you for it. Truthfully, they might at first…..until you come home stronger than ever, both physically and mentally. Remember, it doesn’t have to be huge. Make it official and go for it. Remember, a real growing experience should be at least a little bit uncomfortable at first. If it is comfortable it won’t teach you much. It’s your time! It doesn’t matter if you show up burnt out or show up inspired and ready for action. Just show up.
Now, just for kicks, imagine how much more you would get out of your big deposit to your spiritual bank account if you went into the event balanced, centered, and having done your prep work? How deeply could you progress on your spiritual path if you weren’t making up for lost ground? How much closer would you be to realizing your fullest potential? There’s only one way to find out.
5. Build Your Support Team
Let’s face it, when looking for help sustain your practice, your grandparents and college friends who have no idea what your spiritual path means to you are probably not your target audience. You need a mastermind group of other like-minded individuals who can help you move through obstacles and support you as your spiritual path ebbs and flows.
You can find or make one easily, too. Have a live or virtual meeting over tea with your yoga accountability buddies once per month. Chat about all your challenges and push each other to solve them AND take the next step in your growth. No complainers allowed. Master mind buddies will not smile and nod when you give a litany of excuses for being unable to grow. They will lovingly help you and challenge you to go deeper and support you as you do.
Don’t know anyone? My upcoming online on the philosophy course has an amazing group of people who are there to support each other as they learn and grow. The group also has full access to me for support, no matter where they live or how far they are into their journey. If this resonates with you, click here to be part of this incredible community.
Remember, stay in the room! Fake it until you make it! Ask for support! It’s never too late to take the next step.