I have written before about parinama and life is full of changes that we need to deal with. I need to remind myself again and again how practice (Abhyasa) can affect my reaction to changes since there is a tremendous shift in consciousness when we practice yoga and meditation. With practice (Abhyasa), attention prevails and our pose is serene, our breathing is quiet and we are absorbed in our practice. So practice, practice and all is coming.. I always remember to bring these teachings to my everyday life. I can see clearly that when I don’t practice I’m in a state of distraction where my breath is irregular and my actions unbalanced. Taking some time to self reflect (svadharma) in every situation that arises, I can easier bring myself back to what balances all my body and mental functions. I suppose that at some point this should happen automatically without having to remind myself what is good for me. But hey….the road to true liberation is hard.!
Talking about Abhyasa here is this wonderful metaphorical story to reflect upon…
Some time passed, and the Vrittis (movement of the mind) continued to give Purusha (true nature) a new form each night. As he couldn’t think of any way to block them, he realised that he had to seek somebody’s advice about it. So eventually he decided to go and see one of the angels of God, and ask him for advice, as he didn’t want to disturb God himself. The angel listened to his story, and then said:
-You can’t change the vrittis; they will always have the same power. So you have to change yourself- you must become strong, so that they can’t form you into anything. In this way you can realise your true nature.
-Oh, said Purusha. How can I make myself strong?
-There are just two ways to do that, said the angel. The first way is called abhyasa, and the second way is called vairagya. So you should practice them both to get rid of the vrittis.
-But what do they mean? asked Purusha. Could you please tell me first about the way of abhyasa, so that I may understand it better?
-Abhyasa is the way of repeated practice, said the angel. The practice could be karma yoga or bhakti yoga or any other type of sadhana, depending on which practice suits you best. Repeated practice is necessary to destroy the vrittis.
-I still don’t understand abhyasa fully, said Purusha. Could you please tell me something more about it?
-Actually, said the angel, I am going to tell you a story about abhyasa. It happened once that God gave a gardener a small seed, called sadhana, which he was to plant and take care of until it would bear flowers. The gardener took the seed home, selected an auspicious spot in the garden and planted it very carefully, because God had told him that it was necessary for the seed to be firmly grounded. Then he waited, but nothing seemed to happen to the seed. He waited two days, three days, four days, but nothing happened. So, on the fifth day he dug the seed up to see if something was wrong with it. But no, it looked perfect. So he put the seed back in the soil again and waited for two days more. Nothing happened, so he dug the seed up again to look at it. Nothing seemed to be wrong with it, so he put the seed back again. This went on for a few weeks; every second or every third day, he dug up the seed to see if it looked all right. But it never seemed to take root.
After three months he couldn’t stand it any longer, so he went to God and explained that something must be wrong with the seed, as it didn’t root properly.
-It is impossible for it to grow as long as you dig it up two or three times a week, said God, you must let it grow without interruption. You must be patient enough to give it the time it needs to grow. It may take a long, long time- just be patient, it will flower sooner or later.
The gardener thanked him and went back to his seed. He went on watering and taking care of the seed, but without disturbing it. After some time it really did start to grow. At first the gardener was very excited over his little plant, but as time went on his enthusiasm began to fade away. The growth of the plant seemed to be so slow, and sometimes he thought it looked so ugly as if it never would bear any flowers. Could it be that God had cheated him- would his sadhana-plant never bear flowers? Was it maybe just a weed he had been given?
As his love for the plant and his faith in its eventual flowering disappeared, the plant seemed to stop growing completely. So after a while, the gardener went to God again, to ask what was wrong.
-Do you think the plant can grow when you don’t believe in it? said God. Do you think it can grow when you don’t love it? Do you think it will ever flower if you don’t have faith in it? So have faith and love your sadhana.
The gardener thanked him, went home and started taking care of the plant, again believing in the flower to come. And, as the plant felt his faith and love, it started growing again, with an amazing speed.
And one day, it gave birth to the most beautiful flower of samadhi.