Yoga practice is like an obstacle race; many obstructions are purposely put on the way for us to pass through.
They are there to make us understand and express our own capacities.
We all have that strength, but we don’t seem to know it.
We seem to need to be challenged and tested in order to understand our own capacities.
In fact, that is a natural law.
If a river just flows easily, the water in the river does not express its power.
But once you put an obstacle to the flow by constructing a dam, then you can see its strength in the form of tremendous electrical power.
– Swami Satchidananda, yogic teacher & translator/ commentator of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
It’s easy to get stuck in a loop repeating the same, often automatic patterns, habits, choices, and reactions over and over.
We’ve all been there at one point or another.
This often happens on an unconscious level, which makes it even more frustrating because it can feel like things are completely out of our control.
These patterns become our blind spots, our weakest and darkest areas where light hasn’t shined through yet.
What’s worse, some blind spots are so hidden from our own awareness, we’re don’t even know we’re being impacted by them.
Repeating these patterns leads to having the same uncomfortable, painful, and frustrating experiences, even if the details of the circumstances change form.
Having the same experiences leads to looping the same heavy emotions such as frustration, anger, anxiety, irritation, hopelessness, fear, regret, and disappointment.
This can lead to a downward spiral where insecurity and self-doubt rise as confidence and self-belief decline.
You Are A Bodhisattva Warrior Facing An Invisible Battle
If you’re reading this it’s because you’re a Bodhisattva Warrior facing an invisible battle every day of your life.
The Bodhisattva is one who awakens with an understanding of what is necessary to liberate from mental and emotional imprisonment and limitations.
Bodhi means awakening and understanding, and sattva is the quality of calm balance.
As the Bodhisattva Warrior, your mission involves three objectives:
- To awaken self-understanding and insight
- To learn and embody the quality of calm balance regardless of outer circumstances
- To grow inner strength and resolve
If you struggle with chronic stress, anxiety, or depression, the battlefield has more obstacles and obstructions for you, which means that the potential victory can be that much more triumphant.
This is the Invisible Battle:
- Facing your automatic and disempowering patterns, habits, choices, and reactions every day.
- Going inward and confronting your blind spots head on so you cast light on the dark forgotten or disowned corners of your inner being.
- Utilizing discomfort, pain, and frustration as a vehicle for transformation and mental/emotional purification.
- Finding the courage to honor, embody, and authentically live your Truth.
Break Outdated Patterns With These 3 Raja Yoga Principles
Accepting pain as help for purification, self-study, and surrender to a higher power constitute yoga in practice.
– Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Sutra 2.1
Raja Yoga is referred to as ‘Royal Yoga’ because it is considered the highest form of yogic practice.
It is also known as ‘the science of the mind’ or ‘mental yoga‘ because it goes way beyond the typical kind of yoga we’re accustomed to. (The one that’s focused on the physical body and the poses.)
The primary text of Raja Yoga is called the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
This ancient text outlines the 8 Limbed Path of Raja Yoga via 196 Sutras, or ‘sutures’ of timeless wisdom intended to aid you on your journey as the Bodhisattva Warrior facing the Internal Battle.
The Sutra mentioned above, Sutra 2.1, is of particular importance as it outlines 3 specific yogic principles that can help minimize the obstacles in your path.
These three principles will help you break free from patterns that don’t serve you anymore, so you don’t keep recreating the same uncomfortable, painful, and frustrating experiences again and again.
- Tapas – self-discipline, and purification through the fire of challenge
- Svadhyaya – self-study
- Ishvara Pranidhana – surrender to a higher power with devotion and dedication
These three form part of the second limb of Raja Yoga, the Niyamas (personal disciplines or training.)
Let’s look at each one…
Tapas means ‘to burn or create heat.’
Anything burned out will be purified…
But how can this burning process be effected with our mental impurities?
By accepting all the pain that comes to us, even though the nature of the mind is to run after pleasure.
We will actually be happy to receive pain if we keep in mind its purifying effects.
– Swami Satchidananda, yogic teacher & translator/ commentator of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
By practicing Tapas, you courageously feel the burn and allow it to transform you from the inside out.
You override your knee-jerk impulses to avoid pain and seek pleasure.
You learn to endure pain, discomfort, and frustration as a means of purification and transformation.
It is through the pain that you’ll learn more about who you really are and what you’re really made of.
By observing this principle, you train yourself to be more resilient, more present, and more fierce in the face of obstacles and challenges.
So next time you catch yourself wincing and shying away from what hurts or feels uncomfortable or confronting, stay there… stay with it.
And by practicing the next principle along with Tapas, you’ll be able to learn more about yourself because of it…
‘Sva’ means self, and ‘adhyaya’ means study or education.
Education is the drawing out of the best that is within a person.
Svadhyaya, therefore, is the education of the self.
The person practicing svadhyaya reads his own book of life, at the same time that he writes and revises it.
– B.K.S. Iyengar, Yoga Teacher & Author of “Light on Yoga”
The 8th limb of Raja Yoga, the end goal of this yogic warrior training system, is Samadhi.
Samadhi represents the moment you unite with your whole, true self.
Your true self is the essence of you that’s been with you your entire life.
Your true self is waiting to be fully realized and expressed.
Study of the self is needed so there can be union with the self.
Think of it like this: Imagine your true self is buried underneath multiple layers of dirt.
In order to be able to experience your authentic self, you must first uncover and remove what’s not really you – the dirt.
Svadhyaya is the cleaning agent that gradually exposes what’s always been underneath.
According to neuroscientist Dr. Joe Dispenza, our conscious and analytical mind only accounts for 5%, while our subconscious mind processes the remaining 95%. (1)
The practice of Svadhyaya helps us uncover this hidden information (the 95%) so we can process it with our conscious mind and present awareness.
By engaging with ourselves through neutral inquiry and curiosity we can begin to disentangle ourselves from our deep-seeded patterns, unconscious beliefs, and blind spots.
We can step away long enough to observe ourselves, our reactions, and our unspoken emotional triggers.
The practice of Svadhyaya is like a muscle we must practice slowly, consistently, and persistently.
And it will be uncomfortable and it will be confronting at times to study yourself because you won’t always like what you see.
This is when you invoke the power of Tapas too, so you can withstand the temporary pain and discomfort to gain the long-standing gifts and treasures on the other side of the fire.
The moment of surrender is not when life is over.
It’s when life begins.
– Marianne Williamson, author of ‘A Return to Love’
This is the one I struggle with the most.
As a total control-freak who also experiences chronic anxiety, I have to constantly come back to this principle myself.
According to Raja Yoga Sutra 1.24, Ishvara is the Supreme Self, unaffected by any afflictions, actions, fruits of actions, or by any inner impressions of desire or greed.
Ishavara Pranidhana, then, is the devotion and dedication to the full expression of this Supreme Self.
We surrender our own agendas, and instead fall into the unknown, learning to trust the process, and cultivating a connection with a higher power.
By total surrender to a higher power, Samadhi is attained.
– Raja Yoga Sutra 2.45
According to Sutras 1.27-1.28, the word expressive of this Supreme Self (Ishvara) is Om or Aum.
To repeat Om whilst reflecting upon its meaning is an aid in the invisible battlefield.
The repetition of this primordial sound is what’s referred to as a mantra.
So the next time you’re feeling the pressure of an intense or challenging moment, or you don’t know what to do, try simply chanting Om a few times.
See how this act of surrender feels.
When we practice the conscious repetition of the mantra Om, obstacles begin to shift and move and we also experience union with our true selves.
Remember that as the Bodhisattva Warrior, one of your mission’s objectives is to awaken self-understanding and insight… this is one way to achieve this.
From this practice all the obstacles disappear and simultaneously dawns knowledge of the inner self.
– Raja Yoga Sutra 1.29
By observing these three Yogic Principles consistently and whole-heartedly you will gain a deeper understanding of how to transform your pain, frustration, and discomfort (bodhi).
You’ll also gain the quality of calm balance (sattva).
You’ll gain mastery over your mind and emotions.
And you’ll experience the highest stage of Raja Yoga… Samadhi, or Self-Realization.
I’ll leave you with this Self-Realization Meditation to guide you in increasing your sense of inner calm no matter what’s happening around you:
(1) Dispenza, Joe, You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter, 2014