Why so serious? Lighten up, Yogis!
Wake up at 4am, practice yoga, eat saatvik food, have pure thoughts, do good deeds, restrain the senses, be celibate, transcend the ego, give up desire.
These are the key tenets of the yogic path and effective ways to self-realisation.
They also form the essence of rigorous discipline - the most important ingredient for transformation.
But, have we imbibed these ideals without being pragmatic? Do we inculcate discipline without a blend of relaxation? Are we too serious about this ever unfolding, life-long journey? Have we become impatient with ourselves?
Looking at my life trajectory and observing many other seekers over the years, I believe the answers to the questions above is an unsettling YES.
I am deeply grateful to these powerful teachings of ancient scriptures and realised masters. They have served me immensely in evolving myself and helping others along the way.
But, I have also come to the observation that most of us are idealistic, uptight, and rigid about the spiritual path and practices.
Sure, a certain level of intensity is needed to purify karmic impressions, overcome unconscious tendencies, and persevere with austerity.
The fire within helps transform. As within, so without.
But, this intensity often leads to burnout and makes the process unsustainable.
The morals are followed at the cost of losing a sense of humour. The self-awareness often becomes a mask for the ego to judge others. The spiritual journey becomes a pursuit of instant validation and reward.
As the masters say, the spiritual path is indeed for the lion-hearted. It is a long, arduous journey where the only constant is letting go.
We let go of possessions, relationships, ideas, beliefs, and almost everything else we have acquired. That is how one learns the beauty of impermanence.
This is often a challenging experience and one might tend to become too serious about the spiritual path and get lost in the head trips of good vs bad, right vs wrong, ethical vs unethical, positive vs negative.
But, we must not become so serious about spirituality that we forget to be grateful for the beauty and blessings in life.
Sadhana (spiritual practice) on the mat should always be the priority. But, Sadhana off the mat happens when we appreciate the nuances of life and walk into every situation with total awareness.
The archetype of a Yogi meditating in the mountains is attractive to our psyche.
But, as householders and urban city dwellers, we need to let go of this fantasy and find peace amidst the chaos of the material world, domestic life, and sensory pleasures.
Balance and moderation are the cornerstones of the yogic path which help sustain the uphill climb.
So, for those who tend to be highly critical and take things seriously - it might be helpful to enjoy life as a gift while keeping spiritual progress at the core.
But, what about the ideals? Won’t this approach slow down progress?
I believe it will rather create space, release pent up frustration, and ease the process to make it enjoyable and help persevere the long road ahead.
We have a choice between living a repressed life based on lofty ideals OR being practical about applying them to our best capability with the situation at hand.
So, if you have been used to waking up at 8am and want to wake up during Brahma Muhurutam - start small and wake up at 7:30 am for a month to gradually reduce the time.
If you want to eat a pizza occasionally, do so but without the accompanying guilt. As you purify the body through yogic practices, cravings will naturally subside.
If you are struggling with anxiety or anger, then accept these emotions as part of the human condition and essential in your journey of awakening.
If you skip practice one day, balance it by skipping a meal rather than beating yourself about it.
If you want to relax on Sunday, allow yourself permission to do so with freedom and compassion.
Now, don’t get me wrong here and use this article as an excuse to indulge.
Yoga involves doing everything with total awareness. We must be aware of the impact that our emotions, habits, and behaviour have on the body-mind complex.
As many of you are familiar, I advocate being consistent with practice, having an organised routine, consuming information mindfully, and enjoying everything in moderation.
It is a simple and effective philosophy which works at various levels and aspects.
At the end of the day - life is a simple experiment. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail.
What we could work towards is enjoying the ride and taking ourselves less seriously.
After all, we know only the tip of the iceberg but want to plunge into the depths of the ocean.
Keep learning, evolving, expanding - but remember to smile at yourself and be kind to others who cross your path.
Serve, Love, Give, Laugh, Dance, Play, Be Kind, Humble, and Grateful.
That’s pretty much all there is to life, whether we explore it through the lens of an innocent child or a wise saint.
As one of my teachers once mentioned, "Be sincere, not serious." Or, as quoted by another enlightened being, "Take a chill pill!" :)