Balancing Intensity in Practice

Balancing Intensity in Practice

Yoga seems to be asking for an ever increasing commitment in order to progress. Whether due to Kali Yuga, aging, unclarity, or reasons unknown, frequently what we gave yesterday to get results doesn't feel like enough today.

I personally want to practice with fresh intensity everyday, I often day dream about practice when I'm not practicing: about how steeped with intensity I'm going to be when I step on my mat the next time.

But strangely when its time to practice, I feel like there's still an outward pull, something that causes my monkey mind to take the stage, or my body to lack the necessary power.  This juxtaposition of intending to go deep in practice and then not feeling able to tap the intensity gives practice a mirage like quality. It can feel like true, in depth practice is ever receding, staying just out of reach. However, I also feel that I can be extremely self critical, to the point of not necessarily having a proper perspective on the depths of my efforts during practice. 

So how can I be realistic about the effort I do put forth? How do I accurately assess whether I practice too intensely or too mildly and what level of mildness or intensity is right for me at this time? How do I know the difference between being too hard on myself and fooling myself? How can I continue to progress, to discover further truths about who I am, without thinking I need to give up everything and retire to a cave, without getting overwhelmed and giving up, or striving in some distorted way that perpetuates harmful self criticism or self hatred?

Ultimately I want to create a balance between actively and willfully making progress happen and allowing progress to happen in its own way, on its own time. To achieve this balance between serious effort and trusting the Source, requires a rigorous sorting through of my mental states. This working with my mind is the foundation of the focus that leads to understanding the mind's role in helping me to progress. As I focus during practice my mind can inflate or deflate in three directions.

1) Shine with intelligence, lead me to express the most creative and profound art, and show me the way to kindness and spiritual wisdom.

2) Become grandiose and lead me to think I'm better, smarter, more powerful than I really am.

3) Be extremely negative or savage and unruly, can attack me, lead me to undervalue myself and my dreams, therefore, sabotaging my efforts to grow and transform.

With a wrong bent of mind, I can lose perspective about the quality and balance of my practice. These inconsistent mental states require me to cultivate a vigilant, long term commitment to listen and feel within. I need to take on the task of inward puzzle solving that struggles for answers on how to progress and then alternates with needing to let go enough for answers to arrive on their own.

Largely Yoga is about the relationship I develop with my own mind and its entire range from brilliant to brutish. And as I struggle, sort through, let go, and clear my mind, then my connection to the Source can take the lead. Practice that is defined as 'time spent on the mat trying' can provide the perfect opportunity for such reflection. Eventually, I'll gain enough mental power to see through the ignorance of my mind, be able to ride the variety of mental and emotional twists and turns, see beyond the forms created by the mind, and enjoy the emptiness and silence within.

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