1 – Evangelical Moments
You know it, you’ve been there, it’s the Big Wow! You take your first yoga class and can’t believe the way it makes you feel. You want to know what this yoga thing is, where did it come from, and how does it manage to touch not only your deep muscle tissue but also that deep place of inner peace. You may feel an increased energy level or see some noticeable changes in chronic health conditions. Through good teachers, study, and continued practice you begin to understand the philosophy and ancient science behind the postures. You can’t wait to tell your friends and family about what you’ve discovered. You are pumped!
2 – Disappointment
That discovery high, like all things that go up, is likely to gradually come down. The burst of enthusiasm that shook up your habitual ways of thinking and feeling becomes a lingering wave that eventually subsides as you integrate your new habits and knowledge into the normal routines of your life. You reap the benefits of regularity and familiarity—and also their down-side. Now that you know the ropes, you may find yourself hitting a plateau. It can be difficult to comfortably release our initial excitement and move on to the next phase of learning. Perhaps you’ve seen references to a “dry” stage in spiritual literature; your frustration with a lull in your yogic path may not approach a “dark night of the soul”, but it is a test of faith of a sort.
3 – Integration
Yoga practices and philosophy point us toward the importance and the subtlety of our interior life. Confronted with the waning of outer intensity, can we leave the seed of practice firmly planted, or will we give in to the urge to continually uproot it and see whether and what we are gaining from it? Temporary dormancy is a familiar pattern in the natural world that teaches us that quiet periods are part of the growth cycle. When practice becomes stale, old problems recur, etc. etc., are the principles that previously “blew our mind” invalid? Are we too weak, impatient or stupid to make them work? No. Many subtle changes continue to occur below consciousness during a “fallow” period. Listening closely with the inner perception and scanning all quadrants of life for your next edge of growth are examples of how to cope –and even savor– this seemingly “dry” period.
In this poem from his Whispers From Eternity, the spiritual master, Paramahansa Yogananda, gives us an exquisite example of right attitude when life gives us dry leaves:
May My Gratitude Be Changeless
When the summer of good fortune warms my tree of life,
it easily burgeons with fragrant blossoms of thankfulness.
During winter months of misfortune, O Lord,
may my denuded branches changelessly waft toward Thee
a secret scent of gratitude.