Without Giving, Our Practice Can Stagnate
Question: Over time, sadhana, or spiritual practice, can become mechanical, or it can start feeling heavy and serious. How does one remain inspired and light?
Answer: It doesn’t matter what we do, the mind gets used to it, and if this happens in our spiritual practice we should not be indifferent, because it is a real problem. When we see the practice becoming mechanical, we should not wait. If we have a teacher, we should approach the teacher and ask for guidance. If there is a yoga center, we should go there and do some karma yoga, attend some teachings, attend satsang. Alternatively, we could go to nature to be alone, to be in silence, to meditate and get re-inspired. We must not allow stagnation to happen, so when we note that it is there, we should immediately, positively act.
One of the best type of actions is serving others. For example, if yoga teachers notice that their own practice is stagnated, they should teach more. This relates to the law of karma and it is a very important teaching. Under the law of karma, the only cause of receiving teachings is giving teachings. We receive valuable teachings in the present because we gave valuable teachings in the past. This is the only reason. Therefore, the more you teach others, the more you are going to receive teachings, and inspiration has to do with the reception of teachings. Practice is one thing, and inspiration is another. Inspiration is a form of teaching and we receive teaching from within.
Why don’t we receive teaching from within? It is because we make the mistake of cutting ourselves off from others. The moment our giving diminishes, the receiving also diminishes because, according to the law of karma, the only cause of receiving is the fact that in the past, we gave. This is also true in the present — the more we give, the more we are going to receive, and we receive teaching either as external teaching, or teaching in the form of inspiration. Therefore it is not enough to practice; we should also teach, so if you haven’t yet joined the yoga teacher training course, this is the time to do it.
Think about how you came to yoga. I’m sure, if you heard the personal stories, you would see what a profound effect yoga has had on each one of us. Therefore, we practice yoga. Therefore, we come to ashrams, and so on. However, if you think, how did I receive the teaching of yoga — that wonderful teaching that changed and transformed my life — it is because of someone who taught me, right? So there should be someone to teach me, in order for me to receive this wonderful teaching and to transform my own life. You can see that it is very crucial to teach others.
If we don’t give, that river of teaching is going to diminish. It is going to become just a trickle. One day we will say, “I practiced and practiced, but within, I am dry.” Therefore, as much as it is important to practice, it is also very important to teach because it is by teaching that we receive teaching. This is how we stay inspired.
It is true that Swami Sivananda would say, “Practice, practice, practice,” but before that he would say, “Give, give, give.” He summarized his teaching in the following way: “Serve, love, give, purify, meditate, realize.” You can see that “serve, love, give” comes first. Then comes purification. Then meditation becomes possible. Then realization becomes possible. Without giving, nothing is possible. Without serving, nothing is possible. Without loving, nothing is possible. It is not complicated but we need to understand the principle. It is not sufficient to practice — we also need to give.
Swami Swaroopananda is a senior disciple of Swami Vishnudevananda. A practicing yogi from a very young age, Swami Swaroopananda has dedicated his life to the practice and teaching of yoga. He taught in Yoga Teacher Training Courses around the world and is currently teaching advanced yoga philosophy courses and lectures internationally. He is Director of the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat and acharya (spiritual director) for the Sivananda centers and ashrams in the Bahamas and the Middle East. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres.