Friday, December 19, 2014

Sadhana


Sadhana




He wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.—Isaiah 50:4


The regular daily practice of yoga, meditation, and related exercise is called sadhana (pronounced SOD-nuh; rhymes with Odd-huh). The word means “self-discipline,” and sadhana is a self-discipline that allows you to express the Infinite within yourself. We practice every day because that is what self-discipline is:


We consciously choose to rise up, to exercise the body and meditate. Each day is different. Each day we are different. Every 72 hours all the cells of the body totally change. Sickness comes and goes. Motivation waxes and wanes. But through all the flux of life, through all the variations of the mind and heart, we consciously choose to maintain a constant and regular practice.[1]


Sadhana is also a sacrifice––the practice of making sacred a set time to give praises to God, who is the Great Giver.
Sadhana is best practiced in the morning, before the sun rises. Sadhana is a time each day to notice the patterns that lead away from higher consciousness and then to transcend those patterns. Many yogis practice sadhana for at least two and a half hours per day before the rising of the sun. This time represents giving one-tenth of the day to God, similar to the law of tithing. However, anyone can receive all the benefits of sadhana by beginning with a short daily practice. I usually have students begin with a seven-minute meditation and a three-minute yoga kriya each day (which means they only need to rise ten minutes earlier than normal). Then, on their own timetable, they can increase the amount of time as they wish. Even with just seven minutes a day, the results of consistent practice create what Yogi Bhajan calls spiritual fitness:


There is a dynamic triangle within each of us between practice, experience, and our experience of the experience. There is a constant cycle between these three.
If you have many beliefs and no sadhana, how are you really changing? If you believe very good things about people and serve no one, what good is that? Sadhana becomes a key. In terms of the body and posture there is one law for sadhana: “Get up, set up and keep up.” If you don’t set up for the day, if you don’t posture yourself, ready to engage the day, how are you going to keep up?
And how are you going to have a set up if things are already happening before you even get up? So first you have to get up before things are happening. Then you can set yourself in a posture, attitude, and commitment, ready to engage. Then you have the potential to keep up. If you keep up, you will start having a momentum above Time. And the effective human is timeless above Time. As long as you feel you are just at the whim of Time, you are not at the level of extraordinary human that is your normal potential. And it all starts with sadhana and posture. That’s what a spiritual posture is. It gives you spiritual fitness.[2]


The Amrit Vela


Amrit Vela means “ambrosial hours” or “nectar hour.”[3] It is the three hours before dawn, usually from three to six o’clock or from four to seven o’clock. Rising to meditate during the Amrit Vela is an ancient practice known to many cultures. The Hindus and Buddhist know the sacredness of the Amit Vela and so did the Persian Poet Rumi, who wrote the following:


The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.  
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across  
the doorsill
Where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep. [4]
As mentioned, it is best to get up before time gets up and before your story begins. Though you can do your sadhana at other times of the day, there are many benefits to morning sadhana. For one thing, there are fewer disturbances. The masses are asleep, and the global vibration is quiet and sacred. Where night and day overlap, there is a crack between worlds. At this time the veil of maya is thinnest. During these hours, the mind is less prone to worldly anxieties and thoughts. For all of these reasons, Amit Vela provides an ideal atmosphere for remembering and communicating with God.
Simply being vertical and leaning in the direction[5] at this time has profound effects on the subconscious. There are also enormous health benefits. The power of prana is more concentrated and can cleanse and revitalize your body more easily.[6] Yogi Bhajan said that doind Sadhana a “person becomes defeatless. Sadhana is self-victory and it is a victory over time and space… When you get up it is a victory on time and when you do it, it is a victory on space...Sadhana is only for you. Sadhana is self-victory.”[7] Additionally, “Sadhana is a test of self-grit. If your sadhana is more important than your neurosis, you are fine. If your neurosis is more important than your sadhana you are not.” [8]
Though I haven’t collected enough data on the subject, it is my hypothesis that when the lives of all great world leaders and game changers are examined, most will be found to be early risers. President and prophet Gordon B. Hinckley arose every morning at four o’clock, as did the prophet Joseph Fielding Smith, who was fond of telling his children, “People die in bed, and so does ambition.”[9]
I realize that rising early may be the most difficult part of sadhana for some people, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. The simple way to begin is to set your alarm for one minute earlier each week. After a year of doing so, you would be rising nearly an hour earlier. If you would like to go straight for the glory, you could start by waking up fifteen minutes earlier (woah!) and doing a small daily practice. Most of my students have never meditated before and start with a daily seven-minute meditation. As this practice becomes easy and pleasurable, they begin to add more time.
Sadhana Guidelines


Here are some guidelines for starting your sadhana practice:
  • Sahana truly begins the night before, so it is best to eat early, eat light, and pray before you go to sleep so that your highest self will wake you up feeling refreshed and happy.
  • Rise during the Amrit Vela or a little earlier than you are now.
  • Eliminate.
  • Set your energy for the day by taking an invigorating cold shower (see the instructions on page xx).
  • Dress in natural fiber clothing, cover your head, and remove any footwear.  
  • Prepare the environment around you. Make sure it is as uplifting as possible. Your body is a temple of God, and your preparations should reflect your intention to cleanse, heal, and uplift yourself and others. Choose a firm but soft surface to practice on.
  • Sit on a natural fiber rug, sheepskin, or yoga mat. For those with physical limitations or injuries, sitting in a chair with your feet flat on the floor is okay.
  • Tune in with the Adi Mantra (see page xx). This step is not optional. Always tune in to begin your sadhana.
  • Warm up with the Cat-Cow Pose (see page xxx) or other exercises.
  • Complete the yoga kriya of your choice.
  • Complete one or more meditations of your choice.
  • Relax. You may want to have a shawl or blanket handy to wrap around yourself.
  • Pray.
  • Tune out with the “Long Time Sun” song and a long Sat Nam (see page xxx)


You may move the order of some of these items around and add in scripture reading and personal prayer wherever you choose, but always begin by tuning in and end by tuning out. If you do not have time to complete a full yoga kriya in the early morning hours, it is okay to do it at another time. I also recommend doing yoga kriyas in groups as often as you can. I encourage you to complete a full Kundalini Yoga class once a week in a group setting, which will provide community and the support of a teacher who can answer any questions and assist you in selecting a meditation.  


Questions to Consider


Many people ask me what they should do for their sadhana. I usually encourage people to start with one or two of the greats, like Kirtan Kriya and Sat Kriya. But over time, you might want to change your sadhana. It is best to trust your intuition when building your sadhana practice, but here are some questions that might be worth considering and praying about.


  • What Kriya would help me with my intention of ____?
  • Should my sadhana include more than one meditation? Which meditation would help me most all around? And which would help most for the specific intention of___?
  • How long should I do the meditations (minutes as well as days in a row)?
  • Should I include a pranayam as part of my sadhana?
  • What pranayam should be my go-to pranayam throughout the day?
  • What mantra should be my go-to throughout the day?
  • Do any of my Ten Bodies need balancing/strengthening. What is the priority?
  • What scripture mantras do I need in my life right now?
  • What is it You want me to know/do today?
  • What questions should I be asking?
  • What should I be praying for?
  • Is there a specific name of God I should be using as I pray for ___ intention?
  • Are there spiritual gifts I am ignoring? What can I do to develop them?


[1] Kundalini Research Institute, KRI International Teacher Training Manual, Level 1, 4th ed. (Santa Cruz, NM:  Kundalini Research Institute, 2007), 144.
[2] Ibid., 148.
[3] Yogi Bhajan, The Aquarian Teacher: KRI International Teacher Training Manual, Level 1 (Santa Cruz, NM: Kundalini Research Institute, 2007), 215.
[4] Dharam SIngh, “Group Sadhana,” accessed March 24, 2014, www.amritvela.org.
[5] By “lean in the direction” it is meant that even if you can’t do a pose or a posture perfectly, just do your best.
[6] amritvela.org
[7] Yogi Bhajan lecture July 7, 1981
[8] Yogi Bhajan lecture January 22, 1991.
[9] Smith and Steward, Life of Joseph Feilding Smith, 3 (found on lds.org )

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