1.14 The Nature of Practice
Sa tu dirghkala-nairantarya-satkar-sevito dridhbhumihi.
स तु दीर्घकालनैरन्तर्यसत्कारासेवितो दृढभूमिः ॥१.१४॥
Sa tu di̅rghaka̅lanairantaryasatka̅ra̅sevito dr̥ḍhabhu̅miḥ. ||1.14||
When a practice is done for a long time incessantly with honor, it establishes a firm foundation of a powerful life.
In this sutra, Maharishi Patanjali further explores Abhyasa and its meaning. He says that a practice can become nature only when it is practiced uninterrupted for a long, long time.
Do not skim over the sentence. Uninterrupted practice requires extraordinary discipline. It needs sacrifices. It needs setting the priorities straight. It needs will power to power through the bad days and the days “we don’t feel like it”. An athlete practices for years at a stretch to win that one medal, a musician practices every day to become one with the music and to create something integral that resonates with the soul and is new. Painters paint for years, every day, hoping for one masterpiece to be created from their brush. And when the great event happens, they will tell you that they did not do it and that it just happened. For it to just happen, one needs to do for a very long time, uninterrupted. Currently, we live in the age of instant gratification. Earlier, even the simple task of having good food needed so much effort as there were no machines. Vacations were a dream. People worked for decades before they could buy some substantial assets. Our generation wants everything as soon as the desire arises and, in the process, we have forgotten the age-old saying “short term pain, long term gain”. Minds were stronger in the previous generations and their capacity to struggle was extraordinary. We need to cultivate the attitude of patience as great things take time.
How can one keep on practicing if the results are not assured? It may sound cliché here, but it is the process that is important – practicing for years and not giving up makes a champion, not winning a medal. Letting the art consume you makes you a good artist, not becoming famous. To undertake such a process, one needs respect for the practice. You can give your 100% if you respect the practice – then you won’t be distracted and also it will be a priority. You need to honor the practice because it is a reflection of honoring your own time, your own Self. I believe that those who respect their practices, their work, their vocation, receive respect in return due to their work. Nature does not keep anything to itself, it gives back. I would like to quote here several examples of people who achieved excellence in their respective fields because they honored it and held it in the highest esteem.
Sachin Tendulkar, the great cricketer, and endearingly referred to as ‘The Master Blaster’ and the ‘God of Cricket’, the latter popular in India, has in many interviews talked about the immense respect for his game. He worshipped the game and made sure that all his actions reflected the greatness of the game and in turn he became a figure of worship for the millions of fans of cricket around the world and a great advocate of the game. Valentino Rossi, considered by many the greatest Moto GP racer of all time and winner of 8 World Championships, sits with his motorcycle and “talks” to it before every race. If you see some of the races he has won, you will see he instantly caresses the bike, thanking it for its effort. The motorcycle has in return brought him unparalleled love and affection from all over the world, even though many great racers have dominated the game across generations. I have observed many Indian Musical Maestros to actually bow down to the instrument they play before picking it up every day. The instrument never fails to bring them the adulation of the people from all across the globe. I am sure you can think of many examples for yourself.
Maharishi Patanjali realises that one cannot practice anything for a long time if there is no respect for the practice, and even if one does, it won’t bear the desired results because the mind won’t absorb it properly. Hence, he specifically asks the practitioner to cultivate respect, honor and faith for the practice and continue it for a long time.
Similarly, we are to practice the art of reigning in the mind. We have let the mind take control for our entire lives, and it is unrealistic to hope that we can control it overnight just because we have seen other people do it and now believe it can be done. This practice will also take time. One needs to respect the mind and keep on trying to keep it under control. If the practice is intermittent, the connection is broken. It is like body-building – you cannot go the gym 1 day a week and then expect your muscles to grow. The muscles lose the strength that you build in that one day. Similarly, the mind needs the practice every day, repeatedly, as often as possible without a gap.
In due course of time does one reap the fruit of such a practice. Equanimity and strength become nature. The roots of Yoga take hold in the personality and the true nature comes forth shining.