Principals of an Effective Spiritual Practice
“The goal is near for those who are supremely vigorous and intense in practice” Yoga Sutras 1.21
Before we get started with instructions for our first practice—Deep Meditation—it is essential that we familiarize ourselves with the cornerstones of an effective long-term spiritual practice. While these principals may seem simple, they are absolutely critical to your long-term success on the path. And we certainly don’t want to spend our precious time spinning our wheels.
These Four Principals are at the heart of the AYP system of practices: (1) Devotion-Bhakti, (2) Effective Techniques, (3) Consistent Practice, and (4) Prudent Self-Pacing. If any of these elements are missing our long-term spiritual progress will be hindered.
1) Devotion-Bhakti: The Fuel for our Daily PracticeBack to top
In any endeavor, it is our desire toward a goal that is the genesis of our actions to achieve that goal. It is no different in the realm of spiritual aspirations. In fact, focusing on the goal of divine union is a special kind of desire; in many traditions it is referred to as devotion. In yogic terminology, the devotion toward our highest ideal is known as bhakti.
Bhakti serves two primary purposes on our spiritual path. First, our devotion—our desire—is the engine of our spiritual practices, it is what enables us to sustain daily spiritual practices for as long as it takes to achieve divine union. The importance of this cannot be understated. Second, bhakti is a spiritual practice in itself. In many ways, bhakti is the first yoga practice. This spiritual desire has great power—it creates changes deep in our nervous system. It is the fire that lights everything else on the path. As we progress on the path we will find a spiritual virtuous circle occurring: devotion leading to daily practice…our practices yielding experiences of the divine…these experiences further fuel our devotion…leading to more practices…and on and on (Btw, this is when Principal #4 comes in handy).
So whatever your concept of enlightenment may be, whatever tradition you hail from, whatever inspires you in the direction of spiritual unfoldment—cultivate That.
AYP Main Lessons:Back to top
2) Effective Techniques
While desire is an important prerequisite, without action it is not a very effective way to achieve a goal. Bhakti is an essential element of our spiritual practice, but in order to speed our spiritual evolution, we want to employ a more complete, methodical and powerful set of tools in our daily practice. These daily practices are the core of the AYP system. Many spiritual traditions focus on a single type of practice: asanas OR meditation OR pranayama OR prayer.
What makes AYP unique is that it incorporates some of the most powerful spiritual techniques available into an integrated system where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. AYP directly and systematically targets the two central components of enlightenment: Inner Silence (through Deep Meditation) and Ecstatic Conductivity (primarily through Spinal Breathing Pranayama, and eventually through asanas, mudras, bandhas and shatkarmas as well). But AYP takes it one step further, by focusing on the proper sequencing of practices, to enhance he effectiveness of each individual technique. The result is a balanced, integrated, synergistic platform of practices designed to provide maximum spiritual progress while maintaining stability and comfort in our daily lives.
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3) Consistent Practice: 2x per Day, Everyday
So we have the underlying spiritual desire, and with AYP we have an integrated system of practices that work. The next, and most crucial step, is to bring this desire and knowledge into action. It is the key to making progress on the spiritual path. The process of enlightenment is one of purification and opening of the human nervous system…scraping the mud and dirt from our windows so that the light of pure bliss consciousness can shine through us. This occurs through a stable, daily routine of effective spiritual practices. If our practice routine is sporadic, the window cleaning that we do one day, will be obscured by the dirt accumulated in the days between practices.
The most efficient means for hastening our spiritual evolution is to practice 2x per day, everyday (once in the morning and once in the evening before dinner is ideal). When we do our morning practices, we coax our nervous system into a higher level of functioning—to sustain pure bliss consciousness and ecstatic bliss. This state is stabilized by remaining active and involved in the world everyday. This higher level of functioning fades after about 5-10hrs as we go about our daily activity, at which time we do our second set of practices to re-establish this higher level of functioning. This provides the most purification and growth possible during waking hours for people with active lives—in contrast, a 1x daily routine allows too much fading between practice sessions, thereby slowing the process.
With 2x daily practice over time, the fading of inner silence and ecstatic bliss in activity becomes less and less, and the higher style of functioning of the nervous system eventually becomes steady and unshakeable, 24hrs per day. All of this is designed for maximum progress making he best use of our nervous system’s natural abilities for enlightenment and the time we have available to do the job.
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4) Self-Pacing: With Powerful Techniques Comes Responsibility
While some of the spiritual practices described in AYP may appear simple at first glance, make no mistake, these are some of the most powerful spiritual methods available for clearing and purifying the obstructions lodged deep in our nervous system. But if this purification occurs too quickly, it can lead to discomfort during daily activity—irritability, emotional instability, or uncomfortable flows of divine energy. You are being given powerful spiritual knowledge, and it is your duty to apply it responsibly in your life.
This means a gradual build up of practices over time, ensuring that our practice routine is regular and stable—in AYP we refer to this process as “self-pacing”. It is one of the most important principals in the AYP system. Too much, too soon can lead to discomfort and instability. Therefore, we always wait until we are stable with a given practice routine for at least several weeks before attempting to add any additional techniques. Always consider carefully before adding a new practice. It also means reducing our practice times and involving ourselves in grounding activities if we begin to notice any uncomfortable symptoms during our daily activity (not just during sitting practices).
Trying to push through any uncomfortable symptoms, will only make things worse, delaying our progress rather than accelerating it. Respect the power of the divine forces at work within us and remember that when it comes to spiritual practices, less is more. So be prudent, patient and settle in for the long-haul. Slow and steady wins the race.
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