Inspirational Theme: Yoga Sutra 1.20

The concentration of the true spiritual aspirant is attained through faith, energy, remembrance, absorption and illumination. – Swami Prabhavananda
In this Sutra Patanjali points out five key attitudes and practices of the true spiritual aspirant. I like to look on this sutra as a reminder of five tools that will lead me in the right direction, the direction of my highest intentions.
Shraddha/Faith: when we speak of faith here we are speaking of faith in the practices themselves. When we have a deep abiding faith in the practices we have committed ourselves to then we can develop certainty on our path. We may not know exactly where we are going to end up, but with faith in our chosen direction we release fear and doubt, two very powerful distractions that will undermine the best of intentions.
Virya/Energy: virya is a term for the heroic energy that is often needed to maintain our commitment to our practice. To work with heroic energy doesn’t mean forcing ourselves to do long grueling hours of practice without break, or working with super advanced poses. We may need to call on heroic energy simply to roll out our mats for a gentle morning stretch at 6am when we’d rather sleep, but it’s the only time we get before the baby wakes up. We strengthen virya when we commit to showing up. No matter what. By getting out the door to class when our partner is enticing us to stay on the couch and cuddle, or we’d rather tune out in front of a movie. Every time you honour your commitment to practice you feed that warrior strength within you- and when the time comes that you really need to call on it- it answers you.
Smriti/Remembrance: by cultivating an attitude of mindfulness and remembrance we hold true to our deepest intentions. What are we in remembrance of? Our Self with a capital S! Our best and brightest self. We hold to remembrance of what matters most to us, deep within our hearts, and when we stumble on the path it’s that remembrance that helps us back up again and shows us the way.
Samadhi/Absorption: samadhi is a state of deep concentration, of absorption and integration, of connection. Samadhi may not always be easy to attain but through practices such as conscious asana, pranayama, meditation, and mantra we develop our ability to hold our focus for longer and longer periods of time. This training sets the ground for samadhi to develop. Think back to when you first started your practices of yoga and how easily distracted you were. With time your ability to hold steady is strengthened. One of my teachers once said that “yoga is not a practice that rewards youth”, and it’s true. It takes time for wisdom, steadiness, and unwavering commitment to develop. The good news is that each step on the journey is rich with learning and reward.
Prajna/Illumination: prajna is defined as higher knowledge, wisdom, and discernment. It is key to our success on the path that we are continually open to and indeed seeking higher knowledge. True Knowledge. Knowledge that Illuminates. Truth is different than book learning, or endless facts on a variety of subjects. Truth is universal. And when we hear it spoken we know it to be true in our hearts. True knowledge exists within you and is always available to you, but often it takes an external source, a teacher of some type, to remind you of it. Teachings and teachers come in many forms, some of them unexpected. Your difficult co-worker may offer many lessons on wisdom for you to learn if you are open. Your mother, partner, child or dog can be your teacher. You may be reminded of what is true to you from a TV commercial or a Hallmark card. Keep your mind open and learning is everywhere. Truth and magic are universal- keep your eyes open and you’ll see it sparkling all around you.