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Because we measure success in linear, worldly terms, we sometimes may feel like we’re going backwards in our spiritual growth. We feel discouraged when we don’t quite understand our own behavior or the behavior of others. We may feel like we’ve failed when we realize that we’ve let our egos control our thoughts, telling ourselves we should know better by now, after all these books we’ve read and techniques we’ve been practicing. But no matter how much you think you have failed, and how far along you think you should be, if there’s within you even a little bit of willingness to be free, you can’t possibly have failed. The practice of yoga is the practice of removing all obstacles that prevent you from realizing who you truly are. The goal of the practice is the practice itself.

No matter what the circumstances are in your life, can you stay committed to your practice? Your dedicated effort to your practice is all you need — just a little willingness.

On this path no effort is wasted, no gain is ever reversed.

Even a little of this practice will shelter you from great sorrow.

(Bhagavad Gita)

Sometimes when we feel stuck in our growth we blame ourselves for not being a good enough student. In school, all I had to do to be a straight A student is follow the instructions of my teachers and do what they tell me to do. I knew what was expected of me and I did it; the praise and recognition flowed in; and I felt like a super star! But life turned out to be quite different than school. Who was there to tell me what to do? What was I supposed to do in a tricky, seemingly lose-lose situation? And so many times, I made a decision that later brought about disastrous consequences. How come I was a super star in school, but in life I feel like a loser?!

Life is a different school because life asks us to constantly adjust to what is and to accept things, people and situations that we may not have chosen for us. Life’s curriculum changes so much that life’s curriculum IS change! The part of me that got used to a certain pattern of doing things (do my school work to get good grades) is also the part of me that wants this pattern to be true, no matter what. That part of me lives in the past (where the pattern was established) and that part of me is, you guessed it, my ego!

The ego is not even a part of me, but I made it a part of me by believing it was me. The real me is ok with change because the real me is life, and life is change. The real me is not threatened by anything because it knows that nothing can possibly threaten it.

It’s very hard to grow because it’s difficult to let go of the models of ourselves in which we’ve invested so heavily. Who you think you are will always be frightened of change. But it doesn’t make any difference to who you truly are. There is a larger frame to the painting than the one that bounds our life’s events. (Ram Dass)

To stay dedicated to your practice, you have to stay dedicated to the practice of getting out of your lower mind (ego) and into your higher mind (spirit). Staying dedicated to the practice does not equate being a perfect student. We are simply being asked to have a little willingness. As long as you’re dedicated to the higher mind, the setbacks into the lower mind will be nothing but opportunities to choose the higher mind over and over again, anytime you feel you’ve slipped.

We’re not being asked to give up ego thoughts but to have a little willingness to question our ego thoughts. We’re not being asked to give up our values and preferences, but to have a little willingness to question our values and preferences. We’re not being asked to give up our judgments and opinions, but to have a little willingness to question our judgments and opinions.

My problem is not my ego (judgments/opinions/values), but the way I look at my ego (judgments/opinions/values). Your ego is not my problem either, but I may create a problem for me because of the way I perceive your ego. If I take my ego seriously, my ego will have a serious hold on me. If I take your ego seriously, your ego will have a serious hold on me. Have just a little willingness to stop taking everything so seriously. Who you are is perfectly safe and can’t be hurt in any way. All is well already. And have a little willingness to see that you can choose spirit over ego in any moment. When you think you’ve made a choice for the ego, just choose again and this time chose spirit. If we could just stay dedicated to this practice of choosing right whenever we’ve realized that we’ve chosen wrong, we would be free.

There’s no need to fight the darkness of our illusions. We are just being asked by the light in our own hearts to bring the darkness of our illusions into the light of the truth because the light will dissolve the darkness effortlessly. Just a little willingness to stay connected to your own light is all you need. Whenever you feel you’ve chosen ego, either yours or someone else’s, just choose again. Life is nothing but endless opportunities to choose the light. There’s no need to curse or fight the darkness — darkness and light are diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive. Only one can exist in your mind, and the one that will be there is the one you invite in.