Some people are touchy about discipline. The word itself can haunt you — whether you’re learning a new skill, honing your craft, or changing your habits. Starting a 40-day Sadhana practice can quickly bring up feelings of dread, but it’s all about your perspective.
Through the teachings of Kundalini Yoga, Yogi Bhajan speaks about discipline quite a bit, deeming it the beginning of a brand new You:
“Discipline…leads to commitment, which leads to character. Character is when all your characteristics – all facets, flaws, and facts about yourself are under control and in balance.” – The Aquarian Teacher training manual
“Sadhana encourages discipline, which is at the very core of yogic philosophy.” – The 40-Day Sadhana Companion
“Those who practice discipline have to be very generous to themselves. Discipline should never be rigid. Discipline should be self-acknowledging, so that you can go along with it.” – March, 27, 1997
He is clearly stating that you have to acknowledge and show up for yourself, or discipline won’t work.
I hope to encourage those of you who need a little oomph and encouragement to get started on a 40-day Sadhana practice, especially for those who have tried to commit in the past but fell off the wagon, so to speak.
First, visualize your perception of discipline. Try to take away any set prejudice. Then, answer these questions, and write down your answers:
- What’s happening in your life right now (present tense)?
- How are your relationships going?
- Are you physically well and fit?
- Is your life an emotional roller coaster, or are you steady as he/she goes?
Look deep within, and your habits and life patterns will begin to show you yourself. Probe beneath the surface to validate your desire for discipline. Get clear on why you feel the need for it. We all have physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. Write it all down.
- What purpose will discipline serve in my life?
- Is it a physical, emotional, or mental need?
My first kriya was simply “Har,” chanted over and over while rhythmically hitting my hands together, a meditation for prosperity. And then to increase my lung capacity, I practiced alternate nostril breathing for 40 days.
- How can you achieve your goal?
- Can you be strong in your efforts?
- Where might you draw inspiration?
I draw inspiration from my altar, a table that I cover with different clothes according to the seasons. On top, I have a candle, my teacher’s picture, and incense, with spiritual books underneath. More importantly, I seek the awareness and transformation it will bring to me.
- When will you begin your practice?
- Where are you going to commit?
Choose the most auspicious time for you. Early morning suits me, and I’m often sitting meditating right before bed as well. It’s also important to set up a room or specific space to invite you in and allow your soul to come forth. I am lucky to have two dedicated rooms, one for meditation, and one solely for my singing bowls and yoga mat.
The daily experience you choose needs to fit you. Keep pondering. Can you rise early and set aside time in the morning before sunrise? Do you have a cozy space already that welcomes you to sit or to do yoga?
If you have tight quarters, improvise. Put that chair in the corner somewhere else during Sadhana, or exchange it for a meditation cushion or zafu. I have always loved the idea of a wall meditation table such as these because they take up such little space!
- If you already have a dedicated yoga room or area, do you need to change it up?
I move things around, dust, and change cloths and pictures when I feel I’m craving transformation within.
“One cannot experience one’s own expanding self without a commitment to a practice, but to commitment takes a certain amount of strength.” – Yogi Bhajan
Sometimes, things don’t work out the way you plan, after you’ve begun your routine. Yogi Bhajan always said be honest with yourself. Below are reasons why I’ve stopped my routine in the past:
- If I am sick, I leave sadhana for another day.
- If I begin a kriya and it doesn’t feel right, I stop.
- If I feel a kriya is affecting me negatively in my body, I adjust the timing or change the kriya.
Most of the time, I follow through. Here are a few thoughts that have helped me keep up:
- I visualize others practicing the same kriya at the same time, somewhere in the world.
- I imagine being at Summer Solstice, everyone surrounding me with light and love.
- The one that really keeps me going is the change I know will come by doing the practice I’ve chosen for 40 or 90 days or longer.
The spiritual journey is yours. Take your time to decide, set your course, and go, as Rumi says and Snatam sings:
“Oh my soul, you come and you go
Through the paths of time and space.
In useless play you’ll not find the way
So set your course and go.”
Kathe Forrest/Siri Kirin is the author of The 40-Day Sadhana Companion: A Guided Journal (formerly titled Keep the Change). She is a mom, grandma called Nonni, yoga teacher, herbalist, and nutritionist. She lives deep in the heart of Texas and volunteers through her local hospice and herb society.