In yoga, practice combined with right thinking and living is everything. Many have heard of the philosophy and practice of yoga, many have enjoyed lectures and books on the subject (some have even given the lectures and written the books), and yet have never seriously taken up the practice to any degree. Why? They simply did not make the connection between the beautiful theory and the actuality of their own lives. This is pretty much the trouble in all “spiritual” matters–people do not make the connection or transition from the theoretical to the practical. Consequently, as a friend I urge you in every sense of the expression to take this practice “to heart.”
It is the matter of perseverance that usually presents the greatest difficulty to the meditator. It is essential in yoga, as in ordinary matters, to realize that all goes according to precise laws. Wishing, wanting, hoping, praying, believing–or their opposites–have no effect at all. When speaking of meditation, Patanjali says: “Its application is by stages” (Yoga Sutras 3:6). That is, meditation keeps moving onward in its effect when regularly practiced, just like the taking of a journey. It all goes in an exact sequence. Therefore we cannot expect that meditation will produce enlightenment in a random way like a slot machine in its payoffs. Meditation produces steady growth if there is steady practice.
The secret of success is regularity in meditation. “A diamond is a piece of coal that never gave up.” Paramhansa Yogananda formulated a more spiritual version: “A saint is a sinner who never gave up.” If you meditate regularly, every day, great will be the result. Water, though the softest substance known, can wear through the hardest stone by means of a steady dripping. In the old story of the tortoise and the hare, the tortoise won the race because he kept at it steadily, whereas the hare ran in spurts. He ran much faster then the tortoise, but the irregularity of his running made him lose the race. Meditation keeps moving onward in its effect when regularly practiced, producing steady growth through steady practice. The more we walk the farther we travel; the more we meditate the nearer and quicker we draw to the goal.
Yoga, the spiritual state, is produced by yoga the practice. Those who persevere in their yoga practice find unfailing and abundant happiness, peace, and fulfillment. Certainly the goal is not reached without much practice through the years, but every step of the way is blessed and brings rejoicing to the yogi’s heart. Then at last no more steps are needed, and he enters the ocean of Satchidananda. “A tiny bubble of laughter, I am become the Sea of Mirth Itself,” wrote Yogananda.
So it really is all in your hands. Your life as a yogi is totally in your hands; and you need to put that life in God’s hands.
Read the next chapter of How to Be a Yogi: Appendix: The False Guru Test