I remember when I was on my quest to lose weight there were times when I had stayed on course with my diet and exercise regime for many weeks and then suddenly I would eat a piece of chocolate and that would justify a few days of cheating on the diet. This was very frustrating for me as it would be a case of two steps forward one step back. I then realized that the mind can rationalize anything and it takes a lot of effort to reign in the senses.
When something as mundane as weight loss takes so much effort, it is not difficult to imagine the sheer strength of will needed on the spiritual path. I have found it quite difficult to be relentless in my conviction day in and day out. The mind is a master trickster and plays so many different games that it is easy to go astray. Especially when one is used to immediate gratification in the material world, trying to be disciplined on the spiritual path can sway the best of us. I am still not there yet in terms of willpower but am sharing what has been working for me.
The first has been creating a routine of doing the practices in the morning after waking up. No matter where I was, I did them. I even woke up at 2:00 am to do the practices before catching an early morning flight. Although many a times I used to be tired and the sessions were far from ideal, it created a pattern of making it ingrained into my system – almost like brushing my teeth. I have found that doing important things in the morning is always good. If I put off something to the end of the day, I would end up skipping a few days. Once that happened, subconsciously it would get reinforced that the activity was not so important. This would eventually lead to it being skipped regularly.
The second thing was creating regularity in dietary habits. In one of my earlier posts, I have talked about the role of food in sadhana. I experimented and found food choices which worked for me. There were several parameters I looked at – taste, time to prepare, availability of ingredients, ease of digestion. I did some experimentation and found some staple easy to make recipes which worked optimally for me. Then I just started eating them in rotation. It can sound a bit boring but it works well. Food cannot be neglected as eating spicy,oily,heavy food can really disturb the mind, lead to dullness, more poor choices and disrupt days of progress.
The third is creating small internalized rituals of devotion to the Guru. The mind can get influenced with time and I am using this loophole by attempting to reprogram it. Thinking of the Guru, doing internal chants in his praise, dedicating the first morsel of food every meal, remembering him as the last thing before sleeping and first upon waking up will slowly make the mind feel that the Guru is extremely important. Hence one will start valuing the Guru’s words more and more. This along with the experiences from practices, ahara shuddhi can create a positive cocoon and the probability of straying from the path gets reduced.
I have not mentioned Gurukripa or Guru’s grace as a support for willpower as I have only focused in this post on what is in my control. Gurukripa is the most essential aspect in the spiritual growth of a shishya. However, I do not understand how it works and cannot explain it. I just know that it is the most potent accelerant on the path.