Resting On The Spiritual Laurals; Practices Within The Practice.
Updated: Jan 8, 2022
Page 85 in the book "Alcoholics Anonymous" impresses the need for constant maintenace of the spiritual life as we have come to understand it.
"It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels. We
are headed for trouble if we do, for alcohol (or any addictive behavior) is a subtle
foe. We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily repreive
contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition. Every day is a day when
we must carry the vision of God's will into all of our activities. 'How can I best serve?
Thee--Thy will (not mine) be done.' These are thought which must go with us
constantly. We can exercise our will power along this line all we wish. It is the
proper use of the will."
I love this paragraph. Hidden between the lines are several yoga techniques and understandings anyone can use to maintain and grow the spiritual life.
"Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God's will into all of our activities."
Our past practices are not enough to maintain a spiritual life. “Every day“ is the well known "one day at a time". While past success develops confidence, today's practice is the only one that matters. My ”current circumstances" are all my "activities" within the span of one day. Practices of mindfullness using the body and breath sharpen the skill of awareness of the present moment. Particularly when the mind is in the bondage-of-self, becoming aware of the breath and body strengthens our ability return our mind back to step 1, if only we can become aware of the breath and body, which are in the present moment.
Additionally, the first line of the Isha Upanishad's declares "The Lord is enshrined in the hearts of all". Our Higher Power is found within the body, within the heart space, also in the present moment. Yoga practice improves the skill of bringing the mind into the present moment making "Every day is a day..." and "...all of our activities" a true reality.
Try the following:
Observe the rise and fall of the chest as you inhale and exhale, OR the air as it passes through the breathing passages. This very simple moment of awareness of the breath or body directs the attention of the mind within. With the mind turned within, apply the appropriate spiritual principle. This can be also how you "pause".
Practice being aware of sensation in the body by focusing on how the body is feeling whenever you do any physical exercise. At the gym, on the mat or walking the dog, take the opportunity to focus on sensation in the body. These sensations are in the present moment. This practice can then be applied similarly as the "pause".
"These are thoughts which must go with us constantly."
I love to tell those I sponsor that "constantly" is a "thing". For many, the first time we become aware of our thoughts occurs as we progress through the 4th and 5th step. Seneca, the Stoic philosopher, wisely asserts of our mind, "We suffer more often in imagination than in reality." As yoga impoves the awareness of what one thinks; the story we tell ourselves on a moment to moment basis. As present moment awareness strengthens, we can then practice directing our thoughts, and in our case "constantly", either back to sobriety and priciples or to the God of our understanding, whichever is appropriate in any given circumstance.
Try the following:
Repetition of a mantra, perhaps use one of the many short slogans or prayers from the program, is a type of prayer meditation. Repeat a mantra while on a walk, working out at the gym while practicing yoga postures or traditionally while in seated meditation and recited 108 times. While there are real benefits to a mantra in the moment, this practice will also improve your ability to turn to prayer or principles at any give time during the day. Think of it a building a muscle.
"How can I best serve thee?"
To ask this question is an act of spiritual surrender. The yogic practice if surrender, called Ishvara Pranidhana, means that if we are able to completely surrender our individual ego identities to God (our own higher self) we will align our will with that of the God of our understanding. This practice is as simple as it sound. Just ask the question. It is most usefully performed when the mind is directed within. Begin by cultivating breath and body awareness, then HUMBLY ask the question.
Try the following similar questions;
Who am I?
What would you have me be?
What would you have me do?
By no means are these techniques a 12 Stepper's only options. They are simple spiritual practices from the tradition of yoga. Try them on for size, keep the ones that work for you and leave the rest. By all means, explore spiritual traditions outside of the 12 Steps to find similar practices. All lead to the same destination, a deeper connection with the God of our understanding.
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