An excellent question received some time ago, inspired me to write an article about “getting stuck” on the spiritual quest.
Here is the question: “Why there are so many people who are for years into yoga, but only they make is progress into dysfunction. They are demonstrating every characteristic of ‘getting stuck’ on the mental level. They are not capable to release rigidity of their dominant mind.
Everything bothers them; they are judgmental, angry on everything outside their routine and everything different from their rules. These are my observations, and questions on which I didn’t find an answer yet. It’s not only about yoga; it’s about all schools and methods on the development of consciousness, about all promised ‘return to authentically living, to wholeness’.”
Each pattern you can’t set yourself free from is a trap. Each one is difficult to discover, and the most difficult are those which are made from words like “freedom”, “enlightenment”, “spirituality”, God”, “guru”, “yoga”… – thus creating just the opposite of what these words are standing for.
The thing is that you can’t step out of vasana (mental pattern) by changing it for another vasana. And that is exactly the mistake repeated by many during the thousands of years; they even created traditions and long-living schools from that.
It is happening everywhere, but since the question was inspired by some video commentary of Yoga sutras, let’s concentrates on yoga only. If you forget about the fact that yoga is based on the experience, it is very easy to slip into the wrong interpretation of Patanjali’s text. The experience of yoga is a prerequisite for understanding it, and then for establishing it in everyday living.
I will write this again, because, it’s so easy to miss the point of this sentence. THE EXPERIENCE OF YOGA IS A PREREQUISITE for understanding it, establishing it and living it.
Most of the so-called “yoga practitioners” – the above question was related to them – come across the schools of “yoga” where they are taught completely the opposite: a lot of things to do, follow, learn, listen… and then, in the end, the experience of yoga will come. Such upside-down teachings can only result in life which is equally upside-down. And people who live it literary get stuck into ignorance.
An ordinary person lives today according to the millions of mental patterns, and that’s why s/he is suffering. The ordinary follower of some spiritual school understands that s/he is suffering and wishes to change that. S/he thinks: “Until now I was doing/eating/thinking this way. And this school of yoga (or anything else) says I have to do/eat/think differently.” And, miraculously, when s/he changes his or her way of thinking, the change in life follows.
But, alas! These changes are restricted – they lead only to the next wall and do not open the door to freedom! After one, two, three years of new living, such a person realizes that s/he is suffering again! At that moment, some of the people change the spiritual school or the master and again begin with the process of replacing one pattern with another. Some people give up and return to “normal” living in which there is no place for spirituality – as it’s not working for them anyway.
And some decide to do/think/eat even more and with more discipline exactly what they have been told to do/eat/think! Because, the guilt for not being free from the patterns, for not experiencing freedom and enlightenment – is not in what they have been doing/thinking/eating, but in the fact they didn’t do that enough, right? That third group is the one which our questioner has perceived as “rigid, for years in yoga, but not free”.
The world is full of gurus belonging to some tradition, repeating what they have been told from their masters, and asking from their followers to do the same. They just follow the natural flow of things, once after one pattern (religion, rules, and discipline) were established. There will be always enough people willing to get stuck. And, from the other side, the world is full of such “getting stuck” students – they don’t have to change anything after they enter the given pattern: they just follow the rules and hope for the best.
That said, I will say there were (and probably are) some people who got stuck with me also! Not for the first, but for the second reason. Moreover, they expected from me to behave as they imagine I should behave. Some imagined teacher like or guru-like behavior, as such behavior can exist at all! I try to turn them away as soon as possible, exposing them to exactly what they think I shouldn’t do! But, that is a long story. Maybe some other time I will write more about this one.
Back to the point: first, the experience. That is the beginning of Yoga sutras; that is how Patanjali wrote them. Just because of that, I know he was enlightened (this statement is, of course, very tricky). But, only the one who is outside of any pattern can be so authentic and so tactical to say it all, in so few words, in the perfect sequence. Unfortunately, the eventfulness of his words is costly, in the sense that so many commentaries went astray from the original meaning of sutras and thus created a concentration camp of worst kind; the one in which the walls are made from ideas such as “knowledge”, “enlightenment” and, alas, “freedom”!
Do not full yourself – the most common source of such wrongful commentaries is – and has always been – India itself! White or orange dhoti, darkish skin, and funny accent are cool, but it can also be a package for emptiness.
On the other side, the experience of yoga is universal. It belongs to every human being. It’s our right by birth. It is not difficult or demanding. Of course, only if you don’t claim it for a legend, or for a religious fairy-tale about the promised blessed state which is to come… once. If you do so, yoga will become difficult and demanding.
With the prepared student, a couple of hours is just enough for a good experience. The worst students are those head full of different “spiritual knowledge”, techniques and methods, especially those who think they have been doing yoga for years. For such, I need some more time, and actually, I would most likely wish to send them home for a couple of months cooling off.). Actually, with a prepared person, I need a couple of minutes to experience the state of yoga, and then a day or two for that person to recognize it and accept it.
Very short time. No philosophy, no complications, without anything usually considered as a “yogic arsenal” of prerequisites and demands. And that is exactly how Patanjali’s text begins! It says: “Yoga is now and here. Yoga is an immovable consciousness.” According to that, there is a possibility that Patanjali needed a couple of seconds to bring his students to experience the state of yoga. I am not that good. Not yet. I need more. But still, it shouldn’t be complicated nor longish.
Only after that follows understanding and establishing of the experience. During this process, as I have said, even with the experience of yoga, there is a possibility that old or new patterns still become dominant. In that case, such person will probably carelessly reject the diamond, demanding from me to give him, or her, beads made from glass.
Getting stuck after experiencing the state of yoga is possible, and that fact is sometimes misused by some so-called “spiritual” organizations. But, that’s again another story.
If we consider just personal obstacles, the possibility of getting stuck after the initial experience is exactly the reason why text such as Yoga sutras was written: to ensure a secure path to those who did experience the state of yoga but now need to understand it and establish it firmly. Unfortunately, as it happens in life, some people can do bad things with best intentions, and even turn yogish into sluggish!
Uh, I had let myself go writing a lot, and this is only one post! Let me conclude: the experience of yoga is prerequisite for freedom and efficient life. If there is no experience, getting stuck is guaranteed. After you have been experiencing the state of yoga regularly, understanding should follow.
If there is no understanding (and the understanding is provided with a correct interpretation of Yoga sutras – or, if someone is enlightened and creative enough, may provide his or her own text, no problem) getting stuck is a probability. After understanding, you have to establish the experience firmly into daily living. For that part, besides the time that is needed, it is helpful to have a living example of life outside the patterns – someone who will constantly challenge your remaining patterns; someone who will not always be pleasant and smiley (that is reserved for the beginners), but will always be on the edge of your tolerance. In other words said: a good teacher!
However, I admit that this last part is only a welcomed option, not a real necessity. Because, once you have the experience of yoga and understand it, everything should be on your side. The universe will anyway send to you someone who will shake you for good and force you to let go the last traces of patterns you have lived in for so long.