Yoga is not easy. It shouldn’t be. At each stage along the spiritual path, it should challenge you differently. Faith also is not easy. To believe in something, we need to be challenged constantly. I think that eventually yoga brings us to a place where we must find faith. And I think that ultimately we are called to have faith in ourselves.
This is why it’s important to have an authentic practice. If the practice does not squeeze your ego once in awhile, if it does not make you feel as if sometimes you’re sitting in a dark place, as if you’re unspiritual, if it does not make you more aware of your faults, then it’s not really working. There are moments where your practice will make you feel strong, bold, like you can do anything. But if that is as far as it goes, it not really working to the extent that it was intended.
The beauty of yoga is that it understands humanity. You can take yoga in little bits and it will benefit you. You can take as much or as little as you like, and it will not be wrong. But it is intensely scientific. It becomes wrong when we start to think with our egos that we have somehow written yoga, or that we are in control of its progress. Yoga is beyond the thinking mind, certainly, the part of us that makes choices.
So what is an authentic practice? That is the question. It is essentially the same question as, “What does it mean to live a spiritual life?” The goal should be consciousness, not perfection. Discovering what you do not know. Becoming a beginner, again and again and again. As they say in zen, “going to the places that scare you”. But I hope I’m not scaring you?
Authenticity is also looking to our source in yoga. The scriptural sources that we have, from which we have understood yoga for all time. Honouring our lineage, our teachers. Our teachers choose us, in a sense. We learn and teach others what we have been taught. And when our practice becomes more authentic, we can discover many things from it. I think as long as the ego stays out of the way, we can trust in our own experience.
They say that devotion is the most important qualification for a spiritual aspirant. If we don’t feel that we have it, then at least we are operating from an authentic place. I trust that it will come.
I watched that film about Johnny Cash, “Walk the Line”. In one scene he and his band are going for their first audition. They play some polished gospel song about finding God. The producer asks them to stop, saying that it is nothing he hasn’t heard before. He asks whether Johnny Cash has anything else. Johnny Cash replies hesitantly that he has some tunes which he wrote in prison. He starts to play and the producer (thrilled) replies, “It’s not about believing in God, Mr. Cash. It’s about believing in yourself!”