What is a Sadhana? The Art of Daily Personal Practice
Sadhana means personal daily practice. As such, anything you practice on a daily basis becomes your Sadhana. And whatever we do for 40 days straight becomes a permanent part of our life. This includes activities that are not specifically spiritual in nature, as well as destructive habits. After 40 days of daily engagement in some activity, that activity will never leave you. Even if you take a break from it, you will find your way back to it time and again throughout your life. The activity becomes part of you. This is why the 40-Day challenge is so popular. 40 days is the length of time needed to turn an activity into a habit.
If you want to develop a Sadhana for self improvement, you will want to practice a chosen set of morning routines for 40 days straight. In that commitment of time, you will sit down with yourself at roughly the same time every morning and dedicate that time to specific activities that promote relaxation.
Building a sadhana is like growing a garden but the garden you are growing is the expansion of your own soul’s awareness. Sadhana is like keeping an appointment with a higher source of wisdom. Staying consistent with when you keep that appointment makes it easier for the higher dimensions to be able to reach you. Higher dimensions never imposed upon us. We must go to them when we are open to receiving guidance. A morning practice is a willingness to receive and be guided by energy larger than our own understanding.
The word sadhana comes from Sanskrit. “Sadh” means root, and indicates the concept of taking direct action to accomplish and achieve. “Ana” means way or method so a sadhana is a way of achieving a goal. This means that any way or method you choose becomes your way and method of achieving your aim. Sadhana is not religious in nature. Many religions have morning sadhana practices, but there are also many sadhanas without religious beliefs connected to them. The primary action is of a spiritual nature, and a quest to learn about one’s self in a silent, consistent, peaceful way.
Sadhana is a dedicated time you schedule to make space for the eternal part of your nature. It is a time where there are no goals to complete. The activities of a sadhana are not tasks that get achieved, but rather, activites we use as a way of sensing into where we are, how we feel, and what we are focusing on. Sadhana activities help us observe ourselves. Most activities are performed from a state of total focus and immersion. Sadhana is an activity of observing what we are focusing on so that we might see more clearly how we are spending our time.
Spending time alone with one’s own company takes the edge off of all other daily activities. When we learn how to sit quietly and listen for the soft voice of truth and wisdom we all have within us, we develop a trusted companion of our selves who we know will be there for us when we turn inward for guidance.
How do we practice Sadhana?
1. Decide on a time in the morning and do not schedule anything else at that time.
2. Decide on how long you feel comfortable practicing (10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes – you decide)
3. Choose an activity to do during the set scheduled time and engage in that activity for 40 days straight no matter how you feel that day.
Do not let your mood or energy level decide if you do the activity. Bring your mood and energy level to the activity no matter how low it may be. And try not to compare yesterday’s sadhana experience with today’s. Developing a personal practice is the process of holding space for all the ways in which you change, in the same way the sky holds space for all the forms of weather that may come.
Some common Sadhana activities include, stretching, journaling, chanting, silent meditation, tai chi practice, reading a sacred text, and listening to frequency sounds like a gong or singing bowls. Find the activities that work best for you. This will not mean you will find an activity you always feel like doing. There is no such activity. But you can find a strong match for what you feel works for you in your morning routine.
The routine does not have to always be the same activity but it does need to be the same time each day. And the activities can not differ wildly. The activity needs to be in the ballpark of relaxation! Jogging can be a sadhana, but working out or training is not the same quality of activity conducive for the headspace being cultivated in a morning practice.
Sadhana is not about following rules. You create your own curriculum and follow your interests as they change. The focus of Sadhana is about following your natural way towards deeper and deeper relaxation. How do you relax? Morning time is best suited for Sadhana because your brain activity is at its slowest when you wake up and only increases in speed as the day goes by. An evening sadhana can be helpful for preparing to go to sleep, but the brain will be quite active at that time.
The activities I enjoy most during my morning practice include: chanting Jap Ji, reading A Course In Miracles, and gentle stretching. I also like to practice an oil bath where I will rub my arms, legs, body, and even hair with a fragrant oil. I will then use a dry washcloth to exfoliate and remove the oil before jumping into a shower. Sometimes that shower is a cold one! And sometimes all this happens at 4 in the morning! The hours of 4 am to 6 am are called the Ambrosial hours and are the most conducive to relaxation and spiritual growth. It is a time when society is still and our minds are open to the Dreamtime. It is a sacred time of day.
I am always happy when my sadhana is able to take place at that time. But I do not push myself to make that happen. I do not push myself to relax. I practice sadhana first thing when I wake up. Sometimes that is at 4 AM and sometimes it happens later. The key to developing a long-lasting practice is to not set goals that you don’t achieve. Don’t set a goal. Just set an interest. And then be curious about how often you follow your interest. Give the 40-Day challenge a try! Developing consistency can’t be forced but it is important to develop a determination to keep these appointments with yourself. Any skill you want to acquire will need consistent practice. Bring yourself to the practice from wherever you are. I wish you joy in your self-discovery adventures!