Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about why I practice. It’s been so long that it’s hard to remember why I practiced at the beginning. I know I loved the poses. I loved the physical practice. And I still do.
One of the things that brings me to my mat each day is the promise of concentration and absorption. Moments where the posture and breath and mind come together and there is perfect poise in the moment.
The daily practice hones our concentration. The act of getting on the mat and staying on the mat, when there are so many reasons we can skip it or end early, hones concentration. We learn to concentrate even when our own mind is tying to distract or derail us.
If we can learn to concentrate, we will eventually be absorbed in the moment. And if we keep going, there are more moments — more stillness. More alignment of body, breath, mind. No past, no future — just an endlessly deep present moment. Where all of the “pairs of opposites” (good, bad; happy, sad; right, wrong; me, you) just melt away and you get a taste of freedom from all of the illusions we create with our minds.
Chapter 2, verse 66 of the Bhagavad Gita reads: “Without concentration, there cannot be meditation; he who cannot meditate must not expect peace; and without peace, how can anyone expect happiness?”
Concentration is what we build when we “force” ourselves to do our daily practice, when we exert our will to build discipline — especially when there are other things we might prefer to do, or when we have impulses to indulge distractions. When we push past our impulses (to skip practice, avoid poses, half-an a pose, get off the mat early, empty the dishwasher, whatever) we are building concentration.
Without discipline there is no concentration, without concentration there is no meditation and absorption. You’re just a pinball bouncing off impulses and being batted about by life events and your own scattered thoughts.
This morning I had some back pain and some negative thoughts, but didn’t focus on them and eventually came to be fully absorbed in practice & it felt glorious. Physical and mental distractions can be strong, but they’re not deal breakers. Unless you choose them over the chance to be fully absorbed in bliss — in the endless present moment. You can only get there if you keep going.