“Simple” pranayamas like Sama Vritti Pranayama (box breathing) can take you a long way — if you allow yourself to do it more than for only 5 minutes here and there.
Here is the thing: many great practices are simple because guess what? Progress is supposed to be attainable for everyone. Do you know who does not like simplicity? The ego. And everyone has some work to do in their ego to progress. That work of developing discipline, trust, patience, and so on is a great part of the progression — if not the greatest.
Repeat, repeat, repeat. Allow the techniques to sink in. Allow each repetition to take you a bit deeper, slowly removing extra layers of this infinite onion that is our existence.
Sounds boring? Well… what a great chance to work on presence, then! For repetition and consistency are invitations for total presence and a beginner’s mind. To be able to repeat so much with joy, without getting rigid. To keep lightness, curiosity, an open mind. To get to that state of mind is, guess what: part of progressing.
Up until today, whenever I feel somewhat unclear or confused about my path, I start doing 15 minutes of trataka daily, gazing at candlelight. I don’t do it because it is a purifying technique great for the third eye and bla bla bla. I do it because this is the very first technique I learned when I joined my first mystery school back when I was 14 years old. For me, to practice trataka is going back to basics. It is a reminder of how “simple” techniques are so powerful, deep, and insightful. How far from simple they are, once we allow ourselves to go deep enough to remove layers and get closer to experience what the technique is really about.
Simplicity = Humbleness
Repetition = Depth
Consistency = Discipline
Humbleness, depth, and discipline sound quite good virtues for spiritual progression, methinks. They show willingness. Commitment and persistence. To dare. There’s so much power in this.
Everything has its price. The question is, are you willing to pay?
Each year as my AA birthday approaches, I like to take a look back to see how far I’ve come. I’ll be turning 24 years sober this January, and I would not trade my beautiful life for anything.
Twenty-four years ago, I believed life without drinking would be horrifically boring, like eating only brussel sprouts forever. Relaxation would be gone, so I’d feel anxious and stressed out nonstop. Socializing sober would be such an ordeal, I’d probably just isolate. How could I play without ease and comfort?
I secretly longed to drink like other people — people who bantered in fashionable hangouts, hogging all the fun and glamour. I felt I had a disability, this inability to stop drinking once I got started.
In those days, I was literally incapable of imagining how it now feels to be me. Today the space in my mind and heart is soooo cozy, I feel like at any point in my day, I could pull into it like a tortoise and maybe take a nap — just me and that warm inner sunlight of my god. I almost feel tempted sometimes when I’m riding my bike to work and waiting for a traffic light to change. There’s my outer body dressed in rain gear, there’s the incredibly complicated world going on around me, and then there’s this flawlessly inviting inner sunporch to recline in, just closing my eyes and saying, “Yo, god. Thanks for everything. I can’t tell you how much I love you.”
I don’t cause I’d get run over. I also don’t want to piss off people around me, not cause I fear them but because I want to radiate kindness in all things I do. I love strangers — even the rude ones. Life is a gorgeous jigsaw puzzle we’re all piecing together with earnest effort, frustrated at times, all wishing we had the dang puzzle box illustration to help us know what goes where.
The space for my inner sunporch was originally cleared by working AA’s 12 steps. Before that it was packed with garbage — false mental and emotional beliefs I clung to like some kind of packrat. Psychotic hoarders can’t throw away a used Kleenex; I couldn’t throw away my resentments, the countless personality variations I’d hoped would make you like me, or the dusty gilt trophies — academic, professional, and romantic — I’d won over the years that I thought comprised my worth.