Faith and the Power of Practice

posted April 24, 2013

Dear Students,

It has been a very long week for all of us in Boston. We feel grief at the pain and suffering we have experienced as a community, even as we have been touched by the selflessness we have witnessed in the brave acts of our first responders and in the countless gestures of kindness from our fellow citizens. After the agonizing hours of uncertainty on Friday, we are all relieved that the surviving bombing suspect was apprehended without further loss of life.

Although the immediate threat of further violence has passed, there remain many unanswered questions as we as a community decide where to go from here. We have suffered a collective trauma, and the process of healing will be a long one. As yoga practitioners, it is worth reminding ourselves how our yoga practice can open our hearts to this process, sustain us in the midst of uncertainty, and make us available to others who are in need.

When we are stressed and agitated, like many of us have been for the last week, we may find it difficult to practice. Yet this is when we need our practice the most. During the citywide lockdown last Friday, Patricia says, "I was feeling agitated and restless, and I didn't want to go to my mat. I was glued to the radio and the TV for much of the day. Finally, though, that small voice inside that kept saying, 'Go and practice,' won over. When I finished, my nerves had been cleansed and purified. My heart soothed, I was able to bring an objective mind to what was happening in our city. I still felt sadness and apprehension, but my practice brought clarity and connected me to the reservoir of faith within my own heart."

We know faith to be one of the "yoga vitamins," as BKS Iyengar calls them, that can help us in our practice. But the power of faith extends well beyond our asana practice. Vyasa, in his commentary on Patanjali's Yoga Sutra, says that faith sustains the yogi like a benevolent mother. At its simplest and most essential, faith is a willingness to continue to move forward. It is the courage to step forth into the unknown, and to meet whatever the next moment brings with open eyes and a receptive heart. As Sharon Salzberg writes, “Faith is the animation of the heart that says, ‘I choose life, I align myself with the potential inherent in life, I give myself over to that potential.’"

Thus, when confronted by uncertainty and doubt as to what to do next, remember the power of practice. Each and every day, our practice gives us the opportunity to test what we have been taught, to verify its core principles, to discover the truth of our deepest nature, and to experience anew the joy that can come from connecting with our innermost Being. As long as we keep fresh the intention to be open, to step courageously into the unknown, and to meet each day with an abiding faith, we can trust that our practice and the inner light of the Soul will continue to sustain us. We may not always know the right way to help ourselves and others, but with practice and the clear mind that practice brings, we can trust that we will make space for healing in our lives and make ourselves instruments of healing for all others.

  1. "Do not wait for strength before setting out, for immobility will weaken you further. Do not wait to see clearly before starting; one has to walk toward the light. When you take the first step and accomplish that tiny little act, the necessity of which may be apparent only to you, you will be astonished to feel that the effort, rather than exhausting your strength, has doubled it—and that you already see more clearly what you have to do next."

  2. - Philippe Vernier

In love and light,

Patricia, Jarvis, Nancy & Phyllis