Ram Dass says that the ego is “a wonderful servant but a terrible master.” In other words, we need an ego to function in the world, and so we should put it to work for us. However, what we want to avoid is letting the ego run the show. We have to remember that while we have an ego, ultimately it is not who we are. We HAVE a body, mind, and ego, but we are NOT the body, mind, and ego. Sadhana is a Sanskrit term that means “conscious spiritual practice”. It involves a disciplined surrendering of the ego. For help with doing so, the practitioner may use various tools such as those found in book 2 (called Sadhana Pada) of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. Sadhana involves both disciplined effort and surrendering to grace.
Sadhana is also a means of creating a ritual connection with the Divine or God, with universal energy, with something beyond our own small “s” selves. It encourages the practitioner or seeker to use self-discipline in order to keep the ego in the role of servant and and to maintain a connection with universal oneness. With regular daily practice, the practitioner continually realigns his or her inner self and progresses slowly and steadily toward the highest aim of sadhana: realization of the Oneness of Being, Enlightenment, Samadhi, the state of Yoga.
The easiest and most efficient way to surrender the ego, to ease suffering, and to connect to our true nature is to apply mind, body and spirit to the pursuit of a spiritual goal consistently, daily and in a conscious, disciplined way. For this reason, sadhana is essential to the discipline of yoga. Sadhana Pada, the second book of the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, offers a variety of practical tools for working with the body, mind, and spirit. (Sharon Gannon’s piece on Sadhana Pada is this month’s Jivamukti focus-of-the-month essay, and in it she gives an outline of the practices found in the second pada. Read her essay here.) With effort, grace arises.
Here’s the tricky bit. Although sadhana is centered around an ultimate spiritual goal, the practice itself should be undertaken without any specific goal in mind. Sadhana should be done for the sake of maintaining the practice and as a means of cultivating discipline. To focus the mind on a goal during sadhana will bring ego into the practice, and as Wayne Dyer says, we can think of EGO as an acronym for “Edging God Out.” Since our intention is rather to invite God in, we must try to instill our sadhana with the sense of surrender and humility that is required to open to grace.
Discipline gets more comfortable with repetition. This month, try establishing a home sadhana if you don't have one, or perhaps expand your home sadhana practice if you do have one. For example, you could practice Sun Salutes, the Magic 10, or the Magic 6 every morning as an asana-based discipline. You could practice the Jivamukti 3-step meditation (step 1. choose your seat; step 2. be still; step 3. focus attention on mantra "let go") as a daily meditation-based discipline. You could read daily from a spiritual text or scripture (such as The Bhagavad Gita or the Yoga Sutra) as a study-based discipline. You could chant mantras in Sanskrit (or work on memorizing mantras) as a devotional-based discipline. Even just a few minutes of dedicated, disciplined practice each day is valuable. The key is showing up for your sadhana, day after day, ready to put in the effort and at the same time ready to surrender.