"According to him (Patanjali) abhyasa (constant and determined practice) and vairagya (freedom from desires) make the mind calm and tranquil. He defines abhyasa as effort of long duration, without interruption, performed with devotion, which creates a firm foundation."
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, second half of the 55th paragraph of the Introduction.
For me, the concept of 'Abhyasa' or 'constant and determined practice' means staying with myself at all times. This practice means that I am not abandoning myself and the reality of my situation in favor of what I think.
Years ago, when I saw Eckhart Tolle speak at the Congress Theater, here in Chicago, there was a long delay before Mr. Tolle came on stage. Then he came up to the podium and didn't say anything for a long time. He looked at us. When he started to speak, he asked if we had been waiting to meditate. This got some laughs. And then he said that we really should have already been doing it. So I tried to understand. There is this unspoken thing about us, I think, we tend to want to be told what to do. And actually I am of two minds when it comes to the message of the moment I just described. A part of me thought at the time that we had all paid to hear something from him, so we were most certainly waiting for him to guide an experience for us, and rightly so--this is how these things work. And another part of me, more firmly established today, sees something in that observation that I perceive in the actions and words of Mr. Tolle. It has to do with the concept of practice that is most meaningful to me.
Practice, like a yoga practice, can be a set schedule. This person practices yoga three times per week by going to classes is an example. Or perhaps someone else practices for about an hour every morning before breakfast using videos or podcasts for inspiration. And another practices using a book or by discerning what the body needs today. All of these examples are about a discreet amount of time set aside, apart from the flow of life to practice.
Another way to look at practice is as a commitment to conscious living at all times. This is a herculean-style of practice. This is big-time. This is real life.
So the way I see it is that Mr. Tolle was gently and playfully suggesting that what he was talking about isn't something we do only at a special event like a talk or discreet practice times, but something we might be doing all the time.
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