Some beginners who take up Yoga with great enthusiasm, are surprised to find their initial exaltation soon fading into inertia. To think of spiritual things then gives them a feeling of headache and they conclude that they were better off when in the world. There can be a sense of betrayal; the higher spiritual forces surely should have shown some appreciation of the great efforts expended. It is as though an offering, produced with great exertion and trouble, has been rejected. This is an experience which will be repeated at different stages of yogic progress, and it is essential to understand it.

The point is that the mind is a living thing, not dead like a piece of wood. And the characteristic of living things is that they react. We can all recall that if we suddenly take unaccustomed exercise, as many people do on the first days of their summer holiday, soon afterwards the body feels painful, stiff and heavy. Exercise is supposed to lead to increased fitness, but at first the body reacts against what it is not used to. At this stage most people give up their resolutions to exercise every day; it obviously does not suit them. Those who go on, however, find that gradually the body begins to adapt itself; the muscles feel less stiff and begin to develop, and the lungs adapt themselves to take in more air, so that the sensation of “stitch” disappears.

In the trained athlete, far from being an effort, exercise is like a tonic to the body, which cries out for it at the exercise period every day. Such people know a physical zest of which ordinary people have no idea; furthermore, their bodies are capable of meeting the strains of ordinary life.

It is just so in the psychological and spiritual realms also. Beginners must expect their minds to feel a sort of discomfort after being subjected to unaccustomed tasks; the unease is not felt at the very beginning but soon afterwards. They must realize that the way to overcome it is to persist in the activity in the confidence that the mind will adapt itself.

Yoga should be pursued with common sense. We know quite well in anything else, good or bad, how sudden changes will produce violent reactions, whereas we can adapt to gradual changes. We also know that persistence is necessary to establish the instruments in their new condition. Everyone would see how ridiculous it would be for a child to have to practise the piano for two hours a day from the beginning. Twenty minutes is quite sufficient. But we also see it would be fatal to permit even one day to be missed. In the same way beginners at Yoga should take up practice of twenty minutes a day, in which case they need expect no too violent reactions; but they must realize that it will be a very great mistake to permit a break of a single day for any reason whatsoever, even illness.

The mind should be treated as a plant; if it is wrenched in a new direction too abruptly, it will be broken and will not grow. To set it in the new path a persistent pressure must be applied and maintained steadily; after some time the plant adapts itself and is set in the desired way.

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© Trevor Leggett

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