What is the right purpose of spiritual practice?
Right action emerges from right intent. Right intent arises naturally from right understanding. The primary realisation of the Yogi—or any spiritual aspirant—is that of sacred reciprocity. When sacred reciprocity is forgotten, self-centredness sets in and it taints all of our actions. When sacred reciprocity is remembered, we step into a life of service to the Divine. Spiritual practice ceases to be about self-fulfillment, rather it is about fulfillment of Divine intention.
We see this embodied in the Christian Bible,
“Your will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven.” (Mathew 6:10).
Also, when The Christ prayed on the Mount of Olives (as described in Luke 22:42) he said,
“Father, if You are willing, remove this cup [of suffering] from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”
It is easy to get into yoga and spiritual ‘stuff’ with a self-centred motivation. In our ignorance, we project our animalistic survival instincts—the search for comfort, safety, control, and power—into our spiritual practice. Our practice becomes the pursuit of these desires, rather than their transformation. Sometimes this is obvious, but it can also be very subtle and hard to detect. With this kind of motivation our practice can become overbearingly personal, with the whole focus on strengthening and spiritualising “me”. This has its place, initially, because it plays a part in setting a foundation from which we can launch into the impersonal, into the universal. From self to selflessness. It is the human “self” that embodies our spiritual selflessness and enables That to Be and function in the world. A healthy sense of self, free from the perceptual distortions created by trauma and a negative self-image, is a prerequisite to deep spiritual practice and realisation.
We must, however, be careful to not let the prerequisites to spiritual awakening lull us into spiritual self-centredness. It is important to be comfortable, and yet dangerous to get too comfortable. It can create an attitude of complacency. It is important to be clear of trauma, and yet dangerous to get hung up on eliminating every little personality trait—and the underlying conditioning—that bothers us. Actually, our greatest challenges, trials, and tribulations are the ingredients of the awakening we long for.
Applied to Yoga, what does this mean? Simply put, dedicate your yoga practice to commune with the Divine, more especially the Divine Mother. Dedicate your yoga practice to the discovery and fulfillment of your spiritual agreement, the one you incarnated with strong resolve to complete. Dedicate your yoga practice to the liberation of all beings. In this way your yoga practice becomes an act of reciprocity, rather than an act of self-fulfillment.