faq: why am I not making progress?

Short answer:

You need to change up your approach! Either get more stable/dedicated, or awaken to the changes that are present in your stable routine.

Long answer:

Our personality is made of our habits, the way that we approach life and all that we do, feel, think, desire. Some of us step onto the mat seeking novelty, flowing through different sequences each time, at different times of different days. Some of us are more meticulous with our approach, choosing the same time of the same days, working with the same sequences for progress.

Both of these approaches have their drawbacks; to make true progress, we have to find the middle way, the tao, the magic in the mundane.

When we come into yoga seeking novelty, we have two many variables. It is difficult to see what stays the same when so much is different day to day. The path forward is unclear because the work is erratic, diffuse, though the spontaneity, sensitivity, and desire for practice are fundamentally good.

When we come into the steady practice day after day, the variables conflate. So much is kept the same that it is difficult to tell what to change, or how, because the postures and practice become habitual rather than a scene for awakening, engaging the self. It becomes easy for the mind to drift, inattentive, and for the body to get stuck in its initial patterns, though the dedication and steady priorities are fundamentally good.

What is a plateau? A place where we coast, rest, resist the changes of the hills and valleys of the journey.

From a plateau, change is inevitable. Gravity, life circumstances can pull us downwards; our renewed energy and external excitements can propel us upwards. From the dips of the valleys, we feel the darkness of having been in a higher, better, lit place. We turn inwards, unable to see what is around us, but this is a good place to see what is within us.

When we work our way up and out to the peaks, where we feel our best selves, bright energy, inspired work, we have the view of all that is around us. We see how far we have come, how much more we want to go forward. The wide vision is an inspiration in itself.

Both states are needed, breathed: when we inhale, we extend the body, look upwards and when we exhale, we ground the body, feel inwards. Knowing where we are in the journey, hearing how we are through the breath, requires sensitivity. It is the opposite of habituation. When we are sensitive, we are alert. Stillness is sharpness, an acuity that allows real perception rather than an accumulation/acknowledgement of data.

It is easy to become inundated with data, outsourcing our self-knowledge because our mind-bodies are full already. In that state, our senses are dulled, we are easily dissatisfied, and desirous of something more/other. This is when the novelty-seeking and the meticulous-dedicated meet: we become habituated to what we have most of.

Resting in habits are resting in places of low energy, where we are not making active choices, not sensitive to what is around or possible. To be creative, to clear a path from the plateau upwards towards our goal, we need to be creative, conscious in our work.

It helps to have a teacher, or an observer attitude towards oneself. With that distance, we can see both space and detail, see what is present and what can be made of it, what needs to be released/untangled in order to move forwards. That direction forwards is determined by a clear sense of purpose: not just change, but purposeful change.

When we know that purpose, we act on it immediately, because knowing is only of value when it is embodied, lived, thoroughly explored and fully expressed.

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