Rohit Arya_ 3 blocks to motivation in a spiritual process or sadhana

A spiritual process – called sadhana in Yoga – is a fine thing to have and sufficiently common for people to realize it is not easy. Most sadhana is simple, not easy, and as in all other aspects of life, one loses motivation rapidly. I offer what I think are the 3 prime reasons sadhana suffers and what can be done in integral response .

I had been thinking about the motivation problem elsewhere and have written about it on my blog about Work and Success. Great stuff – view here

I was then faced with a challenge. If, as I hold, “All Life is Yoga”, then these leaks or blocks to motivation should not be peculiar to the work sphere alone.  A little thought showed me that I was making the mistake of compartmentalizing  life.. The  leaks hold with as much validity in sadhana perhaps even more so. Yet spiritual processes may have their characteristic issues so a further effort on my part may not be amiss.


Bodhidharma was a South Indian prince who took Buddhism to China. The new monks were full of enthusiasm for the new faith but they simply could not sit long enough to mediate.  Bodhidharma taught them a variation of his martial art tradition, Kalaripayattu, the oldest known martial art in the world and still practiced in India, to condition themselves – and also defend themselves from brigands and villains who thought non-violent monks were a gift from heaven. This became Wu Shu, better known as Kung Fu and most magnificently kept alive in Shaolin. But the core issue remains. Most mediation styles require if not effort, at least endurance, for the benefits and grace to kick in. This is one of the most common reasons people fail in sadhana. They say they have no time but actually they get weary long before any dramatic changes occur internally. I speak feelingly, and from personal experience.

Hatha Yoga in fact was invented and designed to correct postural flaws and lack of stamina, the two major impediments to practising yoga proper which is mediation.   In actual fact the asanas or postures arose in meditation as a response to needs of the students; the current approach is to reverse the process but that is a matter for another time. Most people take about ten minutes merely to settle down into a simulacrum of stillness at the physical level. The mind takes considerably longer. At about the 25 or 30 minute mark, both physical and mental processes tend to slow down but the body, habituated to inertia over lifetimes has an inner mechanism that activates approximately around the 41 minute mark. Up to the 48th minute you are in profound discomfort. If you can tough it out to the 50 minute the body usually relaxes and settles into a deep state of grace and flow, but most people are in such agony and they feel so completely wasted that the posture breaks, the mind screams even more than the joints and you ‘fail’. After a few such disheartening episodes, you lose motivation and decide meditation or sadhana is not for me.

Those who practice pranayama may face this problem even more acutely. So much tiredness is released from the stored up inertia within the muscle memory that you think you are tiring yourself instead of releasing weakness. The body is a vital component of success in spiritual process, contrary to the usual belief, so having an instrument that is capable of rigour and stamina is paramount. Absolute stillness requires absolute fitness! An interesting aspect of mediation is that long practice – I am talking years now, not months and at least half an hour a day – causes the body to recalibrate itself into its ideal weight and fitness levels. Significant and even dramatic healing may occur. This requires a commitment to the long haul however, and people are usually too fatigued to stay the course.


Till you get to the grace of the still mind, mediation and spiritual processes seem like the most futile waste of time ever designed by a mocking fiend. Since there is nothing to do, and we are all conditioned to believe that not doing is a moral blemish, meditation feels profoundly unnatural at first and above all it is boring. Yes I know you will find endless paeans to the joy and bliss and high of mediation – they are all by people who got to the other side and have now forgotten how bored out of their skulls they were initially.  Unlike boredom in other domains, boredom in sadhana is particularly difficult as you cannot distract yourself, do something different, or employ any of the tricks that work! Boredom in sadhana is brutal because what you are bored with is yourself. This is not a pleasant or a popular realization and is a dangerous cross roads in the path. People prefer to abandon the path rather than accept they may be mistaken about their splendid uniqueness in the world .

There is only you… that is the harrowing part of this. You have to stay with it, accept it, even forgive it if need be, but you are what you are and until you comprehend that and integrate it there is no way forward. Once done, naturally, infuriatingly, boredom ceases! To stay put however requires that you do not get tired. If you are tired as well as bored, the chances of breaking through to any sort of insight or accomplishment go down drastically. The only real help here is faith, and the example of those who have gone before you. They got past it, so will you, if only you stay the course.


Frustration flows from thwarted desire. Mediation is supposed to reduce desires but in many cases it merely hones a keener edge to the desire. You seek virtue, but very often people seek excitement. They want grand and significant experiences, especially if others they know are reporting such things. They want to progress faster than they seem to be accomplishing at present. In sadhana, breakthroughs happen in leaps or jumps… they are not accretions which can be visibly measured, incremental measures of gratifying comparison.  The energy builds up, pools and collects itself and then bursts out, explodes to the next level, including the previous level now transcended. It usually happens at a time that is most inconvenient from a personal perspective also!

The optimal attitude to maintain I have explained in the other blog. I quote parts of it here –   “To work you have the right, but not the fruits thereof” Karmanye vaadika raste, maphaleshu kadachana. Now I do not imagine that Krishna would be against success, his entire life was argument enough against that. Nevertheless this was his prescription for integral action.   It is easy enough to say it teaches optimal functioning. If you are always looking at the fruit, the result, you are distracted from performing skilfully the action which will enable you to achieve that fruit. Yes of course.

The deeper wisdom of this too popular verse conveys is that outcomes cannot be controlled as we would desire.  When I grasped this it caused an internal explosion.  Let me hasten to add I have no patience with fatalism – the Niyati outlook, it is all kismet, in the stars. I believe in and practice Orenda, which is the Huron word for the Sanskrit term Purushartha. It implies, in both traditions,  invoking the power of the human will against the aspect of destiny that is ranged against you. It is the awakening of personal strength to alter what the insistence of prarabdha, activated karma, is trying to dole out to you. The direction of fate need not be your docile path. You can consciously intervene. I am Aghora – we refuse to accept the hand that karma has dealt us, but, and this is vital, the result of our response need not be what we desire. It could be, indeed very often it is, better than that we desired!

Yet and I cannot overstate the case, the leaps, the take-off, they occur unexpectedly and suddenly but only because there has been a steady input of sadhana or spiritual process over  time. The wait is part of the process sometimes as the organism may not be ready for a premature awakening, especially in the Kundalini systems of yoga.  Frustration in such a scenario is therefore avidya, ignorance of the process you have entered into. These supposedly arid periods are of vital significance and import; not to know that is tragic; to grumble about it is futile; to abandon practice is idiocy.

Rohit Arya is an Author, Yogi and Polymath. He has written the first book on Vaastu to be published in the West, {translated into five languages} the first book on tarot to be published in India, co-authored a book on fire sacrifice, and is the creator of The Sacred India Tarot {82 card deck and book}. He has also written A Gathering of Gods. He is the Editor of The Leadership Review, a corporate trainer, as well as an arts critic and cultural commentator. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga

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