Sitting in the asana for an extended period of time is a great joy that I have been privileged to receive on a couple of occasions.
When I sit for two to three hours, like on our regular weekly Sunday Chandi Paths, there comes a point where there’s an intense pain usually in my foot, though sometimes in my knees, back, etc.
The pain usually comes toward the end, and I’ve always been able to stick through it knowing that the recitation is almost done and having the resilience to hold out until then.
As the asana increases, four to six hours, that extraordinary pain still happens around the two to three hour mark.
I can still bargain with my mind when it shouts out and yells in consternation that I need to break the asana. There’s still tangible goals to achieve, “Okay mind, we just finished a three hour cosmic puja, we just need to start the Chandi Path and get to the first chapter.” Once we get there the mind calls out again, “STOP! STOP! This hurts too much!”.
Still I’m able to make small bargains and set small goals with myself, “Okay, let’s just finish chapter 1.” This continues on, focusing on small sizeable goals. Focus on finishing the middle episode of the Chandi, the last episode, just a few praises of the Goddess to chant and so forth.
Even with this length of asana, there’s still a concept of time in my mind. I’m working towards finishing a goal and it will happen in a certain amount of time.
I can break my goal into smaller goals as immediate action items that I know I can complete. In the same way I’m able to focus on completing my larger goal as I know a timetable by which I can complete my smaller goals.
I’m being motivated to sit so long by the completion of goals, which express my devotion to Her.
When the asana expands beyond 6 hours to 8 hours and farther, the small timetables by which I was keeping myself motivated start to lose meaning. I can keep myself motivated to chant a six hour Cosmic Puja and Chandi Path back to back, because even though it’s a stretch, it’s still conceivable to my mind that my asana will be over soon and I just need to focus on the little goal.
In an eight hour and beyond asana it’s hardly justifiable to tell my mind that we can just focus on the current chapter and then worry about breaking the asana later. The time period that we’re going to be chanting in our asana is just so long. If I complete one chapter there’s still hours more work to be done.
In such a long asana, I know that I’m going to have pain. Sometimes my foot is going to hurt, sometimes my knees are in excruciating pain, my back becomes strained and uncomfortable. Other times still my mind is wandering. I can’t focus on the text at all and I’m just thinking about how I’d really love to get up, or I’m thinking about all of my desires, the bad things I’ve done, the good things I’ve done. My mind goes just about everywhere.
Yet just the same, in that long of an asana, sometimes I’m not experiencing pain. Sometimes I’m really focused on the text that I’m reciting, other times I’m deep in the pranayama, or my mind remains entirely absorbed in God or a state of great bliss.
The bargaining goes away and in its place comes acceptance. When my foot hurts I know that it’s going to pass. Yes I’m in extreme pain now, however it won’t last. Later I will be content, or even absorbed in bliss.
The practice of sitting in the asana becomes a watch of the mind as it goes through cycles of pain and pleasure. There is a time when the mind is experiencing pleasure and there is a time when it experiences pain. We keep our awareness on God the whole time by maintaining the asana, thus maintaining the sankalpa. Our perception moves towards Kali, she who is beyond time, and as we make an effort to pay attention her, she brings us in towards Her.
Having a Guru who leads this practice has provided me with the necessary inspiration to maintain my discipline despite the really low points in my asana where I can’t think of anything other than afflictions of the body and mind I’m currently experiencing.
I bow down to the Guru who has provided the example of this sadhana and continues to inspire me to live it every day of my life.
I would implore anybody who has an inspiration towards this sadhana to make an effort to sit with the Guru as long as they can. Build your capacity to sit and focus on God as much as you can. No effort is wasted.