Sadhana. The Sanskrit word for “methodical discipline to attain desired knowledge or goal.”
This discipline comes usually in the form of a spiritual practice. This spiritual practice is done to release our attachment to old habits, patterns, and less than desirable behaviors. As such patterns are released, we want to be sure we replace them with positive habits and more desirable behaviors. We want to cultivate, with intention, our habits and practices. These habits become our life.
One of my habits is to have a gratitude practice.
For years, this looked simply like a daily journal activity – three, five, or even ten things for which I was grateful to have experienced that day. At first, this worked well, refocused my mind into positive thoughts, and forced me to begin to look at the good things that were happening in my life. As the months turned into years, writing these lists became more like a chore, just something to check off my daily to-do list.
Because I knew how powerful gratitude can be, I dug in and did some research to find a way to bring back the impacts I had previously felt in my gratitude practice.
What was missing
The brain is a fascinating machine. It needs perpetual motion to keep moving us forward. Lists can focus the attention, but to achieve motion, one must engage emotion. Emotion is what my journaling practice was lacking. I was not connecting emotionally with the gratitudes I was listing. I was not grounding them inside of myself. They lacked the heart connection necessary to make true and lasting change.
Questing to regain those feelings of forward movement, I began researching gratitude.
There is a shockingly large body of work written about the effects of gratitude. Unfortunately, much of it is academic. Research papers, dry and boring charts, and graphs. Study after study that documents and details the life-altering effects of gratitude. And no useful way to put the findings of those studies into action. Odd that such a powerful and expressive emotion is demonstrated so coldly.
I believe in divine timing. The desire for a deeper practice coupled with my studies coincided with me learning how to rewire my brain and create new habits to have a greater abundance mindset.
Grounded in the work of mindset and manifestation masters, as well as NLP studies and quantum physics, the courses I was taking and the coaches I was studying with came along at just the right time. The data in the academic studies was compelling and when coupled with the other studies I was doing, gave me the groundwork to me to create more than 21 practices of gratitude.
This is how The Embodied Gratitude Experience (https://mosaic-starfish.mykajabi.com/pl/250592) came into the world – first as workshops offered to my yoga clientele and then as a self-paced online course created during a time when I had to connect with the world via the internet.
And … the rewiring of the brain also needs to engage the heart if we are to make lasting change. In ourselves and in the world. While I do include heart-opening practices in my Gratitude work, I personally want to take myself on a focused deeper dive. I want to open my heart, release the pain there, and welcome forgiveness.
Which is why, beginning today, I am embarking on a 40 day Sadhana.
Why 40 days?
From the most basic perspective, 40 days is an ideal time because the dedication to the practice needs to be long enough to see a benefit, but short enough to not seem daunting or intimidating. Many people say that a 21-day or even a 30-day practice just isn’t long enough for them to create new habits, but 75, 90, or year-long practices seem unsustainable. The brain immediately shifts into a protection mode and starts to find reasons and create excuses that interfere with the success of the practice.
40 days seems to hit the sweet spot. This may be why so many esoteric traditions have a 40-day practice.
Historical references to and symbolism of 40 days
Everywhere I look in my religious and spiritual studies, numbers are repeated. I talk about this often when I do interviews because the number five was critical to the formation of my business and product lines. The number 40 is also very influential and important in most traditions.
The Bible, Talmud, and Torah all use the number 40 to represent spiritual change. Seems they knew a little something about preparing for something like a Sadhana.
- Lent lasts 40 days
- Moses was on Mt. Sinai for 40 days
- Noah’s flood was 40 days long
- In Kabbalah, 40 represents the four sides of the world, each side containing the ten attributes of God.
- Even solar years can be tracked using a 40-day cycle
Numerology of the number 40 – or 4 and 0
In Numerology, the numbers 4 and 0 mean the following:
4 = Focus, foundation, method, practicality, system
0 = All there is, potential, wholeness, inclusiveness, Infinite Potential
The two combine to form the number 40. The power of the number 40 focuses attention on building a secure foundation for the future
Essentially, and this is an oversimplification, the number 40 can be taken to mean that you are creating a foundation of infinite potential. Intentionally designing your life through practice.
We come to the Sadhana
All of this is delightful, but Sadhana is no minor undertaking. It is not to be taken lightly. A Sadhaka, or Practitioner, makes a commitment to themselves and to God that they will undertake specific practices faithfully, dutifully, every day for the full 40 days. Ideally, the body is purified and the practice occurs in the same way, at the same time each day for the 40 days.
A Sadhya, or goal, is set and worked towards. My goal with undertaking a Sadhana at this point of time in my life is three-fold: open my heart, release that which does not serve me, and create more compassion in the world. Each of these raises the overall vibration and creates a magnetic frequency. Through this specific practice, my Gratitude practice will also become more impactful.
How does it work?
The standard aspects of a Sadhana are what you’d probably expect: Journaling, Meditation, Reflection, and Movement. Movement is typically included in the form of yoga poses, qi gong, tai chi, or even just walking.
I like to begin with movement. Beginning with movement helps me use any of the restless energy that might otherwise interfere with my meditation.
After movement, I prepare a candle, a palo santo stick (and sand to extinguish the burning stick), a full glass of water with lemon juice, my meditation cushion, journal, and pen. Sometimes, I will also add a crystal or two, possibly even a grid for maximum benefit. I have recordings of the meditation to use as a guide.
I sit on my cushion, light the candle and palo santo, and take a moment to settle in with a quick cleansing of the space and myself. Then I begin the recording.
For this Sadhana, I am using the Heart Meditation typically ascribed to the Buddhist Master Atisha. This meditation consists of four parts:
The Atisha Heart Mediation, simplified
NOTE: This is not a description of how to do this practice, as there is a great bit of detail in doing it correctly. This is simply a high-level overview.
The four parts of the Heart meditation are fairly typical.
Begin with settling in, using the breath to reconnect the Sadhaka, practitioner, with the body, especially the heart.
Next, contemplate that which is causing the Sadhaka to suffer. This could be worries or fears, loss of a job, a relationship ended, grief for the passing of someone close. I am focused on intense heart opening as a pathway to overcoming some recent grief and coming back home to my body.
Begin breathing in and drawing the pain into your heart where it is transmuted into love and compassion.
Finally, that love and compassion are exhaled into the world. I resonated with this deeply. Past meditations that I have done ask the Sadhaka to breathe in light, exhale darkness. Exhaling darkness always made me feel guilty for sending my darkness out into the world for anyone else to pick up and carry home with them. This process of transmuting my own pain into compassion feels much more appropriate and natural.
This is repeated a minimum of ten times, and some practitioners do this for fifteen to 55 minutes.
Once this first layer is well-practiced, the Sadhaka begins to add in a similar practice, but instead of breathing his or her own suffering, the Sadhaka breathes in the suffering of another and exhales compassion for that person. The third layer is to do the same for the world.
The fourth period of the session is to rest. Return to your body and reconnect before moving back into your day.
I am not a student of Osho, but this practice was commonly used in his community.
He is quoted as having said this about this meditation “The moment you take all the sufferings of the world inside you, they are no longer sufferings. The heart immediately transforms the energy. The heart is a transforming force: drink in misery, and it is transformed into blissfulness… then pour it out. Once you have learned that your heart can do this magic, this miracle, you would like to do it again and again.”
Creating miracles? Sounds pretty good to me. I look forward to seeing how that goes.
If you’ve read this far, either you are interested in your own Sadhana or you’ve practiced them in the past. Either way, I’d love to hear from you.