With all the demands and busy-ness of life it is easy for us to get scattered in so many different directions. Our focus and concentration can get dissipated to such an extent that we begin to feel a loss of inner balance. When we get off balance we may feel a loss of confidence or effectiveness in the purpose we’re pursing in life.

My experience of this became very apparent in the irregularity of my meditation practice recently. As I’ve tried to expand my practice and service to my community, maintaining my inner balance with increased demands has been challenging. This has been a signal for me to practice what I preach.

For me that begins with a renewed devotion to meditation practice. Meditation, for me, is a way to call back the disparate parts of myself that can get lost when I’m trying so hard to do all the things I think I should be doing. It’s a way to reconstitute my energy, life force, or prana in the language of yoga.This is my essence, my true being, the genuine expression of my unique individuality.

Meditation is literally a technique to cultivate the power of the human being in body, mind and soul. As we carefully watch the breath at each stage of inhalation and exhalation, we focus until we develop unwavering attention. Pausing at the top and bottom of the breath to reset our focus will then naturally become dharana, or concentration.

As we hold fast to our dharana, we soon make an almost imperceptible shift into dhyana or meditation. I liken this to the process of distilling spirits. The spiritual energy we circulate in meditation is condensed and purified until it infuses our whole being with its power. This is the life force that helps us accomplish our goals on the spiritual path.

But, as I have seen, if I allow myself to lapse in this regular practice, my life force can once again be diluted.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali tells us that spiritual success comes from constant practice. Like the New Testament admonition to pray without ceasing, we are encouraged by the Sutras to develop habits that become attitudes, always pointed in the direction of practice, faith and goodness.

We all have different ways to achieve our goals. One that works for me, and may work for you, is to make a written promise to your self. In your journal or any piece of paper, write a vow to yourself that you will practice at the same time for a particular number of days. Forty days, a particularly meaningful number in the Judeo Christian tradition, is challenging and meaningful. Persevering toward such a goal helps me build self respect. If there’s someone I don’t want to disappoint, it’s me. If I can keep my promises to myself, I’m more likely to keep my promises to others as well.

When you have fulfilled that promise it is easy to relax a bit. Personally that’s when I find that I begin to lose the potency that I had earned from concentrated practice. So, I’m challenging myself to renew my vows as they expire. This, I hope, will ingrain my spiritual habits within me to a point that they are no longer temporary but permanent.

Perhaps you’d like to try a 40 day practice as well. If you do, I’d love to hear how it goes for you. One thing is for certain: If we stick with our practice and renew our vows regularly, we will surpass our goals and find ourselves in fresh, amazing states of being that will lead to even greater fulfillment of our human potential.

All the best to you in your practice. May you be supported by the energies of all the saints past and present.

Om, Om, Om!