A few years ago I stumbled into the Ayurvedic spiritual practice of sadhana. Sadhana is a form of awakening that happens when we connect to the spiritual opportunities presented through the activities of daily life.
The Sanskrit word sadhana is often translated as ‘a daily discipline or practice,’ but seems to miss the deeper meaning of this concept. The deeper meaning is captured in the essence of sadhana, which is found in our ability to connect with our spirit through the surrenderance to and enjoyment of the routine activities of our daily lives. To become aware, awakened and alive while performing our daily routines connects us to a source of consciousness that exists beyond the activities themselves. Sadhana is the daily discipline to yield the heart and mind completely to any given activity so that we are always in the present and attuned to the moment. The concept of mindfulness is present within sadhana. To perform our daily activities and routines with mindfulness is to give our full and focused attention – full mind – to what we are doing in the moment we are doing it. Sadhana is the connection to spirit that happens as we bring mindfulness to our daily routines.
About a year ago I wrote about my quest to practice sadhana in the kitchen. I experimented with taking the dull, daily routine of cooking and sadhana-ing it by applying mindful awareness and directing my energy and intention to it. In doing so I experienced cooking as a spiritual practice and found a deep sense of fulfillment in the activity.
I’ve continued to invite sadhana into my life in various ways. Cooking, cleaning, eating, washing… each become an opportunity to enter more fully into the moments of my life. What I’ve enjoyed from this practice is the feeling of ‘showing up’ more fully… engaging each moment of my day with all of me. Whether I am sitting with a friend, reading to my son, or cleaning the bathtub, this intentional exercise of consciousness (the practice of sadhana) draws more of me fully into the moment. I show up and awaken to myself. According to Pratima Raichur in her book Absolute Beauty (a fabulous book on the discovery of inner harmony through Ayurveda), “… sadhana is any action performed with all our heart, soul and might. In the deepest sense, it is an act of devotion. By the attention and intention of a sadhana, we elevate even the most trivial task to a sublime status, and in so doing, invite the highest support for our action.” When I am involved in the trivial task of cleaning the bathtub, but offer to that task all of me, it becomes an act of devotion—to myself, to my family—and transforms the mundane of that task into yet another opportunity to be more fully alive and present to my life.
I continue to find my way back to the practice of sadhana because it is a way to connect the daily with the divine. In the busyness of daily life where the spiritual practices of prayer, yoga, meditation and contemplation often require quiet space to enjoy, sadhana is accessible in the moment. It is a way for me to remember that I am more than just the daily tasks and duties, work and errands. I am a spirit in a body at this moment in time. I may be living out those tasks, duties, work and errands, but there is a being living them out – me. Sadhana is a way for me to remember the ‘me’ doing the work and to bring more of her into the moment. It helps me to connect with myself, and in so doing, connect with the purposes and passions that exist beyond the task at hand, drawing them into the work, transforming it.
To practice sadhana in your own life, begin by picking an activity that you do on a daily basis. Choose something that is fundamental to the flow or your daily life, but possibly feels a bit mundane. Next, create an intention for your sadhana practice. This may include a desire for increased awareness, presence, connection to your breath, connection with your self, openness of heart, or openness to the divine. Finally, begin to cultivate the practice of bringing your intention and attention to this activity each time you do it. Slow down. Breathe. Sense. Feel. Be in the activity. Give yourself fully to it while performing it. Allow yourself to dive in.
Now, watch. Wait. Listen. Be.
May you find yourself immersed in the mundane, but alive in the magic!
Author: Erica McLaughlin is a mindbody therapist specializing in embodiment. She strongly believes in the healing power that comes when we provide ourselves a quiet space to connect the body and mind. In this space our true essence has the chance to emerge, offering the greatest gift of healing: self-acceptance.