Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1.30 - There are nine kinds of distractions that come that are obstacles naturally encountered on the Spiritual path, and these are physical illness, mental inertia, self-doubt, haste, apathy, laziness, self-deception (incorrect assumptions about ourselves), lack of perseverance to achieve one’s intentions, and the inability to maintain a level of aptitude once gained.
There is comfort in knowing these are predictable.
If these are the impediments along the journey, then we can feel much more at ease when we encounter them. Instead of thinking, "Something is wrong with me," we can see that these are predictable bumps along the road of spiritual life.
If we know that such obstacles are going to come, and that other people before us have encountered them, then we can also follow their experience and guidance as to how to deal with these obstacles.
What Happens When We Meet an Obstacle?
First, one of these nine states of mind or mental impressions arises, and our attention engages with them. They literally distract the attention from whatever else it was focused on at the time. Distraction (chitta-vikshepa) comes first.
The second part of the process is that once the engagement of attention remains fixed on the distraction, then the distraction also becomes an obstacle (antarayah), which is alive and rich with its painful and distressing qualities.
Distraction and disturbance are two different principles. Notice that there first must be distraction, and that this is followed by disturbance.
Slipping Backwards a.k.a. Anavasthitatva
Often after we have worked hard to attain a goal, losing 10 pounds, getting stronger, sleeping longer, working less, being less distracted, eating healthy, it is often our inability to maintain the progress we’ve achieved that is our bigger obstacle.
When we stay in our regular routine, the same habits of mind and circumstance may take over again if we allow them to. We can slip backwards into unhealthy, late night eating, or not getting enough sleep or working all weekend.
Other ways to describe this include:
- Slipping down
- Reverting to previous state
- Going back
It is not enough to achieve our intentions through diligent self-work; spiritual practice means to continue to remain focused and maintain progress once achieved. In other words, to keep it going because it is important to our personal development and core integrity.
No excuses. Just showing up on the mat or meditation cushion every single day.
No one can do this for us. We have to keep our commitment to living our best lives and although at times we might “slip backwards,” we can renew our vows and again promise to stay the course.
Despite the obstacles, we keep going for our good and the good of our spiritual contributions to the world. Love yourself, love your day, love your life!