"What is to give light must first endure burning"
Sādhanā is often referred to as spiritual practice. However, much more is intertwined in the term and has been one of the main themes of the course here in Mysore this summer. In another light, sādhanā is our own masterpiece we create to connect to the Divine. This in turn takes consistent effort and determination and by no means comes easy and at the same time is a worthwhile endeavor that gives more everlasting happiness and fulfillment than we could ever imagine, but first, there is a climb. Each step reaching us closer to the goal while playing with the paradox of detachment.
Sādhanā is also viewed as an ego transcending practice. The goal being liberation and freedom from bondage (samāra). The steps take daily effort where in my case includes regular asana practice, pranayama, and self study and also evening japa, prayer and/or chanting. Tapas (the effort to achieve self-realization) comes in those days where the warmth and comfort of the bed tells us better to stay put but instead we throw the covers off and take the necessary steps toward the mat. Tapas can also be viewed as discipline, an important ingredient in cultivating one's sādhanā.
The practitioner is referred to as a sādhaka, an aspirant. One who skillfully applies the learned rituals and practices, uniting body, mind and soul toward the spiritual goal. A sādhaka is dutifully committed and enthusiastic, though that can wax and wane in the beginning, and doubt part of the path for some, overtime the wavering ceases as the sādhanā strengthens and becomes a way of life. The important part being the intention behind it, something R. Sharath Jois has stressed time and time again this summer. Simply bending the body and/or going through the motions of ritual with no internal reflection often bring fruitless results. Another word for this heart/mind intention is bhāvanā. Bhāvanā can be thought in terms of planting seeds. Our sādhāna makes for fertile ground but what seeds will we plant?
"The practice of yoga, as a whole, is a profound science of internal purification which leads practitioners very gradually to the realization of the non-difference between the jīvātma, or indwelling Self of the individual, and the paramātma, or Universal Self. For this to occur, a proper intention and direction of energies needs to be established from the outset of a practice; in Sanskrit, this is known as 'bhāvana.'"
(Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Sūryanamaskāra)
The thirst needs to be there. Yes, there may be days we feel apathetic; however, the beauty of our sādhāna is what it is pointing us to. This keeps it alive. It must stay alive within us. We must fan the flames. Each day carving out our masterpiece of transformation. The beauty being, no amount of effort is wasted. Each step, leading toward illumination.