When you think of endurance do you experience a positive or negative feeling? Although deemed an admirable quality in others, most people think of endurance as “having to bear through a challenge’ and it evokes a feeling of difficulty within. Yet the Yoga teachings extol titiksha (endurance) as a necessary and beneficial spiritual quality.
In a recent discussion with my meditation group, we tried associating various qualities with the word endurance. In doing so, we began seeing how endurance applies to all levels of our experience - physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
On a physical level, the example of long distance paddling or running clearly exemplified how, with consistency and discipline, endurance can be cultivated – even enjoyed – taking an athlete to the proverbial “zone” where she rises above bodily sensations to a transcendent place of pure presence within the activity.
On a mental level, practicing endurance through maintaining evenmindedness, non-reactivity and concentration enables us to move with greater ease through life’s inevitable challenges. And certainly mental endurance is required in life.
On an emotional level, constant waves of feeling throw us from attachment to aversion. Developing strong willpower to resist acting from these emotional urges creates a more disciplined human being – one committed to the highest good regardless of momentary inclination toward gratification.
And last, on a spiritual level, to be both disciplined and deeply devotional in our daily practice or spiritual sadhana, requires endurance. By showing up day after day after day to seek and honor the divine, we cultivate a rhythm in which the ‘negative’ or challenging aspect of endurance ceases and we enter the zone of simple presence.
Like the long distance athlete, eventually we come to a point of surrender within our endurance – a spiritual surrender of the ego that thinks it can ‘do’ it all.
By holding the trials of endurance more positively in our minds and hearts, we can trust that it is the very quality that takes us where we most want to be. In the juxtaposition of committed, extreme effort and complete willingness to let go, we experience bliss.