Updated: Feb 5
Q. Is there any way to know if one's on the right path or not. It seems as if the more yogic practices i'm incorporating in my life, the more is the confusion arising about what is right and what is wrong(instead of clarity)?
A. The right amount of introspective practice is needed to integrate our lives along with our practice. In different periods of our lifetime, different amounts and types of practices will be needed. It is possible to practice too much, too little, or even do practices that are not helpful.
So how do we know?
First, what is a good practice? A good practice is one that allows the mind to become more at ease and clear. A good practice is one after which you feel simpler and steadier than you did before. A good practice is one after which the body feels more relaxed and at ease. This doesn't mean practice will be easy, or that no challenges will arise. But generally, the challenges that arise will also subside, or will give us insight and be manageable in a way that is helpful in our day to day lives. If the challenge is too much and too overwhelming, it's time to change something.
Practice can be anything. It can be looking out the window. It can be slowly rubbing your palms together and feeling the sensory delight. It can be taking a few full breaths. It can be sitting in meditation, or standing in meditation, or walking in meditation. In short, it can be anything. It's not the apparent outer activity that matters, it is how it correlates with the mind.
The practice someone else is doing may not be the right one for you. The practice you found very helpful six months ago may agitate you today–your mind may have moved on in its subtlety. Or, in an especially challenging period, you may need to go back to a practice from two years ago. Sometimes, you may need a period of no "practicing" at all, since there may be much happening beyond our awareness. The mind may have experienced much, and it may need time to integrate before moving deeper. It is not a linear process. It is a process in which our approach meets the need of the moment. Simplicity and clarity are your guides.
It is also helpful to talk to those around you who can listen openly. Some of the best ways to address confusion and pent up emotions are to share them with friends, share them with a journal, and channel them through physical activity. This is why in Vedanta, karma yoga is recommended in the beginning, and jnana yoga is generally recommended later. And why there are a variety of techniques of varying levels of subtlety. Physical action is a channel for expressing internal pressure and bringing the mind to a state that is prepared for subtler flight. Don't believe that everything has to be worked out within yourself and within your personal mind.
In short, if you're trying many practices and they're causing confusion, pause. Pause whichever activity is contributing to confusion and allow the mind to settle. Move responsibly and gently towards that which brings you ease and clarity, even if it's not considered a "practice."