Think of the word 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 suffering through a challenge, and thus it evokes a feeling of difficulty within.
Yet the yoga sutras extol "Titiksha" (mental endurance or neutrality) as a necessary and beneficial spiritual quality. Titiksha requires self-discipline and applies to all levels of our experiences in life — physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Here's how to practice it:
1. Physical endurance brings you heightened awareness.
On the body level, activities like long-distance running or paddling clearly exemplify how, with consistency and discipline, endurance can be cultivated, and even enjoyed. Athletes routinely rise above discomfort and even pain to get to the proverbial “zone,” which is a transcendent place of heightened awareness and pure presence within the activity.
2. Practicing mental endurance helps you deal with difficulties.
On the mind level, we practice endurance by learning to be nonreactive and self-controlled in challenging circumstances. Practicing even-mindedness enables us to move with greater ease through life’s inevitable trials. Mental concentration benefits us in both our personal and professional lives, encouraging us to act from wise discernment rather than quick temper.
3. Practicing emotional endurance builds a strong character.
Feelings rise and fall like waves in the sea, tossing us around from happy to unhappy, or as the yoga sutras explain, from attachment (Raga) to aversion (Dvesa). By developing strong willpower to resist acting from these emotional storms, we create a stable character, one committed to the highest good regardless of momentary inclination toward gratification.
4. Spiritual endurance will help you find inner peace.
Daily sadhana (spiritual practice) requires the endurance of both discipline and devotion. By showing up 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 pure awareness. Eventually, like the long-distance athlete, we come to a point of surrender within our endurance. Far different from giving up or collapsing, this is the spiritual surrender of the ego self that thinks it can do it all. When released, we find true inner peace.
By holding the trials of endurance more positively in our minds and hearts, we can trust that it will take us where we most want to be. Paramahansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi, writes, “Perseverance is the whole magic of spiritual success.” In the juxtaposition of committed, extreme effort and complete willingness to let go, we experience freedom and bliss.
Next time your endurance wanes and you are tempted to give up, remember these guidelines. With practice they will lead you to peaceful surrender and ultimate success: