If we consciously want, we can make significant changes in our lives and transform the world into a better, sustainable place. The results of these efforts may be visible right away, after some time or don’t show up at all: for this reason, not seeing changes can be frustrating and may stop many of us from trying. In reality, changes continuously occur. Nevertheless, we might not recognize those changes in the short term.
A flower seed has to undergo many changes before it starts to blossom and reveals its full beauty. To the uneducated eye, these transformations are unnoticed. Intellectually, we acknowledge that the flower must have been undergoing subsequential processes to grow, but we were not aware of them when they took place. The length of these steps differs from flower to flower. Every significant shift needs a different amount of tiny minor adjustments to be completed successfully.
Sometimes, as yoga practitioners, we don’t feel physical either spiritual improvement, and we deduce that the practice is not working, so we are tempted to stop. The slightest variation occurring during the smallest amount of time – kshana – significantly contributes to a complete makeover. Minor changes also prepare and protect us mentally and physically along the process of transformation. In most cases, abrupt changes could be frightening or shocking. Imagine going to bed as a teenager and wake up the very next morning as an older adult full of wrinkles. It would be a pretty scary awakening, wouldn’t it?
The Bhagavad-Gita, in chapter 11, describes how Krishna hesitates to show his true nature to Arjuna. Once he did so, Arjuna was not entirely ready to embrace “everything” Krishna represents, so he asked him to come back to his “human” form. We could say that a decisive change becomes visible when we have the ability and strength to deal with it. We will notice a difference in our yoga practice once our bodies and minds have gained the necessary stability and balance. And yes, this might require a lot of time, but it is the exact amount of time we need to become more aware of what is happening in the present moment. When we recognize how one thing leads to the next and how everyone and everything is interrelated in this universe, we realize yoga. What actually means changing? According to Yoga Philosophy, something is eternal when its essence is not affected while transforming. Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati writes in The Textbook of Yoga Psychology that the core elements of the entire material universe are electrons, protons and neutrons. They don’t change; what changes are their order and arrangement, so we see different forms and facts. Whenever we see a variation in the effect, something changed in the order and the cause’s arrangement.
Vishnu, the God of preservation, takes different forms (avatar) to save the world in different times. One of his incarnations was Krishna, who in turn embodied various aspects: the mischievous boy called Gopala, adorated by the gopis, the related friend and adviser of Arjuna, to whom he revealed his true essence: God, Brahman, Love itself. During our lifetimes, we undergo several changes to fulfil specific roles and duties: we are children, students, professionals, parents, friends, and sometimes we are all of them at the same time. Each aspect needs more changes to be refined or lasts longer than one other, and it can even change its characteristics while maintaining its essence. Change is always present, either fast or slow, visible or not visible.
How can we make conscious changes for the benefit of all? How can we prevent giving up when we don’t see results immediately? Thoughts are the essence of every word and action, and by observing our thoughts, we can recognize our thinking patterns. To encourage the change we would like to see, we need to modify our thoughts and shift our behaviours accordingly. Once our behaviours can turn, everything else will adjust as well. Master Patanjali says that through a consistent, diligent, disciplined, uninterrupted practice for an extended period, we create the right conditions to “control” our thoughts. We need to be patient and trustful: when the right time will come, the minor underlying changes will manifest as a significant transformation.
Remember: time is on our side, after all.