I was first drawn to the path of Kriya Yoga because of its mystical orientation as a way to directly experience the ineffable Absolute Reality and realize what we are as spiritual beings. And, since authentic mystical experience occurs beyond conceptual frameworks, it is naturally universal. I found a path that is both mystical and nonsectarian. Yes! That called to me.
Then I discovered that Kriya Yoga is practical and can be defined as intentional living. It is a way to live a spiritually awakened, wholesome life guided by a higher purpose. That higher purpose is to realize the truth of our being and learn to live harmoniously with nature. It's a spiritual path that is both mystical and practical. The connection between those seemingly disparate life approaches is simply intentional living.
Seekers are often drawn to Kriya Yoga because they want to know the truth about life, and Kriya Yoga provides a philosophy and practices for Self- and God-realization. It is a way to know through direct experience who we are and what God is (regardless of the name we use to describe that Ultimate Reality). Though occasionally spontaneous, that revelation is built upon a foundation of intentional living through focus, discipline, and steadfast dedication.
The premise is simple. Once we understand the core teaching of Kriya Yoga that our essential Self is inherently whole and already enlightened, our spiritual discipline or practice is a matter of arranging conditions for that truth to be realized, revealed, and lived. That's where intentional living comes in. When you know where you want to go, you move in that direction. If you are focused, you avoid the detours.
Benefits of Intentional Living
With focused dedication to our spiritual goal of awakening fully in this lifetime, we begin to live the soul-guided life now. It starts with paying attention to the heart's deepest desire, the soul yearning to express freely. This is a primary reorientation of our life focus—from being driven by outer mores and concerns to attending to the soul's prompting. The benefit of this change is immediate. We gain access to higher guidance, the soul's peace, and joy right away. Intentional living yields joyful living when focused on a higher purpose.
Another key benefit of a steadfast focus on our spiritual goal is giving ourselves a powerful antidote to the culture of distraction we live in. We enhance our ability to enjoy life and live skillfully as we develop clearer discernment. We start to recognize what is truly important and what will bring the highest happiness, peace, and freedom.
Teaching Story About Intentional Living
Paramahansa Yogananda was fond of offering the following teaching story about intentional living.
A man who lived in the village was fortunate to receive an invitation for an appointment with the king. He was beside himself with joy! He thoughtfully arrived early for his appointed time. The guard who admitted him through the gates invited him to enjoy the king's garden until the hour of his appointment. The fellow became so entranced with the beauty of the gardens that he lost track of time and missed his meeting with the king. What was once his joy turned to sorrow. In concluding the story, Yogananda would comment, "If only he had kept his appointment with the king, he could have visited the garden anytime."
With spiritual focus, we don't lose track of our purpose. Instead, we discover ever-new joy in the world as the activity of divine grace reveals itself to us.
Three Practices for Intentional Living
The essential practices of Kriya Yoga for experiencing samadhi (consciousness oneness) and clearing away obstacles to Self-realization are guidelines for intentional, spiritually conscious living. They are defined in Patanjali's Yoga Sutra as self-discipline (tapas), self-study (svadhyaya), and self-surrender (Ishvara pranidhana).
These three life-enhancing, mind-purifying directives can be explored as skillful living by mastering our moments, becoming yogi scientists through study and self-examination, and welcoming the purifying, supportive, and transforming activity of divine grace through surrender.
1. Master Your Moments (Self-discipline)
Life is an ongoing expression of our moment-to-moment choices. How we think, speak, and act in this or any moment influences the next. When we learn to live with a higher purpose in harmony with universal principles that support the well-being of all, our consciously lived moments flow together into a life well-lived.
2. Be a Yogi Scientist (Self-study)
An essential part of spiritual practice is self-exploration and examination by studying the teachings from enlightened sources combined with discerning how they work in daily life. We learn the universal, timeless principles of spiritually conscious living then try them out in the laboratory of our experience. When we do, we learn about the subtle connection between consciousness and experience or manifestation. Then we find ways to adjust our thoughts and underlying beliefs to live in the highest (spiritually conscious) way. Principle meets practice and leads to revelation.
3. Welcome Grace (Self-surrender)
Surrendering the illusional sense of separate self through faith, discernment, and direct experience of our essential Self ushers in a new perspective that allows us to be open to (and expect) the support of divine grace. This new viewpoint opens our heart, mind, and eyes to witness grace-filled activity. The discipline of intentional living has opened the heart's door to awe and wonder. What a transformation from lack to love we experience as life brings forth abundant resources in unexpected ways to support the greater good.