Master the Basics Before Going Deep

Master the Basics Before Going Deep
The question I most often hear from students and clients is, “What can give me the quickest results to take my practice, diet, or health to the next level?”

For all inquisitive minds out there, my advice is to focus on simplicity and master the basics:

  • Learn to meditate and practice it
  • Start eating with awareness
  • Listen to your inner voice
But typically this is not what people want to hear. They want a quick fix. They want to feel success right now. An Ayurvedic and yoga practice is not about a “quick fix right now.” It’s about pinpointing with accuracy the change you need to make on a consistent basis to get lasting results. Anyone can sell quick fixes or in-depth details on how to get results now. But that is not the goal of an Ayurvedic or yoga practice.

The Rationale Against the Quick Fix

I once knew a high school art teacher who was baffled at the arrogance of talented young teenage artists. They wanted to learn how to paint like the great masters, without understanding the basics of drawing. He made them go back to the basics by penciling basic sketches and shading. He would insist, “These students will never go on to be great artists if they don’t master basic drawing skills first.”

When the great yoga master, BKS Iyengar, was a boy in India, he got up every morning at 4 a.m. to practice yoga with his teacher for two hours before breakfast. After four years, he was tired of the basics and begged his teacher to teach him breathing techniques, or pranayama.

At my studio, I see yoga students who have been practicing for six months or a year who want to take their practice to the next level. When I suggest they learn to meditate or master what they have already learned, they become frustrated. What they want are more difficult yoga poses. Yet, what yoga truly opens us to is the search for inner peace and discovery of ourselves.

So why do we hate the basics so much? Why do we loathe repetition and simplicity? I believe it’s because we are linear in our thinking. We see progress as a straight line. Progress should be seen more as a circle. As we develop and grow, the circle becomes bigger and wider. In our growing we don’t always see results on the exterior. But the workings are happening from inside.

Practice Simplicity

Try grasping a simple concept for one day. For example, eat all of your meals without distraction and in silence. Have your eating be a sensual experience. Taste, smell, touch, and feel your food. Make each meal a mini-meditation. You may find that this concept—as simple as it is—difficult for you.

Or how about mastering the concept of non-judgment? Spend one day judging nothing or no one, including yourself. Try to stay neutral and rooted in the present moment. Drawing inferences for the future is still judging. Making assumptions is judging. It’s a simple concept, yet difficult to apply, even for a day.

You can do this with anything and start today. Pick one simple concept and apply it for a day. Then tomorrow, choose something else. Pretty soon you’ll realize that the road to mastery is not far away.