Sadhana is an activity that people do in order to become enlightened.
Examples: meditation, japa (chanting mantras), Self-enquiry.
People sometimes think that sadhana is a step-by-step activity that we learn from a book or guru. They think there are right ways and wrong ways to do it. They think the guru is a sort of teacher who tells us “you’re doing it right” or “you’re doing it wrong.” Sometimes they even think the guru hands out grades like B+ and D–.
But that’s not the only way sadhana happens. Anything in life can be sadhana. Wayne Liquorman, who was an alcoholic for many years, says that being drunk was his sadhana.
I have a friend who suffered several psychotic episodes over a period of three years. Then one day the psychosis went away for good and she discovered that she had developed vairagya (dispassion) and a quiet mind. The psychosis had been a kind of involuntary sadhana but she didn’t know that until afterward. Her whole family was affected; her children and husband are calmer now and more attentive to each other.
We could call these things “spontaneous sadhanas.” Or, “shit happens and sometimes it has a good result.”
One of the most important sadhanas that I did was handed to me by life in this way. I’m going to describe it here because unlike my friend’s psychosis, it wasn’t completely involuntary. This is something that a person could arrange to do on purpose.
For years I spoke on the phone every day for hours with an autistic boy. I loved him (and still love him) tremendously. Sometimes I taught him things and helped him with practical matters but mostly I listened to him babble. I listened to his opinions, listened to him sing, listened to him tell me what was going on his life. Sometimes he called me late at night when thunder scared him or when his parents were fighting and he needed company. As I listened my heart would swell with love and I would bathe in love. Sometimes the feeling was so intense that it was almost unbearable.
The boy’s mother told me many times that God had sent me to help her son. She called me a “blessing.” I know why it looked this way to her but the truth from my point of view was that her son was God’s gift to me.
I did this because I enjoyed it. It was fun. I liked listening to him. It made me happy.
The opportunity to love someone this much, to feel this much love, is a tremendous gift. It’s a sadhana because love, like consciousness, is an attribute of the divine. Like consciousness, love is beyond the mind.
The fact that it was fun was also a gift because it motivated me.
How can you apply this example to your own life? When you feel love, let the feeling be as strong as possible. Treasure it. Bathe in it. Look for situations when it occurs and repeat and lengthen them like I did when I made a point of talking on the phone every day for hours.
Every instant that you feel love, you draw closer to the Divine.
In reality love is the Divine, and the feeling of love is a way of knowing that God exists and that we are God.