There is little more we value in Western culture than our freedom and our ability to act autonomously. The ability to live life the way we see fit is one of the most cherished rights of our value system, and from that.... incredible diversity is born, affecting everything from our love life to our work ethic to our spiritual practice and everything in between. This world view is embodied in the concept of independence. 

In Raja Yoga independence is extremely important in our sadhana or spiritual practice. It is a crucial step in the process of awakening, self realization or what we call Moksha. In the practice of Raja Yoga we follow what is called the eight limbed path or Ashtanga yoga. After learning to uplift and purify the mind through the first two limbs- the Yamas and the Niyamas, the mind begins to move inward, away from physical objects, the ever changing world around us and even the body. Through asana practice (the postures that most of us associate a yoga practice with),  the control of our 'prana' or life force through breathing exercises, and the withdrawal of the senses, we obtain an independent, steady mind that is capable of attaining 'one- pointedness'.  This is a crucial step towards successful meditation and, eventually, reaching the 'super conscious' state that is obtainable by all humans if we work towards it. This is the real goal of our existence- to be at one with the universe, all living beings and the divine, cosmic consciousness, God, or whatever name speaks to you. 

This movement towards independence is a natural evolution for mankind. To have the freedom to create our own world-scape and think and act in a way that expresses our own individual true nature is the desire of all. This is beautifully expressed through the words of the United States' Declaration of Independence: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. No one likes to have someone else's rules imposed on them if they are unfair or discriminatory.

To be independent means that we can decide things for ourselves, not led by the arbitrary or prevailing dogma of the day.  To live in freedom allows us to recognize  the beauty of our unique, multi-faceted world and delight in adding our own dimension to it. Being fully awake opens our eyes to our shared experience as human beings but celebrates our differences and uniqueness and the ability to express that with joy and exuberance.

This is the independence that can and should be celebrated. Through a dedicated spiritual practice that yoga offers, we learn how to reach this state of total liberation or Moksha. Through living our lives with a certain discipline that the ancient practice of yoga provides us,  our minds are  enabled to become clear and laser focused and through this heightened awareness, we can be blissful!

Here’s to your independence!