“I can’t be expected to practise yoga much,” complained a pupil, “because I am now so busy with the final structure of my business. If I don’t do that, it might begin to decline, and if that set in, it might even collapse. This is an exceptional time for me. Once the business is completely, firmly established, I’ll be able to concentrate on yoga.”
“It will never be completely, firmly established,” replied the teacher. “Nothing in the world can be. Your present time of life is not exceptional, it’s typical.
“After all, when one is a child, one can’t practise yoga because one has never heard of it. Then at school or as an apprentice, or learning from mother about running a home—those are full-time, aren’t they? Because one’s learning new things all the time. Then in the romantic tides of youth, there’s hardly the inclination to practise yoga. Then one is building up a trade, or bringing up the children: no time there. After retirement, and when the children have left, one’s somehow a bit tired. One thinks, ‘Well, I couldn’t succeed in yoga even in the full strength of youth and then maturity: what chance have I got now when my energies are waning?’
“It’s a train of excuses, from beginning to end. It’s based on the wrong idea that yoga is adding a few more obligations and concerns to the existing ones. It is not. It is learning to withdraw at fixed times, and later at will, from the whirl of compulsive reactions. It’s learning to lay things down, not simply taking up more and more.
“Beginners at anything are usually tense all the time, because they cannot yet understand which things are important and which are not. The expert knows how to relax, and when he can relax. So even apart from technical skill, his actions are more efficient.
“All the stages of life have advantages and disadvantages. The small child asks the great questions, which the parents cannot answer: he usually gets discouraged and gives them up. The energy of youth is an advantage, but may dissipate itself in what are later found to have been trivialities. Middle age often gives some stability, but also some little authority, and it can become possessiveness and petty domination. The fourth quarter of life is said by Manu to be specially favorable for the attempt to be spiritually free; the responsibilities have been discharged, and apparently compelling ties have loosened. But all too often, older people have let themselves turn into mere bundles of habits.
“We should look at the advantages of the stage of life we are in, and avoid making excuses. However much we pile up excuses, we shall find ourselves at the end without the great excuse.”
“Why, what is that great excuse?”
“We shall find we have no excuse for having been born.”