Every spiritual seeker faces obstacles. The Yoga Sutras—the ancient text that guides classical yoga practice—gives us some guidelines about what to look for. In sutra 1.30, Patanjali names roadblocks to enlightenment. According to a translation by Reverend Jaganath Carrera, they are “disease, dullness, doubt, carelessness, laziness, sensuality, false perception, failure to reach firm ground, and slipping from the ground gained.”
Overcoming Roadblocks to Enlightenment
It’s easy to see why the pitfalls noted in Sutra 1.30 can create obstacles on the spiritual journey. When we’re not well (dis-ease), we tend to focus on whatever is causing physical, emotional, or mental pain instead of our spiritual life. Dullness—the inability to focus—is another problem. You may call it “brain fog” or something similar. Dullness can cloud our ability to see or seek truth.
We all have doubts, but when we allow doubt to overcome us, we often waver in the practices that keep us on the path. We begin to lose our connection with our higher selves and may even believe there is nothing beyond the ego. Doubts creep in when we try too hard to understand what can only be known by experience. Doubt also weakens our faith. We can’t understand everything.
Another of the roadblocks to enlightenment, Patanjali tell us, is. We lose our enthusiasm for our yoga practice and let other things take precedence in our lives. When we become careless about the practice, it’s hard to progress. Similarly, laziness impedes are spiritual growth. Now we’re not even careless about the practice; we simply skip it altogether.
Sensuality is one of the roadblocks to enlightenment because it can tempt our bored minds. And make no mistake, the mind gets bored easily; it’s human nature. We want to do things, and we want to feel good. We seek amusement and exciting experiences. While none of this is wrong, the pursuit of pleasure can take over our lives and distract us from the greater path of enlightenment.
We May Waver, But We Need Not Fall
False perception is clearly an obstacle to spiritual growth as well. Patanjali warns that there may be times—perhaps many times—when we think our yoga practice is a waste of time. The temptations of human life may seem more “real” than the spiritual growth we sought when we began practicing yoga. We need to be vigilant and resist the temptation to give up the practice when it doesn’t seem to go according to our expectations.
Failure to reach firm ground and slipping from ground gained are also roadblocks to enlightenment. It’s normal to experience both. If we don’t take these experiences as signs to give up—if we continue along the path—we will continue to grow and expand our spiritual awareness. In other words, we will continue to come closer to truth.
The old saying “two steps forward, one step back” applies in yoga. The spiritual path is not straightforward or easy to travel, but it is rewarding. The Yoga Sutras help us understand and look out for roadblocks to enlightenment. When we notice we are slipping into the distractions Patanjali outlines, we can get back on track quickly, knowing that these obstacles are merely illusions of the mind.