Does anyone think it’s funny how hard we try to be non-attached to certain people, places or things that bother us? How we can easily announce that we renounce these certain people, places or things (like bad habits and behaviors) with such gusto only to obsess about them to the point that there is a sick attraction instead? It is shocking how unrealistic expectations can get in the way of our happiness.
I am guilty of such stinkin’ thinkin’ myself. It can range from silly obsessions to major revulsions and go from there to a variety of mind games big and small. The mind is mighty powerful in its ability to fixate on an issue real or imagined, like a thirsty deer tick attaching to an industrious gardener. Here the key to avoiding lyme disease is not in methods of removal but in preventative measures. So, too, with the challenge of being non-attached to the grip of agitation and annoyance of people, places and things.
Yoga is a tri-fold spiritual practice in which non-attachment (aparigraha) is a crucial element. Working from the outside in, we begin with physical fitness. Yoga postures (asana), strengthening, fluid movement to get the heart pumping and bring the body into balance… all obvious to any avid reader at grocery check-out counters. Second, and less obvious, but as important, is the practice of observing our breathing patterns (pranayama) regularly on and off the mat as a way to heighten our powers of awareness and regulate our nervous energy and emotional steadiness. The third piece of yoga’s tri-fold approach is one of renunciation. Specifically weeding out the habits of the mind that now longer serve us. This dynamic means choosing to stop – in the name of love – all those awful things we do to keep us from transforming to a place of fearlessness, empowerment and joy. But to renounce something can sometimes be a form of gripping its opposite and then the law of attraction can kick in a reverse pattern. Such a dance! So yoga is first and foremost a play (leila) between opposites which ultimately teaches us to hover in the light-hearted place of non-attachment.
So going to yoga class is admirable, yes. We need to open up those hips and shoulders, do the splits, skin the cat, bellow the breath and stand on our hands because we can! But we can’t truly master ourselves until we navigate the challenging waters of renunciation and non-attachment. Renunciation is a hard word and hard stance. Like a firm grip, we must clearly recognize and act to make change last. Continued efforts along the path reward us with a softer hand as we find our way to non-attachment. I say mastery, but for me, it is just practice and a recognition of progress, not always perfection. Choices made everyday. That’s yoga at work or play depending on how you look at it.