Taking lots of walks down memory lane these days. This time last year I was furiously studying for my teacher training that I was just a couple of weeks away from starting. Yesterday, I came across my notes about a Yogic Philosphy (or Yama) from studying Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and he was discussing Aparigraha or “Non-Attachment”.
When I was first learning these ideas I couldn’t help but take things too literally and typically this Yama gives the impression that we need to let go of our attachment only to material possessions and while this is certainly true my “Aha” moment came with the idea of being so attached to my body looking and being “perfect”.
Applying this idea in this way had me considering that Non-Attachment was more about discrimination and gaining control of this ideal and asking “Why?” Why do I feel like a thinner body will make my life easier/better/more joyful?
The desire to be thin is a useless means to liberation – because as we all know it’s not the end that we are attached to; it’s the process. Once “thin” is achieved we are now bound to the suffering of maintaining it. The thin body is not really the desire – it’s only our minds desire to desire SOMETHING. Our culture is attached to the pot of gold at the end and we don’t enjoy the journey of getting there!
These realizations are sometimes quite easily reached but Non-attachment is put to the test when negative thinking creeps in or we start worrying about others’ perceptions. Heck, others perceptions is an exercise in Non-attachment too!
As time wears on I realize that my idea of a perfect body is nothing that I really NEED. This perception has always been in my head is simply a DESIRE and attachment to how I look.
I personally have struggled with the idea that non-attachment is apathy or indifference and of course no one wants to feel that way about their lives. I would also observe and take note of those who have a “don’t give a shit attitude”… these people didn’t seem anymore content than I was… Perhaps these people “don’t give a FEEL”… Suppressing feelings is NOT non-attachment. It’s gaining the ability to observe and love an accept things as they are; or “as is”. This is the path to freedom and acceptance. It leads us to security and calm. We are liberated from craving anything beyond what our life has to offer.
Trying to achieve “perfection” even in our pursuit of enlightenment can result in agitation and disappointment. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali says:
“If we try to practice spiritual discipline without attempting to control the thought waves of desire, our minds will become violently agitated and perhaps permanently unbalanced. If we attempt nothing more than a rigid negative control of the waves of desire, without raising waves of LOVE, COMPASSION and devotion to oppose them, then the result may be even more tragic…”
So, your exercise for this week is to identify something that you are Attached to in an unhealthy way; it doesn’t have to be something as large scale as body image. It could be something as simple as your Yoga Practice and getting frustrated with comparing yourself to others, where you put your Yoga Mat, the labels on your clothing, how your kids react to your guidance … how does it feel to change things you like to have “control” over? How would it feel to not be attached to these things? To have a more “go with the flow” approach to life? Again, Non-attachment is about enjoying the journey and not being attached to the Destination.