I’m sorry. Is the Frozen movie song stuck in your head now? That wasn’t my intention, but maybe it can be your new anthem?! I’m referring to the concepts we explored all month long around release, what happens when we practice the yoga concept of aparigraha. We typically think about this in regard to possession of physical objects. Acquisition and hoarding can be a huge distraction. But aparigraha also extends to mental and emotional attachments. It can extend to the idea of releasing our need for things to be a certain way.
As a type A who has always had the tendency to seek (the illusion of!) control, the concept of nonattachment resonates immensely with me. When we look at how we operate in the world, it’s useful to consider our tendencies. Does your internal language contain a lot of “shoulds” and “musts” for yourself and others? This is grasping, being completely attached to the ONE WAY things should be, is a huge source of mental pain.
It’s also a lost cause! It doesn’t take a genius to know that everything is transient—both the good and the bad. No matter how hard we try to keep what we want and avoid what we don’t, life will move along and bring us change. On the yoga mat, we have the opportunity to let go of grasping and instead adopt a stance of curiosity and playfulness. How freeing to simply notice sensation, focusing on each element of the practice. Through that mindful and respectful stance, we achieve the union of mind/body/spirit . This isn’t easy. We want to look and do and be in the way we think is best/most acceptable.
Letting go of our desperate striving for what we think is perfection gives us freedom and peace to be with what is, and maybe even to learn and grow in unexpected ways. And ironically, the more we release our rigid mind and expectations, the more fluid and capable we become. Just like when we force our body into pain and the muscles grip to brace us—our mental rigidity is a distraction that inhibits our progress.
Nonattachment is not indifference or avoidance. It’s about the strength and courage to be with uncertainty. It’s about cultivating discipline to stay with the things that challenge us and make us want to run for the hills. Hard emotions, physical discomfort, boredom…these are all things we try to avoid. That’s why we ended our April focus on release with a practice of tapas.
Tapas is the way in which we burn away our impurities from two opposing qualities, inertia/stability and activity/overwork. Faced with the uncertainty of life we tend to respond by over-effort, in an attempt to control—or through avoidance and stagnation. Neither of these energies is productive in excess. Yes, we need to relax and chill, but not all the time. Yes, we need to take charge and work hard, but not all the time. An imbalance of either of these energies leads to disfunction. But with the discipline of tapas, the ability to create friction by staying with what challenges us, we can pierce the imbalance, “burn” it away, and come to a harmonious balance.
We contain each of these ways of being at different moments. Our practice gives us self-awareness so we can recognize our ruts. It also builds the discipline of tapas that serves us when we’re stuck in one of these imbalances. Sometimes it means we work with silence when our mind wants to stay in a whirl. Sometimes it means pushing our physical limits. Ask yourself, which creates the most emotional or mental resistance? That’s probably what you need!
By letting go of judgements and the artificial constraints of our “shoulds,” we can focus on engaging, adapting and growing. We live in harmony with ourselves and the flow of life.
When you make peace with yourself, you make peace with the world.
I've taught and lived yoga for more than 20 years. I know it can be intimidating. But it can also be fun--and rewarding--regardless of your starting point or challenges. On this blog I share some of the yoga wisdom that sustains me.