Sometimes we’re so attached to an idea, it blinds us. Maybe we’re in love with someone, and we so want them to be in love with us, we deny the nagging feeling that it doesn’t seem to be the case. We think if we chase, or hang in there, or show up exactly the way we think this person wants us to, then it will work out, then we’ll “have” them. We start to try to fit into some kind of mold. We obsess and doubt and worry about everything, and we lose ourselves.
Attachment (“raga”) is one of the five “kleshas”, or obstacles that prevent us from experiencing oneness, that deep sense of being in the flow that Patanjali lays out in the second chapter of the Yoga Sutras. That, to me, is the real peace. The surrender, in the bravest sense, to what is, and the ability to open to it and join in it. Some of it is very painful, and not at all as we’d like it to be, and some of it is so piercingly beautiful, it takes your breath away. The work is to hold it all, embrace it all, even when you don’t understand, recognizing that you are not in control of circumstances, or other people, or the way the story will unfold. Letting go of your grip on things. That’s the good kind of “losing yourself.” What you get to work on is your response to what you’re given, your ability to return to love again and again, even if your heart is broken.
The other four obstacles are ignorance (“avidya”, a disconnection from what’s real, an inability to see things clearly), egoism (“asmita”, identification with our ideas about ourselves, our judgments and “shoulds”), aversion (“dvesha”, a rejection of, or desire to avoid those things that are unwanted, whether they be particular feelings, reality as it is unfolding, other people, a certain outcome, or a way of being), and fear of death (“abhinivesha”, the fear of loss, fear of the unknown, fear that we will leave important things unsaid or undone).
The yoga practice is about stripping away those obstacles. When we’re attached to a particular outcome, we close off the possibility for anything else. We stand there with our eyes shut tightly, gripping onto our vision of how we want things to be, and anything that doesn’t fit into our picture must be rejected or denied. When you reject reality, you leave yourself in a world of darkness, you become the architect of your own suffering. If you want to know which way to go, you have to open your eyes, because there’s nothing to follow but the truth; the truth of each moment, the truth of your particular situation, the truth that’s in your heart. When you start following those truths, you pave the way to experience the bigger truth of your connection to everything, your part in the flow.
When I started practicing yoga, I was a person who was trying to chase happiness. If I just do this or that, then I’ll be happy. “This” might be meeting the right person. “That” might be losing just a little more weight, or nine million other things that all had to do with external stuff. I had this idea that happiness was somewhere out in front of me, and that it would present itself if I just worked hard and made it to certain milestones. When you live your life that way, you begin to understand that’s all a lie. You hit the milestone, and it’s still not enough. Happiness is never outside of you. It’s inside. It’s not something you need to create, it’s something that’s already there, just waiting to be uncovered.
The stripping away process can be painful. It can sear you a little, or a lot. You may have to burn away all kinds of beliefs about yourself and other people, about the world and your part in it. The gift of yoga, if you practice long enough, is that it makes you hungry for the truth, whatever it is. Even if it’s painful. Even if you have to face a reality you’d do anything to avoid. When you’re in love with someone and they aren’t in love with you, somewhere deep down you know that, you feel it. That’s what makes you feel sick and doubtful and hooked in that awful way. You’re blinding yourself to reality. You’re cutting yourself off from your own intuition. So you might go through some pain, but eventually there’s a real liberation when you just open your hands and your heart and your mind to the truth, whatever it may be. The truth burning away in your heart. The acceptance of someone else’s truth, even if it means you must let go of some vision you had.
It’s a liberation because it’s exhausting to push down what you know. It’s like trying to hold back the waves of the ocean; it simply cannot be done. When you accept that, you can relax and swim, you can be in and of the flow, and then you can devote your energy to living each day fully, to loving each person in your life fully, to sharing your gifts freely, with abandon, to leaving nothing unsaid or undone, so that if it were your last day (and I hope you have countless days ahead of you), you could end it with the sense of having done all you could today, to live with your heart wide open.
Wishing that for you, and sending so much love,
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