Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are changing my life.
Bold statement, right? I mean it. I mean it with every ounce of my being. I’m certain to my very core that my discovery of what the practice of yoga really is will be the thread that saves me from ever tumbling into despair. This human life can be ridden with despair if we are not protected; we’ve all experienced it. I feel now like I’m being given the tools to never fall into darkness ever again. I feel like I’ve been given an extraordinary gift. Better than any tangible gift I could ever conceive. And it’s only just the beginning.
Tonight’s yoga teacher training class was life changing. Well, actually, with every philosophy portion we have I leave feeling this way. Upon reading Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1.33, I felt a profound shift in my awareness. The idea of having four “keys” to four different locks, essentially four different ways to react to every kind of person…seems like the golden ticket to me. It seems like a saving grace, if you will.
Then tonight we went in depth with the principle of non-attachment. Just when I thought I’d found the golden ticket…what I’ve learned for certain is that the practice of yoga is saving my life. As human beings in human bodies, we are all “dying” each day. That’s a terribly morbid thing to say and, for a sensitive and death-fearing person like myself, it gives me the willies to even type it out. But it’s true. And, while the practice of yoga won’t give a person a free pass to escape death, it has the potential to eradicate fear of death and to make a lifetime of wonder, bliss and unfathomable joy.
How incredible is that?
When I refer to “the practice of yoga,” I am not talking asana. That’s something my teacher reminds us again and again. Nothing about the body is even mentioned in the first three sutras. These are the key sutras, the ones that, if you get them, the rest are not needed (in the words of my teacher). The sutras talk all about the mind. The only venue that will tell you “yoga is asana” is the American fitness world, my teacher says. Yoga is the practice of controlling the mind. It is a lifestyle, I scribbled into my notebook these gems of words tonight.
“The yogic lifestye is a just that – a lifestyle. It is 24/7, it is a way of life.”
Practicing yoga, being a yogi, is not having a closet full of cool yogi clothes. It’s not having the perfect string of mala. It’s not being vegan and eco-friendly. It’s not being able to contort into incredible asanas. It’s none of that. It. Is. NONE. Of. That.
Non-attachment is freedom from “craving for objects seen or heard.” Whether it’s one’s clothing, a deep desire to be with another person, an outcome, a possession…frankly anything one could possibly perceive…these are all attachments.
My teacher said, “We are attached in many, many, many ways.” By being attached to the outcome of events we suffer, because we envisioned a particular outcome. Or we convinced ourselves that we’d feel a certain way if “a” or “b” happened. “We can suffer enormously by being attached to things being, not being, becoming, not becoming a certain way,” my wise teacher explained.
We are so easily attached to that, and that is always changing. How unstable it is to be attached to that! How very much we are setting ourselves up for suffering by being attached willingly to that! The alternative is to practice, practice diligently, and just observe what happens…without attachment to the outcome.
Can you imagine being unattached from your physical appearance? Your car? Your home? The outcome of your performance in yoga class, at work, in school?
Think of how freeing it would be to remain unattached from all of these changing, uncontrollable, perceivable things! Imagine how incredible it would be to show up to yoga without an expectation of what the class would offer. I’ve shown up expecting a lot of work, ready to expend pent up energy, and have been slightly let down (okay, totally let down) by a more philosophy based asana practice, one that didn’t induce a sweat. It’s hard to admit, but many of us have shown up to the studio wanting a workout. Wanting to sweat and clear our minds through physical exhaustion, purging the stressors and offenders of our mind through meditative and challenging movement. The philosophy was lost on me in those times, needless to say. And think what I missed out on! If I were to have shown up unattached to how physically demanding the class would be (something I had absolutely no control over), might I have bathed in the serenity provided to me by a skilled teacher, sharing wisdom and philosophy and opening my mind? Clearing my mind that way instead? I’ll never know, because of attachment.
Non-attachment is a practice I will spend a lifetime dedicated to cultivating. It will not come easy, our modern society is not built to welcome this idea. Everything is “sold” to us, including yoga! Think about it; I have been “sold” yoga. My lululemon clothes, Manduka mat and Gaiam accessories can attest to that. But that’s not to say it is a failure, it’s not to say I must get rid of these things. I’m just saying that an overwhelming component of my practice is to be dedicated to detaching from material possessions and outcomes. Freedom from craving for objects seen or heard.
I mean it when I call it a lifelong practice. One whose outcome I will remain unattached to 🙂
I tell you, this practice is a golden ticket. The best part about this golden ticket? This exceptional gift that just keeps on giving? It’s available to EVERYONE. Yoga is free for the taking, obtainable for learning, existent for practicing. It is different for you than it is for me, and it is just as glorious.