Gratitude and non-attachment

There is a lot of change happening in my life lately (I know I am not alone in this experience, but hey, this is my blog!).  Big changes have marked my entire life and each one has brought a leap forward in understanding and personal evolution.

Yet, all around me, people are saying or writing things to me such as how sad/lonely/lost/disturbed I must be by my daughter leaving home for university, or by handing over the yoga centre to someone else, or by setting aside my yoga classes, as if there is no other option but to regret these things.

What if there were another option? What could these experiences be like through the true practice of yoga?

For me, change brings about a feeling of renewal and realignment with what is needed in this moment, and when we cultivate a present moment awareness we travel light. It’s extremely freeing to live through life without constantly dragging the burdens of the past around with us (whether it be accumulated stuff or ideas or emotions), and it allows for more time and energy to be invested in this moment.

Non-attachment, called vairagya in Sanskrit, is a central tenet of Yoga (Yoga Sutra I.15) and all Vedic teachings (as well as Buddhist (expressed as nekkhamma in Pali), Muslim (zuhd in Arabic), Christian and Jewish teachings). Practicing non-attachment doesn’t mean being indifferent to or not caring about what happens, rather it is the ongoing, lifelong practice of letting go.

Vairagya is best understood alongside the realisation of impermanence (anitya), which helps us to remember that the reality of existence is ever-changing. You are biologically different now than you were when you began to read this text, because millions of your cells have died and been replaced, tirelessly recreating your body in this moment while apparently nothing has changed. It’s easy to overlook the constant transformation happening around us when we focus on the superficial, or apparent, nature of life. (Another meaning of superficial is frivolous, as in non-essential – also worth bearing in mind!)

So a child leaves home, a way of serving others is transformed, the body shows signs of wear and tear.  If we are attached to things being one way, or “like they used to be”, these changes will be difficult and the transition period long and upsetting. Remembering that the nature of life is change, and choosing to stay connected to the rasa lila – the juicy playfulness of life itself – we can continue to regenerate consciously in this moment, which is just a continuation of a previous moment and a precursor to the next one.

And of course there’s more to support us in this practice. Cultivating feelings of gratitude will help us recognise the fleeting beauty of this present moment. We see it, breathe it and live it fully, so there is nothing to regret. Our attachments usually spring from regrets – the wudda cudda shudda’s – as in, I would have wanted it like this instead, I should have done that differently, I could have been like that… all of which pull us backwards and downwards to an unconstructive, heavy place.

Gratitude – some prefer the word gratefulness – very quickly uplifts us and shows us what is already working, what is truly marvelous and worth living for. It has been shown to heal us in many ways and is a fast track to feeling better regardless of what is going on.  If you’re looking for a little inspiration I can highly recommend you spend a few minutes watching – and feeling – this delightful video of Brother David Steindl-Rast, one of my all-time favourites.

Today is Diwali, a day of celebrating the victory of light over darkness, and expressing our gratitude to those we love.

So at this juncture, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to you, dear reader, dear student, who have supported me and kept me uplifted throughout many years of doing what I love. I am looking forward to continuing our work together – individually, through courses or consultations, or even just here in this cyber-exchange.

After tidying up a bit and shuffling some stuff around, I will be heading off to India for a month of yogic and ayurvedic therapy. You might hear from me once more before I leave, and if not, I will pop back into your in-box in December.

With much love and eternal light, as always,