Non Attachment

This week I’ve been playing with the idea of non attachment in my classes.

The idea of non attachment appears in texts that are central to the spirital teachings of yoga. In Pantajali’s Yoga Sutras, we are given 5 Yamas, these provide guidance on how to live our lives. The last of these Yamas is Aparigraha. It often translates to non-greed and non-attachment.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna that we need to change from doing something for the consequences and doing something simply to do that thing. 

‘You have the right to work, but never to the fruits of work.  You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction.’

The Bhagavad Gita, translation by Eknath Easwaran

In yoga, the means is the end. When we are learning asanas, the goal isn’t a perfect posture, but simply to be in the moment, noticing how our body feels and how we are reacting. When we are offering kind word to someone we do not do this in the hope that they will be nice to us, but simply because we are acting with compassion. Everything we do, we must do for the action in itself, not because of where it will lead.

‘Those who are motivated only be desire for the fruits of action are miserable, for they are constantly anxious about the results of what they do.  When consciousness is unified, however, all vain anxiety is left behind.  There is no cause for worry, whether things go well or ill.  Therefore, devote yourself to the disciplines of yoga, for yoga is skill in action.

The Bhagavad Gita, translation by Eknath Easwaran

Ask yourself why you come to your yoga mat to practice? When do you feel your practice is successful? Is it when you have ‘got’ a particular pose? When you have felt something shift? When your body feels good afterwards?

Or is it when you have practiced with intent, whatever has happened in that practice? When you have been mindful and fully present in each and every posture?

Watch out for the ego. The ego is what leads us to attachment. It shows up everywhere, on the mat and off. Listen out for the word “I” as you practice. Notice when this gets in the way, when it stops you paying attention to what it really happening. You might start to notice narratives in your mind … “I’m uncomfortable here, my hips are so tight. I’ll never manage to drop my knees lower, I can’t do this”… or maybe “Yes! I did it!! I managed to catch hold of my fingers in that bind for the first time. That is so cool!”

The challenge is to let go of these narratives, and pay attention to what your intent is. Is your intent to make a beautiful shape? Or is it to be in your body, with your breath. As we make shapes with our body, what these shapes look like, the end result is unimportant. What matters is the effort, the purpose, the mindfulness. The shape is not our goal. The effort is our goal. The intent is our goal.

So let go of the desire to achieve.

Let go of the ego.

Simply move, breathe, notice where you are without attachment.

Today you might touch your toes. Tomorrow you might not. You might tell yourself that it’s because you slept in a funny position, you walked further than usual this morning, you sat in a different chair, you ate too much. It doesn’t matter. Touching your toes is unimportant. That is not your goal.

Your goal is to notice, to pay attention, to breathe.

And maybe, when we start to notice the ego creeping in on our mats, when we start to let go of the narratives and the attachment to results, we can start to carry this off our mats and into our daily lives. We might be able to be less self-critical and judgemental. Slowly we can start to measure our success by looking at our commitment to acting in a way that corresponds to our beliefs, rather than examining the outcomes of our actions. When we let go of attachment to results, maybe we can start to instead pay more attention to who we are.

‘When we do touch our toes, when we finally accomplish that deep back bend, or when we add a few letters to the end of our name, anyone who has been there can tell you: nothing happens. The core of who we are is the same at the end as at the beginning. If our practice does not bring us closer to the inner recognition of who we really are, if we are no more loving and our hearts have remained closed, then no matter how far we progress in our practice, we have bypassed the only goal worth attaining: our Self.’

Bringing Yoga to Life, Donna Farhi

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