Lost In Attachment: The lesson of Aparigraha

Intense, unexpected suffering passes more quickly than suffering that is apparently bearable, the latter goes on for years and, without our noticing, eats away at our soul, until, one day we are no longer to free ourselves from the bitterness and it stays with us for the rest of our lives. ~ Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Aparigraha, can often be referred to as non-clinging, non-hoarding, non-attachment, non-covetousness, or non-grasping.  It can be referenced to the non-acceptance of gifts or non-acquisition of material objects. Not to be confused with not accepting any gifts or renounce all your material possessions; gifts should be non-binding, so you are not indebted to anyone for it or anyone to you – it should be given freely.  Additionally, it’s not that you shouldn’t have material possessions,  or you should get rid of them all, the question is…do they own you?

Recently, I had been struggling with getting attached to repetitive thoughts that have resurfaced as a result of some major life changes that include: career, moving, marriage, and let’s just throw in having a baby for good measure.  I think Bob Harris (Bill Murray) said it best in the movie Lost In Translation regarding having kids, “Your life.  As you know it.  Is Gone.  Never to return.”

In my efforts to push away these thoughts which created anxiety, I found myself grasping aimlessly at ideas. Ideas of what my life SHOULD be right now, what my practice SHOULD be,  feelings of inadequacy, not getting anywhere, KNOWING what I wanted, and that perhaps I should go back to my corporate job and get off the track that I was on.  Seriously, I bought into my own deviant marketing (which can often happen when the mind goes into default mode) hook, line, and sinker.

This point...this exact moment - is GOOD. Tapping into these emotions is exactly what we need to do in order to experience, detach, and embrace change.

This burying/pushing was a FAIL.  By burying these negative thoughts into my consciousness they got pushed down further into my subconscious – and this manifested in me not feeling so hot both mentally and physically many months later.  I literally would feel deflated, dull, exhausted, and come home from practice and just want to sleep, or sometimes be angry.  The thoughts kept showing up, and soon I was in the midst of an identity crisis, as if my world was falling in on me.

This is, after all, what the yoga practice does.  It bubbles this stuff up. The physical practice releases an incredible amount of energy that’s been stored in tissues, the mind, and in parts of the body that hold stress. The idea of feeling better – may often require that we feel worse.  The practice of yoga provides tools through the yamas and niyamas for skillfull living, and the ability to help us confront and extract/detach from these emotions.   Tim Feldman recently wrote and article in Elephant Journal, called The Mistaken Expectation Of Joy In Yoga –  and the article couldn’t have come timely enough for me. It was just what I needed to remind me that all that I was feeling was part of the human experience and part of change.

I remember when I was in Portland, OR, my teacher said in passing to a student, "Getting attached to an idea is dangerous." DING DING DING DING DING!

It was time for me to start doing some the hard work which means actually meeting these thoughts and emotions and truly experiencing them so they could move on and up.  So…I got to work.

Confronting myself:

  1. Practicing ‘be’ not ‘do’: Going. Doing. Forward. Faster. Better. But. Wait. Go Back. Back there.  I  got caught in the web of the future and the comfort of the past.  We really can’t have profound effect on our future, until we can BE here. Simple law of Karma – our actions here  – effect there.   It was time for me to hunker down and become aware so I could determine what those actions needed to be. Remembering this, was like slapping myself in the head and saying, “Silly girl, tricks are for kids!”
  2. Be honest & kind. By being honest, we cultivate integrity and by being kind we cultivate love – with both of these assets it is a lot easier to surrender to what is and what might come.  I was NOT being honest or kind to myself…so this was something I needed.
  3. Achievements: If we are going to look at our past – we should do so in a way that is productive.  Taking a look at past achievements is a reminder of what we have overcome and accomplished.
  4. Gratitude:  People say it all the time…but it works.  We often need to reminded of what it is we do have as opposed to what we don’t.  Make the list.
  5. Compassion:  We need to quit being so hard on ourselves.  Compassion is the cornerstone of Buddhism and is critical in helping us adapt to change and stay grounded in the midst of upheaval.  Time for some self-love basically.

By completely meeting ourselves where we are at (in the moment) with friendliness and compassion, without judging, and without pushing it away, we are able to come into the calm of awareness.  The minute I did this, the emotions passed through me and I felt a strong sense of relief and a sense of wide open space.  It is in this place that the work for change in the right direction can really happen – a place of fertile ground.

Positive actions to manifest change:

  1. “Team work makes the dream work”:  Get support. There are people in our lives that can help us reach goals,  identify areas that need improvement, and integrate change – USE THEM.  For me this meant talking to my husband and reaching out to a mentor/yoga teacher. We can not do it alone.
  2. Write down goals/dreams:   When we are overwhelmed by our thoughts – it’s hard to see the forest through the tree’s – we need to pull up and out, and get a bird’s-eye view.  Beginning to write down goals/dreams helps us see where we would like to go and provides perspective.  This is a positive action which also creates momentum.
  3. Create an action plan for realizing these dreams.  If you need to create stages – create stages – but make a plan (I like to call this a strategy),  that has actionables that are achievable so you don’t set yourself up for failure.  Again – a coach, mentor, husband, or kick ass problem solving best friend can help with this.
  4. Identify areas that need improvement and integrate change. For me this included improved time management, career, social life, and learning.  Having a kid rocked my world on all these fronts.  It was time to get control again.
  5. Be Accountable. Accountability is critical in for actionables to happen…otherwise…NADA.  When I am accountable for my actions, I am more likely to succeed. I report to the folks that are supporting me.
  6. Steadiness:  Lately I can’t stop thinking of manning a boat “Steady she goes”.   Once we have a direction, we need steadiness to navigate through water and atmospheric conditions –  and the weather is always changing.

Integrating change is practice – because we often have some unlearning to do and this is often un-easy and met with resistance.  However,  the biggest transformations take a long time…this is why we keep showing up and doing the work…every day is different – body different, mind different, energy different.

This IS it.  NOW.

Manifest Destiny.


Off The Mat: A Funeral

The reason I haven’t posted recently was due to a very surprising announcement that my husbands beloved grandmother passed away last weekend.  We had to drop all plans and board a plane to Atlanta to attend a funeral that I knew would be a powerful one.  This woman, who I met briefly on few occasions, left a legacy on her community and family.

The service was beautiful and many people showed up to pay their respects.  Her children spoke of her beauty both inside and out and many colleagues from her past life as a nurse and as a church goer also spoke.  She was a woman of very strong integrity, work ethic, and devotion.

While I did not have the opportunity to get to know her better I felt instantly inspired by who she was as a person.  A couple of inspirations came out of the service to me and they are:

1) BE BETTER:  Not as in be better ‘at my job’ – but be a better human.  Find a way to serve others and not just myself.

2) STOP COMPLAINING:  One of her colleagues from when she served as a nurse stated that regardless of what she was asked to do she put her head down and did it with pride.  She never complained about it.  I find that this is something I struggle with, and I complain about my complaining.  Either way, it’s not very productive.  So I have to be mindful of this and see if I can quiet those voices.

3) FAMILY FIRST:  Your family comes first – OVER your career, OVER your hobbies, OVER your ideas…cultivate what it is you want for your family – everything else comes second.

4) FAITH/SPIRITUALITY:  While I am not a religious person, but highly spiritual, I do believe faith or spirituality is critical in life. Particularly, as we age or deal with some hard hitting life changes.   Her strong faith and belief helped her overcome great losses in her life, including a leg.  Faith also provided her grace and dignity to move forward with her head held high.

5) EXERCISE:  Move your body. PERIOD.  Find excercise activities you find joy in and do them.  If you end up getting limited by an injury, etc…find another one.  We are only limited by what we limit ourselves to. Not only does exercise keep us strong and help us feel better – it helps us in recovering from illness and working through changes.  Jason’s grandmother lost a leg and still showed up at her workout center to focus on upper body strength so she should still do the things she loved – like cooking and gardening.

6) GET OVER YOURSELF- SHIT is going to happen…remove the “I” and just move into greatness with the ability to learn and evolve.

Our time is short-lived on this earth…we need to decide how we want to spend it and find the resolve within ourselves to get out of our own way and into the way of others who need it, whether it’s a work, in our community, or in our homes.  I thank Vera Mae Wells for inspiring me to be better…I only hope I can leave the impact on my family and friends the way she did.