On Aversion, Clinging and Letting Be
Before I became a mother during a pandemic this newsletter used to be a weekly ritual. Now, as some of you who happen to be parents well know, parenting during a pandemic without help will inevitably take up your whole life. I've found this selfless surrender to the duties of parenting the most challenging and profoundly transformative yoga practice (Bhakti Yoga): to hold the flame of devotion towards your work alive even when temporarily on hold on a physical plane, while surrendering to what your immediate duty is, without loosing yourself on the path. If that is not yoga, I don't know what we are doing. It's a hard practice, much harder then any Ashtanga series. I bow down in respect to all of you out there who have had to set your lives aside to take care of others during this year, or perhaps you have been doing that for many years.
Because of this and more I am very exited about reopening the doors to my Shala and teaching in person starting in June. This past weekend while teaching Sutra course for a virtual 300 hr teacher training, I sat contemplating the lecture and felt I should share this little story with you all:
Kleshas are the five afflictions Patanjali shares with us so we may be aware when some of these patterns of behavior are playing out and can shed some light of truth to the root cause of our suffering. These five are: ignorance, ego, desire, aversion, clinging to life or fear of death. In short suffering arises when our interactions with the outside world and with the content of our mind attaches and misidentifies with these. This made me think of a personal story.
When we purchased our home it was in terrible shape, the whole property had been neglected for years, but because the price and location was so perfect for our needs my senses and mind decided to just take in what gave me pleasure: trees. The property happened to be lined by these very lush trees, being a city girl I had no idea what owning a property with lots of trees actually meant, all I could think was, finally nature and clean air. I thanked the universe for such a great gift. There I was putting all my hopes and wishes into these trees, they were the source of my happiness. I clinged to them to give me strength in dealing with the rest of the property. Then fall came and the lush green leaves turned brown and began to shower down on the lawn in copious amounts. Within a couple of weeks all the work we had done to clean up the yard and uncover the grass had gone to waste. The trees were now a great source of inconvenience and suffering. I no longer felt happy, I felt great aversion towards them, overwhelmed by the amount of work to be had and unwilling to do it. Blinded by ignorance and aversion, I began to think "why would the Universe do this to me?". I tried to get out of the work but ended up spending days raking and bagging leave. Needless to say when spring come around I was no longer happy to see the lush green making its come back. I felt aversion the whole summer, unable to enjoy the yard and then autumn came and I unwillingly did the work. As each year went by I noticed how the feelings towards the trees began to neutralize, there was less attachment to how the lush green made me feel and less aversion to how the picking up the mess made me feel. There was a resilience, an acceptance towards allowing these emotions to be nothing more then what they were without letting them cloud my experience of the beauty of all the seasons of the trees, and seeing the much dragged work as an opportunity for outdoor exercise and giving back to a piece of land that gives us shelter.
What Patanjali points to is that something that is bringing us great pleasure today may bring great suffering tomorrow, and that is ok, that is part of the human experience. By not intertwining ourselves or binding ourselves to the emotion, pleasure or pain, we are refraining from generating future karma. This doesn't mean we are ignoring what is arising, but rather choosing to be witnesses to it.
I share this because I feel like we do this all the time in life, when something gives us pleasure we want to try to grasp it and make it a forever situation. By doing that we go against the natural law of life, which is that things change. If we can instead recognize that we are not dependent on the emotion or feeling any given thing may provoke in us, or awaken in us, but merely spectators of it, we will live with so much ease. I invite you to take a pause today and reflect on what may be your version of trees and can you see where there may be: ignorance, ego, desire, aversion, clinging. And see it for that, create a little space with that awareness and see if anything changes.