I was lucky enough to spend the weekend with a crew of yoga all stars in the beautiful setting of Bermuda’s pristine beaches and blue waters. All weekend I was searching and yearning for a little golden nugget that I could share with the Portland yoga community in the next enewsletter. There were many valuable lessons in philosophy, sequencing, and meditation that I could share. But, it wasn’t until being stuck in the Newark airport, that it became clear what the most valuable lesson I have gained over the last weekend has been… staying grounded and calm in situations that are out of my control. As I write this, I am sitting here in the airport watching my once 6:30pm departure bump to 7:30, 8:05, to 8:50pm, to 9:50pm, and to now a chance of cancelation.
I have been surrounded by many reactive and angry folks who are wrapped up in the shift of it all, sharing their frustrations with their loved ones, pacing, and most likely elevating their own heart rates.
I could choose to join them, but, for some reason, I have remained calm, cool, and collected through out it all. I decided instead to see this as available time to catch up on work I had yet to attend to, podcasts I have wanted to listen to, and books I wanted to finish. I was awarded this time, be it in the airport with my heavy bags in tow and not in the comforts of my own home.
Perhaps it was a weekend steeped in the lessons of yoga, or, perhaps it was Judith Lasater’s book that was my entertainment in flight titled, Living Your Yoga, or maybe it is over a decade of dedicated and steady practice of yoga that is truly starting to seep off my mat and into my daily life. I imagine it is a combination of it all which leads me now to welcome these shifts and changes with ease.
A guiding text in yoga philosophy is Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. In his book of sutras he describes the path to wholeness, the practices of yoga, and how to find a state of final liberation. The sutra below speaks to the importance of accepting life as it comes and staying steady in the changes and shifts.
Attachment is that which rests on pleasant experiences.
Aversion is that which rests on sorrowful experiences.
– Yoga Sutra 2:7-8
“Raga, or “attachment,” and dvesha, or “aversion,” are two of the five klesha, or “impediments,” that we face in becoming whole. (The other kleshas are ignorance, egoism, and fear of death). Although attachment and aversion seem to be opposites, they are actually the same thing. In daily life, you are constantly pulled between trying to get what you want and trying to avoid what you don’t want. Whether you are busy pulling something in or pushing it away, there is a relationship between you and the object of event that limits your freedom.”
Living Your Yoga, Judith Lasater.
My preference is that my flight had left on time and that I would have been home by now, hugging my loved ones and making my way to bed. But, instead of inflicting more suffering on myself by dragging myself down with disappointment, I chose to see this as opportune time to catch up with things I would not regularly have scheduled time to complete. The result is that I feel quite grounded and settled with the later flight, time has passed quite quickly, and the plane is going to board now in minutes – be it many hours after it was to set off.
This lesson is one that requires steady practice as we are constantly making decisions and judgments in life that we like and dislike and asked to respond. How we choose to respond to things as they present themselves is the real work. Will you let yourself be controlled by aversion? Next time you are confronted with what you might not choose to be your ideal situation, see if you can stay steady in your reaction and just go with the flow. I can think of plenty of times in daily life that I may be confronted with such moments – flight delays at the airport, taking out the garbage, washing the dishes, or even on my mat – practicing a sequence or poses that I do not particularly love. In all of these situations, there are deep learning opportunities awaiting us if we listen, listen to our patterns of reactions, aversion, and attraction. What are our go to reactions? Does it come from a place of love or fear?
Just at we are to work on our reactions to what it is we do not preference in our daily lives, the sutra speaks to being able to also let go of what it is we do like, what it is we are attached to. Last week I made the decision to get my hair cut at a top notch salon in the big apple. What I did not realize in the process was how much I would miss the few inches of hair that came off. For days after my haircut I kept pulling myself down, disappointed for deciding to get it cut. The story I was telling myself was on repeat, and each time it came up I was just causing more suffering. The truth of the situation is my hair looks great, healthy, and it will grow back. It is interesting how the stories we tell ourselves, the way we talk to ourselves, causes our own suffering. The hair is just one example of attachment that perhaps we can all relate to. There are other things in life that we become attached to that when we do not have it, it can feel like our life is falling apart.
Judith states, “The sad thing about being caught up in attachment or aversion is that it interferes with the ability to experience things as they are. Even when these things are painful and difficult, there is an advantage to fully experiencing them as they occur. When you do, you are unburdened. You do not have to carry it with you in an unfinished state. This process of expiring the difficulty now allows you to begin to heal.” P. 86
At the end of the chapter Judith offers quite a few mantras for daily living to help understand and process this sutra. Here are a couple for you to contemplate in the coming days and weeks:
- How should it be?
- Things are as they are, and I have a choice about how I react to them.
- What will happen if I don’t get what I want right now?
- This is just a thought.
- Will this be important in a year? Five years?