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Let it go Let it go: The Power of Non-Attachment

Updated: Dec 17, 2022

I’m currently writing this while on a break with my family. A much needed one after a whirlwind of a year. The funny thing about this holiday is that we ended up going to Hill Top NSW 5 hours away from where we live, not Hill Top NSW 1.5 away. I was hoping for a shorter trip, as the need for rest was calling as I'm still recovering from burn out (more on this next time). This made me feel all the feels. However, when acceptance settled, we ended up having the best time in nature, up in the Snowy Mountains. At times the best experiences may come unexpectedly, and it surely was magical and healing. It was a reminder of the power of aparigraha – non-clinging.

We all have deeply engrained attachments, and majority of it isn't our fault. We live in a society were "having a lot" is celebrated, and the spectrum of emotions aren't honoured so we keep it within - in our bodies.

In yoga, “letting go” often comes up - letting go of tension in the body, letting go of expectations. What does to let go mean? Why is it a significant aspect to explore on and off our yoga mats?

From a yoga philosophy standpoint we call this “Aparigraha” . It is the practice of non-clinging. This fifth yama (moral restraints) from the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. More often this yama relates to non-grasping or non-hoarding of material things. Aparigraha can also be a practice of non-attachment to emotions, behaviour, or outcomes. When we can allow and create space for sensation, emotions, thoughts to arise, we eventually learn through consistent practice, over a long period of time, that we can cultivate a different relationship with our mind. It doesn’t necessarily mean that when we let go, that we no longer experience fear, busyness of the mind, anxiety, stress, or discomfort, it simply means we have cultivated a different way of being, perhaps noticing and interacting with these so called “seasons’ in our lives in a more present and compassionate way. We learn to not takes things and people too personally, creating room for life to unfold.

What happens when hold on to tightly? Our attachments cause suffering. Yoga teaches us impermanence. Everything is endlessly coming and going, arising and falling. We notice this when we sit in meditation, or when we practice asana/postures - sensations, our thoughts fluctuate, it’s ever changing.

Yoga Practice: Acknowledge, Notice & Nurture

Practicing mindfulness of emotions and thoughts gives us a way to work with our tendency to identify so completely with positive or negative feelings. Suffering is the experience of being tossed around by the opposites, the dvandva, in Sanskrit. These are things like pleasure and pain, good and bad, hot and cold, success and failure.

We alleviate our suffering when we learn how to surf the space between these opposite states of emotions or being. In doing so, we connect to that witnessing presence within that doesn’t get tossed around by the violent crashing waves of emotion. Once we’re able to tap into that witnessing presence, we become freer in our ability to experiment with the various feeling states available to us. This works because we’ve mastered them by not being controlled by their every whim and fluctuation.

In your yoga practice, nurture the observer in you.

Try the “I am noticing …. “Practice:

When you notice discomfort, thoughts, sensations in varying degree, start saying:

" I am noticing.... "

" I am noticing tension.... I am noticing worry... I am noticing this funny sensation in my belly... I am noticing my belly rise and fall...I am noticing softness…. " .

From time-to-time nurture yourself by coming home to your gentle breaths, to your body, or a soothing phrase or mantra to ease the mind and heart.

Mindfulness & Equanimity

We must be willing to observe our thoughts and emotions with openness and clarity, so that they are held in mindful awareness. Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. By shifting the way we approach what we observe in our yoga practice, and perhaps in our life, we can cultivate becoming less identified with "our stuff”. They might still be there, but we become less reactive to it. There’s an acceptance of the inherently transitory nature of life, and from that acceptance, equanimity can arise.

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