March 22, 2012

Yoga & the Ecstasy of Attachment.

Photo contribution: Melissa Lynn Block

You’re in that yoga class. The one you get to when you can get to it.

It’s a slow flow through sitting and standing poses. You’re holding them until they hurt. You fill the places that grip, that grab, that hurt with breath. You send the laser point of the mind away from thoughts like:

I’m way better at this pose than she is. I wish I had arms like her. How does she get those arms? I bet her boobs are fake. Oh wait, but I suck at this pose. God I hope I don’t fart during savasana like I did last week. I don’t think anyone knew it was me, but still. I have to remember to change the oil in my car. Maybe today. I can get a coffee drink while I wait. Ouch. F*ck. What’s this song? I should ask him to burn me a disc. I wonder if he has a girlfriend.

From the sacrum, the ribs, the front and back of the heart and the scapulae, I drift away, come back, drift away, come back. Oh. Breathe. Yeah. There it is.

Good thing you bought one of those $35 thin towels to spread over your sticky mat to absorb all that funky sweat you’re producing because this teacher who has the sweet voice and the cute nebbish Jewish thing going on with the curly hair and the glasses is f*cking kicking your ass with these long lunges that are held and held and held.

And he’s talking. He doesn’t stop talking for a solid hour and a half.

All variations on the same theme: that this panoply of yogic positions you’re so intently trying to nail is really just a game. That being attached to the body looking or performing a certain way (according to your own expectations or those of some media-addled other) is a sick waste of time and a one-way ticket away from True Joy. So, too, is a goal orientation held while practicing yoga:

If I keep doing this I’ll have a butt like that chick up front in approximately two and a half months.

True Joy, he says, is to be found only in “the truth of your shape.” The shape you are in right now, today, because you know damn well—that although you really would rather not think about it—that this shape is temporary. The fiery hormone-enriched glow of the twenties and thirties gives way with alarming rapidity to the downhill slope toward decrepitude. Collagen, sex hormones, joints and organs that work properly, a body that attracts the kind of attention that makes you feel beautiful–they are going, going, gone, and well, you know, then what?

You’re in a box or getting cooked down in a crematorium and someone has to take down your Facebook page for you and write to the credit card companies that you’re dead and will not be applying for any more lines of credit, thank you very much.

So, you know, now is all you’ve got. And, now all you’ve got is the truth of your shape. So be in it. Enjoy it. Breathe into it.

He is also careful to note that once you recognize that the attachment to appearances and ego concerns is unnecessary, you can play with personas and manifestations and personality traits and relationships. You can dye your hair purple and get a tattoo one day and dress like Grace Kelly the next; you can change jobs, yoga teachers, relationships, whatever, without trauma or drama: because you realize that it’s all a game.

That this shape, this problem, this relationship, this thought is temporary, and as long as you are attached to some expectation of it, you will suffer; you will be disappointed. And at any moment, you can choose to detach from those expectations and inhabit the truth of the actual moment that is actually happening right now.

Damn. He’s good.

You get it when he’s talking. Then you lose it. Then you get it again. So you’re glad he keeps talking. You need to be reminded of this approximately every 45 seconds.

But there’s a catch. Maybe you’ve noticed that sometimes, attachment feels good. Sometimes it feels really good.

You might feel elation and rightness when, for a brief shining moment, those expectations are met. You see that you have finally achieved that yoga butt. You think you have landed the perfect relationship and you are crazy in love. You finally nail that crazy arm balance you’ve been working on for the last two months. You have an intractable and passionate crush on someone you probably will never actually be with. You lie in bed at night consumed with longing that is both heartbreaking and ecstatic. And these moments, like any moment, are temporary.

What about the feeling of being enraptured by a work of art or by a piece of theater? It’s all about attachment.

This is total absorption in the mind’s response to something beautiful and right. It invades your body, a shiver that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It takes you out of your body, too. How does one stimulus have such a multiplicity of responses in a single human being? Ah. Ah. It’s too much. Give me more.

You want to get lost in this feeling. You want to follow it. It’s out there waving signal flags and shining klieg lights and beckoning to you like a thousand virgins to come, come, follow me, follow the bliss.

This very attachment that takes you out of the Truth of the Moment can show you your path. It shows you how to build your Self in the world. It shows you how to choose. Many mystical traditions celebrate these moments of ecstatic attachment as moments of connection to God.

As it is with all else, it is here: true non-attachment has to dance with attachment. Driven by what moves us, we build the Self and the ways we move within the world. And then we remember ourselves, the truth of our shape, and we relax our grip a little, and we remember that it’s all a game; a practice; a choreography.




Editor: Tanya L. Markul

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