Some people’s descents are graceful, Zen-like happenings, like a little dip in the road. Others descend more quickly in a crashing, noisy and ungraceful fashion.
Mine was the latter and not only was it ungraceful, it was very public, with the audience whooping and cheering as I sailed past. My lesson on non-attachment had publicly arrived.
It happened in my Level 3 teacher training. I had traveled to Australia to be with the teacher I was attached to. He made me believe in myself and my gift of yoga. He made me believe that yoga was my dharma. He helped me do a fall back, and get back up again. The attachment was surgical. I loved him. So I left my family went to Aussy and did Level 3.
The metaphorical jump off the 100 story building began after my teaching demo when he pulled my psyche apart and culminated with some words I never want to hear again:
“You are not a goddess. You are imbalanced, and you will never teach for me.”
Harsh. Dumped by your guru. As the dumping was happening , I heard the familiar roar of the dark cloud of Avidya, or not seeing clearly, coming my way and all its ugly monster friends hustling for a box seat.
Avidya loves a good party.
Here is how the unwanted guests showed up.
Tapas, or cleansing by burning. God it’s hot in here. My Lululemon is sticking to me too much, no it’s melting, wait that’s my skin melting, I am the singing detective. What’s that smell, I smell burning, it’s coming from my brain, my brain is about to implode through my third eye. This is most unfortunate.
Asmita, or how we define ourselves. I’m cool, everything’s cool. I’m a yoga teacher and a student, I can handle this. I’m cool. Guru not so cool though, slightly deranged, probably the effect of too much mind altering tea.
Dvesa, or avoiding pain. Oh my God, I’ve got to get out of this place. I wonder if there are any open cast minds around that will take me. I’m never going to do a teacher training again. Too scary. Best stay at home in my lovely bubble.
Abhinvesa, or self doubt. What am I doing here? I’m not a yoga teacher. What was I thinking? Guru hates me. Now I hate me. Terrible waste of money.
Raga, or attachment. I want coffee. I reject all this vegetarian bean food.
I became hysterical. My anahata, or heart chakra, was threatening to burst out of my rib cage and to cut it short, I wanted to give up yoga. I wanted to get off this yoga camp, so I ran for the hills like Forest Gump and I didn’t stop for months.
Attachment (Raga) is one of the kleshas of yoga as outlined by the sage Patanjali. A klesha is a cause of suffering. Raga translates as an attraction or attachment to impermanent things. We are attached to all manner of things, people, animals, possessions, ideas about ourselves and others, fantasies of the future and memories of the past.
We are genetically hardwired to be interested and attached to the outcome of our pursuits. We seek praise for a job well done; we want to win the human race and we want recognition. We are attached to all manner of objects, shopping being the number one pastime.
I have one friend who confided in me he wasn’t happy in his relationship. When I asked him why he stayed, his reply was: “because I wouldn’t know what to do with all my stuff.”
This fear based attachment is common to many people. I need to hang on to something or I need to buy more, just in case. Even I have been subject to it. After watching the film “Contagion.” I went out and bought $450 worth of groceries. Now I have six boxes of Weetabix fast approaching their “use by…” date.
We are attached to future and past memories. We want to hang on to ideas of the past that are of comfort to us, or the idea that everything will be better when…(fill in own sentence).
We are attached to our youth and beauty. We want to remain attractive and young. We have affairs. We hang our worth on the way others view us, what car we drive, what job we have. We guard what we want and reject that which causes us fear of pain.
The stronger our emotions or reaction when one of our attachments is threatened, the stronger the attachment and therefore the problem. The more we defend our attachments is also an indicator that we have entered into a personal blindspot. Sometimes we are not even aware of the extent of our attachment until the source of it is removed. My reaction to the dumping was so disproportionate to the event that I knew I had a problem. I have spent all my life carefully maintaining a nice airy Aquarian distance from everyone, just in case, and then whoops! one slips through the barrier. And look what happens.
We only operate from two modes: fear or love.
Attachment is fear based. Fear that you will or won’t have or be something unless you have the thing you are attached to. Loving without attachment is freedom. In The Book of Awakenings, Mark Nepo writes that you can’t go through the door until you put down what you are carrying. When you untie what binds you then you have the freedom to search new paths and grow.
When we view life as happening for us instead of to us, like I should have done at the grand dumping, I would have realized that there is a reason for everything. And the beautiful thing is when I put down what I was carrying, I was greeted with a new teacher and a new way of viewing the world.
Avidya: Not seeing clearly. Patanjali compares this to walking at dusk and mistaking a stick on the ground for a snake. It is our basic spiritual blindness that not only stops us from seeing clearly but also distorts our vision.
Tapas: Not strictly part of Avidya, but more Kriya yoga. Tapas means to cleanse and burn off impurities of the body and mind. Tapas means heat or glow and it is part of the process towards self transformation.
Asmita: The ego. How we define ourselves. We know it is at work when we label ourselves or define ourselves by our actions or thoughts (I-am-ness).
Dvesa: Wanting to protect ourselves from future pain by avoiding similar situations; e.g. if someone hurt you, you avoid that person.
Abhinvesa: Self doubt. Worry about how others will judge us.
Reference: Mark Nepo, The Book Of Awakenings.
Gabrielle Harris is the original suburban yogini of New Zealand. In between hot sweaty vinyasas she likes to go back to the suburbs and write about what she learned while cooking the dinner, running a business, and growing vegetables. Yoga is the little box of sanity that she likes to unwrap at frequent intervals to keep the wheels of domestic bliss turning smoothly.
Editor: Anne Clendening