I read somewhere our lives being described simply put in two parts – the first half of our life and the second half of our life. If you are a golfer that second half can be described as the “back nine.” (Maybe that was a Carl Jung idea.) Now within these two halves there are ideologies and practices we engage in which, if we can move though them, bring us full circle to a completion in our lives. Call it a sense of wholeness, wisdom and understanding.
Last week as I was watching my dance instructor work with a chorographer to create a dance for me that I will perform in a showcase in April, I began to ponder the idea of our lives being a dance in two parts. The first part being a dance of survival and the second half being a dance of the soul. Two parts – survival and sacred.
As I get older I feel that shift from the doing or task part of life to wanting more of the soul part of my life. I wish I could say that I am there happily dancing the soul dance but more often than not, I am still dancing the survival dance. When I can allow myself the time to simply slow down and be quiet I can feel that soul dance bubbling up but our world has a way of pulling us back to a more base, a more basic rhythm that keeps us stuck in survival and we begin to lose site of the “task within the task” or our soul.
So what does this look like? The survival dance is task oriented. We are focused on making money, getting an education, raising children, and paying a mortgage. It’s about tradition, law, structure, authority, and identity. It’s about why I’m significant, why I’m important, why I matter, why I’m good. If we stay there and don’t move out of the “ego” how then can we ever really get in touch with the soul?
There are many things pulling me, even at almost sixty years old to remain in my perfect survival dance. I say perfect because by now I have the routine down. Remember it is all about the tasks – the doing NOT the being! How then do we move from survival to soul… here are a few things I do, or try to do, to help me get more comfortable in my new dance. The dance of the soul for which I would like to spend more time.
meditation and prayer
having a sense of gratitude
spending time in nature
listening to music
practicing the pause
exercise, movement and dance
spending time with friends
supporting the community
showing myself grace
So, where are you? Which dance are you dancing today? Is it the right dance to be practicing or, like me, is it time to learn a new routine?
Whether we notice or not, most of us tend to repeat the same tasks day in and day out.
This constant repetition can make life boring and monotonous. Don’t get me wrong– routines are good and I live with a man who embraces the good routine with open arms! Routines are comfortable and predicable. I know from experience that a certain degree of routine and comfort can help me get through a day without feeling too overwhelmed by stress and uncertainty. The older I get, I see how easy it is to lose out of opportunities for personal growth and to end up in a rut that can affect my happiness and my quality of life. Those Covid years actually had some benefits believe it or not.
Recently and forever ago, I have had some challenges that leave me complaining, emotionally conflicted and overall drain my love of life. I made a decision to learn some new things and accept a few challenges to help reclaim some joy and lightness in my life.
I take time every day to practice Italian and have a trip planned later this year to immerse myself in the language and culture I love so much. I also needed to find something physical to tackle, so I dusted off my dancing shoes and began ballroom dancing again. In fact, I will be performing this April in a showcase!!!
I am learning that pushing myself to learn something new has incredible benefits….
THE BENEFITS OF PUSHING YOURSELF TO LEARN SOMETHING NEW
1. IT CAN HELP GET YOU OUT OF YOUR RUTS
Learning new things is a great way to break you out of a mundane routine. It shakes up your life and wakes your brain up from the slumber of monotony.
2. IT PROVIDES THE PERFECT OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU TO LEARN SOMETHING NEW ABOUT YOURSELF
Learning a new hobby or trying something new out will teach you something you didn’t know about yourself. You may try a cooking class and realize yup you never really liked cooking! LOL
3. IT WILL GIVE YOU A CONFIDENCE BOOST WHILE HELPING YOU OVERCOME YOUR FEARS
Learning a new skill is often an extremely rewarding experience. If it’s something you like, you’ll quickly notice yourself improving, which can give you a great confidence boost.
In most cases, trying something new is often about overcoming fear. Fear of discomfort, fear of failure, fear of ridicule…But every time you actually go and try something new, this fear is shattered, which in turn also helps boost your confidence.
4. YOU MAY JUST LEARN A NEW SKILL
Trying out something new can teach you a new skill. This skill can be just be a hobby, but it can also be something marketable that you can use for professional growth!
5. IT STIMULATES CREATIVITY AND BRAIN PLASTICITY
Highly creative people push themselves to learn new skills in order to innovate and express themselves in new ways.
When you try new things, you force your brain to exercise in a new way. This stimulates creativity, which eventually rubs off in other areas of your life. As a result, you begin to see the world and think about things in new ways.
HOW TO BREAK THE ROUTINE AND START LEARNING NEW THINGS
So now you know the benefits of learning new things…but one question remains: how do you let go of your insecurities and actually start learning new things?
IT’S ALL ABOUT MINDSET
The first thing you need to do if you want to start learning new things is to change your mindset. I am here to tell you that you can teach an old dog new tricks! It may take a little more time, patience and ability to forgive yourself for mistakes but if you can let go and enjoy the process the rewards are great. When we grow we change. When we listen to that voice that says this is all we can do then we start to believe that little voice and we lose out in the long run on some amazing opportunities here on earth.
What is a prophet? Let me try this as a definition: one who names the situation truthfully and in its largest context. When we can name the situation truthfully and in its largest context, it cannot get pulled into interest groups and political expediency. Martin Luther King Jr. was a biblical prophet.
In Latin [sub specie aeternitatis] means, “In light of eternity.” To consider things in light of eternity is a great clarifier. Maybe it comes to us on our death bed, when we think to ourselves, “Is this going to mean anything? Does this really matter? Is this little thing we’re upset about now and taking offense at going to mean anything in light of eternity?” The prophet or prophetess speaks truthfully and in the largest context. 
In Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech, he spoke from the “big frame” to call for a revolution of values based on love:
This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all [humankind].… When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I’m not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: “Let us love one another, for love is of God. And everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.… If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and [God’s] love is perfected in us” [1 John 4:7–8, 12]. Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. 
LOVE is the great clarifier. If we can learn to turn our hearts and minds to what love looks like and then act according to that higher vibration, we would have heaven on earth.
“Love is the greatest force in the universe. It is the heartbeat of the moral cosmos. He who loves is a participant in the being of God.”
“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
“One day we will learn that the heart can never be totally right when the head is totally wrong.”
“There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.”
“Hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love.”
“I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems.”
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”
“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
Richard Rohr Daily Meditation: Big Picture Thinkers
 Martin Luther King Jr., “Beyond Vietnam,” in A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. Clayborne Carson and Kris Shepard (New York: Warner Books, 2001), 160–161.
I often get in the shower or sit in the tub when I feel stressed. I stand there, imagining I am washing away all the troubles and stress while asking for a freshness, a newness to come over my life.
The other day I was out running errands and it started to rain. I did not have a raincoat on and I was not carrying an umbrella. Some voice in my head told me to pause there in the parking lot and lift my face up to the sky. The drops were cold (it is winter) but the intentional choice of allowing the rain to hit my skin did create a momentary change in me.
I decided to spend the next few seconds just breathing in and out while the rain fell softly on my head and dripped down my face. Then I sat in my car and watched as each individual raindrop hit the windshield in a continuous rhythm and pattern. I sat there recalling summer rains where when you walk outside you can smell the air, fresh and clean. I closed my eyes and listened to the sound the rain was making imagining this symphony of nature. Just sitting there in my car I felt a connection to nature, to the world around me and to my innermost self.
This simple act of noticing is meditation. Our life, each breath, hour, day, month, year, all are like those raindrops creating the whole of our existence. Think about each action, each choice and accomplishment like a drop in the bucket of your life. It is in these small and sometimes seemingly understated times that we grow. Nothing is in isolation. Everything somehow works together along with us. Maybe the next time you listen to the rain you can allow it to speak to you too. Rain is not just water that you need as physical sustenance, you need it to nourish your spirit as well.
“Consciously using our senses to feel nature’s healing energy as it comes to us in the form of rain is an act of internal cleansing. Just as the rain physically washes over the earth and rinses out any impurities and imperfections, so it also bathes our spirit in the joy that comes from knowing that we are in fact one with the world around us.”
This short poem is about saying goodbye to regret.
her regrets were dust. they cocooned her in an arid cloud of failed feelings and missed chances. she was gasping for breath when a gentle rain washed them away.
Kaizen is a Japanese word taken from words ‘Kai’, which means continuous and ‘zen’ which means improvement. Some translate ‘Kai’ to mean change and ‘zen’ to mean good, or for the better.
CHANGE FOR THE BETTER
This is how I wish to approach 2023! With small, incremental and consistent improvement. Although Kaizen is better understood in the context of Japanese business philosophy, I see this “change”/”good” as something we can apply to life in all forms.
Kaizen strategy counts mostly on human efforts to improve results which requires process improvement. Kaizen teaches you to discipline yourself by living in the present. Much like the practice of yoga, kaizen encourages you to visualize attainable goals and set smaller milestones to maintain motivation. With time, the desired destination will come closer until you reach the finish line. Kaizen follows a process-oriented approach: PLAN – CHECK – ACT/DO
Principles of Kaizen
Kaizen can be broken down into 10 major principles.
Strive for continuous improvement. Things can always get better no matter how good or bad they may be now.
Always questions tradition and, when necessary, discard the old to make way for the new.
Acquire wisdom by consulting with many people rather than relying on one expert.
Don’t waste time making excuses but focus on finding solutions.
Make sure you base your decisions on facts rather than opinions.
Get to the root cause of a situation or problem by asking “Why?” at least 5 times.
Before spending money to fix a problem, look for simple and inexpensive solutions.
Always question the status quo.
Start making improvements right away, even if you don’t yet have all the answers. One day at a time.
Make sure everyone is involved.
Toyota came up with the 5S System implementing Kaizen and it is easy to transition those principles to work/life balance too:
Seiri: Sort and Eliminate
Eliminate ‘wastefulness.’ I am identifying those things that I do in my life that are pretty useless and time consuming. I am restructuring some and replacing others with something meaningful instead.
Seiton: Organize My Workstation & Home
Organization skills go hand in hand with productivity and efficiency. Life is a mess, but my work and home don’t have to be! Thank Marie Kondo-style organization for this one! I am discarding objects that do not ‘spark joy’ in my life. Declutter to increase mental focus to allow more creativity and concentration!
Seiso: Aim for Healthier Life Choices
Seiso (or cleanliness) can help maintain an ideal work-life balance. I can use seiso to cut out unhealthy habits and mentally draining activities and replace them with healthier and valuable lifestyle choices that cleanse my mind, body, and soul. I actually have to give myself a little credit here as I am always trying to work on healthier choices and a better quality of life. Yoga, dancing, reading, eating well and exercising, spending quality time with amazing people are things of great value to me. The difference is, I am going to work harder on stopping the head trash to move in and to not be so hard on myself.
Seiketsu: Set High Standards
Applying the Kaizen philosophy in personal life often means developing standards.
Step one: Cut out those toxic friendships to make room for meaningful relationships and mind-stimulating hobbies.
Step two: Spend quality time with my support systems to uplift your spirits and mood.
Shitsuke: Maintain Discipline for Continuous Improvement
Lastly, get rid of the biggest vice of them all, aka procrastination.
Procrastination is a form of self-harm that thrives on lazy excuses and bad moods. 2022 was sadly a big year of grumbling and negative self-talk, and as a result, I lost time, joy and feared taking risks. I also lost sight of my purpose and goals because I gave in to irrational thoughts and negative emotions. These harmful choices stopped my from seeing my value and worth.
I see the spirit and application of Kaizan in my personal life by embracing the present and looking for ways to continuously improve. My desire is to aim for micro improvements daily, visualizing attainable goals and setting smaller milestones to keep myself motivated. You know, more like the tortoise and less the hare! By working toward living and staying in each moment, prioritizing productivity over instant gratification, and honoring my true self, I will continue upward progress with efficient, tiny steps instead of only focusing on the big picture.
Here’s to an amazing 2023! Are you ready to join me?
Oh, and to start my small goal setting list, I am committing to posting here once a week. Look for a new blog post each Monday in my 2023 Monday Musings.
sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations.
a person, event, or thing that causes disappointment.
A full out rollercoaster of emotion around my circumstances that left me in bed, for days, not wanting to do anything. Disappointment is more than sadness. It’s an offshoot, a complex emotion that stems from sadness. It is much more powerful. It’s what we feel when our expectations for a desired outcome are taken away. The feelings of anger and being let down, of frustration and sadness collide when we thought what we deserved didn’t happen.
I was sitting in a comfy chair having my pedicure when the call came. It was my pulmonologist. Yes, I had been expecting his call with results from a broncoscopy that had performed the week before, but I had not been prepared for his words. As I choked back tears (I didn’t want the lovely Korean woman worrying too much) I listened, wiped, made a few noises, listened some more and then asked the question I didn’t want to ask…..
DOES THIS MEAN I SHOULD NOT GO ON MY TIRP TOMORROW? please say not problem please!
Well, Mrs. Austen, it would be in your best interest to cancel your trip and I will see to getting you an appointment with an infectious disease doctor as soon as possible. This is beyond asthma and pulmonology at this point. … DISAPPOINTMENT BEGINS
I had been planning to study abroad to learn a new language and immerse myself in the culture for a long time! This is a big bucket list item and a lifelong dream and it was crushed like an ant under my foot in a minute flat. What did I do you ask? Well, first, breathe. Then, upon leaving the nail salon I hunched over the steering wheel and bawled my eyes out. I drove home and began to unravel all the plans I made one by painful one.
I am on medication to help my lungs right now and will see the doctor later this week. The medication does not make me feel very good – in fact, it is messing with my vision terribly (not great being a photographer and loving to read and study) so I spend too much time with my eyes closed. I would not have been at 100% for this trip and would have had a good time but maybe not the BEST time so I will reschedule when I can. But, last week! Last week was a bear. The feelings of disappointment, sadness, frustration, lack of control, and hopelessness was overwhelming to me. My friends were amazing. Calling, texting, sending flowers and things to cheer me up. (I have the BEST friends in the world) Even still, it was hard to get up this time.
Today, I still feel a small amount of disappointment but nothing like the ride of last week. Family and friends telling me to list my blessings, look for the good, all the things I know and do and teach but boy was it hard. I didn’t WANT to. Not just then – not yet anyway. I needed to allow myself to move through the feelings as awful as they were.
5 Stages of Grief, Change, Disappointment
I felt them. All of them. And now I am at acceptance. So let me share the good news now.
Disappointment means passion for something. Every cause has an effect. Think of disappointment as an effect, where the cause is your love for the thing in question.
Disappointment means an opportunity for growth. Every time we feel disappointed, it means there is an error in our framework of reality. Disappointment comes from the mismatch between reality and your expectation. Yet, the reality has been this way all along — reality did not change in that one second leading to your discovery of the truth. The world did not conspire to bring you down. The reason you feel disappointed is because you discovered the truth — and this truth is not what you thought it would be.
Disappointment means you are stronger for going through it. When you go through a harsh emotion like that, you become tougher. You learn to process and work through your emotions. You become more resilient to life’s hardships.
I hope the next time you find yourself disappointed (I know I will) that you allow the emotions to move through you, to feel them and release them so you can move to all the benefits that come in the end! They are there. PASSION, TRUTH, GROWTH, STRENGTH
Over the last decade or so, my husband and I often remark at how much he recalls his younger life and just how little I can recall mine! There are times he looks at me in disbelief – thinking I am not telling the truth. But, the real truth of the matter is that I DON’T recall much of my childhood or even later into my teens, 20’s and 30’s.
Have I seen a doctor? No. What’s the point. I have photos to look at so I know I was there!
Does it make me sad? I have asked myself that question many times. The answer I get sounds something like: Well, maybe you are not supposed to remember in the way you think you should. You feel a lot of things and maybe it is just too much to hold on to. OK this sounds good to me.
The day before yesterday I penned some new goals for myself. Another pivot. I felt pretty good about them. That yin/yang of fear and excitement which is a intuitive sign that perhaps its ok to move ahead. Writing some notes in the middle of the night to keep them fresh I slept well.
The following morning I sat at the computer to weed through my emails that were piling up. (side note: I should be in ITALY right NOW with my MOTHER in an ITALIAN IMMERSION school in PUGLIA. I am not. She is not. But more on that later) I quickly started dumping, Then just before I hit delete on the most recent DailyOM, I stopped. The title read “Living Like Water”. My gut said stop.
It is a quick article but one that resonated with me deeply. I would mention the author but none was given. Here is the gist:
“Water is a great teacher that shows us how to move through the world with grace, ease, determination, and humility.”
The journey of water flowing on earth can be a mirror of our own paths through life. The author suggests that from the beginning as water falls to the earth from the heavens it continues on a journey that does not look back but keeps moving forward. The rain/stream being the beginning of our life. The river flowing within it’s banks are those things which define us. We are molded and shaped by our family, location, genetics, born with differing sets of gifts and challenges. These are the parameters through which we navigate much of our life, flowing, like the river, along it’s banks. Waterfalls are possible. These are the falls, the breaks but what happens to water? Water gains energy and moves on. And, if there are holes to be filled, it bravely fills the empty space. Finally that river will empty into the sea. There is no hesitation to join a larger body of water, no loss of identity or control. It just gracefully opens to the vastness of what’s next. As we move to the end of our lives or perhaps every time we can conquer the ego enough to become part of something bigger, we humble.
Water can inspire us not to become rigid.
Water can allow us to let go of what is familiar and rigid.
Water is brave and does not cling to the past, flowing onward and never looking back.
Water fills the empty spaces – the dark moments of our lives.
Water contributes to the good of all.
This may not resonate with you the way it did with me since I had to share it here, but it did give me some peace and another assurance that Living Like Water isn’t so bad.
Back in October of 2021 I accepted a job to help me get out of the house during the lull in the pandemic and to help free my mind from some of the family and personal drama I was dealing with. I thought that working in a high paced, busy and socially connected environment would be a good balance to my week.
Never having worked for anyone other than myself (except for the time I taught school) I knew there would be a learning curve but that ultimately the skills needed to do my job successfully would be easily transferable. Well, boy did I LEARN A LOT…..
First let me tell you getting fired SUCKS. Footnote: I didn’t actually get fired. They said if I didn’t leave on my own I would get fired…
Want to know more?
losing your job suddenly feels like failure personified.
the emotional rollercoaster takes you on the ride of emotion, embarrassment, shame, worthlessness, self-pity and depression
it is devastating and stressful because your work becomes part of your identity
YIKES! I was not prepared for this. It is like being asked would you like to eat the scorpion or drink the poison? NO and NO….
So because you guys know me, you know I am an empath and I saw this coming a mile away. I just wanted to go on my terms in my timing. I had already shared with my life coach that I was choosing to make March my January and to offer myself the grace of a reset. I had already committed to a DRY MARCH (my personal March Madness) and to get back to some important routines that I had let slip over the winter. Well, funny thing about that good old universe. IT LISTENS and if you are open IT ALSO ACTS!
God didn’t shut that door – baby he SLAMMED it shut. The window didn’t just close either. It is locked and boarded shut. And after giving less than 48 hours to my ride on the rollercoaster of I lost my job, I jumped off!
My situation is unique as is yours. Below are some things that might help you reframe your circumstance. For me, I was grateful for the experience. I don’t need to revisit my time there or even visit the establishment every again for that matter. If I see someone around town I will be polite because that is who I am. What is that saying… When they go low, you go high.
Here is that list I promised:
Give yourself time to grieve the loss in its entirety—the daily routine that was familiar and comfortable, the interactions with former colleagues, and the sense of purpose or worth that your work gave you—even if it wasn’t your dream job. It’s a lot to take in.
Permit yourself to process the complicated emotions. Maybe even allow yourself some time to sulk and feel sorry for yourself. Go ahead and let it out. You are hereby granted permission to get into sweats and be the antithesis of productive.
But only for a limited time. After a couple of days, you’ve got to face the outside world again.
2. Don’t Compare and Despair.
Take a social media breather for a while. Stop thinking about what everyone else is doing, and just focus on you.
3. Reframe the Situation
Thought it may seem impossible, one way to bounce back is to reframe your experience. Turn your job loss into an opportunity.
4. Work Out
At a time like this, you want to do everything you can to move the odds squarely in your favor. Grab those kettle bells, go out for a run, or do daily push-ups, and notice how the physical exertion impacts your well-being. And please practice some YOGA and MEDITATION. CALL me! I can help.
5. Write a Thank You Note
Seriously, don’t laugh. I am a huge writer of notes. They are so important and if you don’t write them, you might consider starting. And at the end of the day, a simple note of gratitude will get you a lot further than burning bridges.
A few more if you feel these apply to your job needs. Mine was a part-time gig so these are not really things I personally invested in. (disclaimer LOL but seriously some good things to do!)
1. Understand What Went Wrong
Being fired for performance (even if you weren’t made privy to the precise problems in your exit conversation) means you probably have some things to work on. The question is, how aware are you of your shortcomings? Do your best to identify them and avoid carrying them over to what lies ahead.
Start by re-reading all your employer reviews. Make note of the things you were praised for doing—you’ll want to take those with you to your next role. Consider too the development suggestions. What are they telling you? How could you have improved your performance?
2. Have Difficult Conversations
Reach out to trustworthy former colleagues and request honest feedback. Ask them about both your strengths and your weaknesses. Identify emerging themes or patterns after you’ve spoken with a few people. Recognize and acknowledge the issues that surface from this valuable and candid feedback.
When they share their thoughts, listen. Don’t argue, debate, or contradict. Don’t defend yourself or blame someone else. Simply pay attention. Although this is a challenging exercise, it will serve you, and your career, well.
3. Make a Corrective Action Plan
Once you get feedback from your peers, figure out what you can do to improve performance issues you want to work on. Is there a class you can take to build a skill? Books you can read to help you deal more effectively with others? Podcasts or videos that will help untangle the issues that stymied you? Should you get some coaching in a certain area, such as time management?
Using difficult feedback to get back into a learning mode will boosts your confidence and gets your focus from your loss to planning your next win.
Welcome to a new year. It’s like a present that we can slowly unwrap. If you are like me maybe you are still playing with some of the things 2021 brought or you could be taking time to throw out what has not served you and then organizing the rest, tucking them in places that you can easily access them this year.
I learned much in 2021. I learned a lot about letting go, setting boundaries and how that impacts me because I want everyone to like me. Trust me, this is a journey that I am still taking into 2022. Sometimes, people, places and things need to be carefully examined and choices need to be made.
My husband and I downsized to about half the living space we were in while our new home is being built. This required a lot of letting go. We both had to be ruthless with our possessions.
As we made our way through each room together, we shared stories and memories. We made some easy choices and then some pretty hard ones too as we donated, gifted, and sold. Letting go together made it easier.
In yoga philosophy, within the yoga sutras,
Kleshas are negative mental states or mental patterns that cause unnecessary afflictions in our lives. There are five Kleshas: Avidya (ignorance), Asmita (ego), Raga (attachment), Dvesha (aversion), and Abhinivesha (fear of death). On your quest for spiritual awakening, the Kleshas are obstacles that must be overcome.
Avidya (ignorance): The inability to see things for what they are; this causes you to mistake transient, ego-related matters for permanent, soul-related ones.
Asmita (ego): The tendency to over identify with your ego; this keeps you from connecting with your soul.
Raga (attachment): The flame of desire that causes addiction to pleasure; this discourages you from leaving your comfort zone for more evolved territory.
Dvesha (aversion) The aversion to pain; this can create a quicksand-like cycle of misery and self-hatred that sucks you under and suffocates your will to evolve.
Abhinivesha (fear of death) The fear of death or a clinging to life; this dilutes your focus and interferes with your ability to experience the spiritual freedom that is the goal of yoga.
“Raga is that inclination (attachment) which dwells on pleasure.” — The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
This concept is particularly relevant to the patterns of our modern world today. We have become dependent on a great number of things — whether they be people, material items, or feelings. These addictions become our comfort zone, inhibiting us from exploration and growth. We are so attached to items, people, beliefs, or ideas, that happiness and inner peace depends on what we have and what we want. We suffer because we are attaching our internal happiness to external conditions.
This is Raga. It is important to note that there is a big difference between “attachment” and “love and appreciation.” Attachment is to hold on to what we have, so tight, that we develop fear of losing it. To practice yoga, on the other hand, is to be present and in a state of awareness in which we are able to appreciate what has been given to us and enjoy it while it’s available.
So as you can see, attachment creates pain in two different ways — fear of losing what we have, or fear of not getting what we want. When we are so wrapped up in this desire, we cannot ever be truly present.
“You can only lose what you cling to.” — Buddha
The advice of Patanjali (the creator of the yoga sutras) is for us to develop the art of “letting go.” Letting go is not neglecting or rejecting the things we feel appreciation for, but truly enjoying what we have while we have them. As written by Emma Newlyn, long-time yoga teacher, “It’s not about avoiding any sort of pleasure, but realising the impermanent nature of pleasure and pain, and being observant to our thoughts and behaviours.” By acknowledging the vulnerability and uncertainty of life we can find internal freedom.
Just like the other Kleshas, the concept of Raga is only valuable if we bring it down to our daily lives. How do we do that? Well, maybe by paying attention to the internal dialogue happening inside — noticing if we have thoughts that are basing our happiness on what we have or want. Maybe we are expecting certain results from our actions and we get angry if things don’t work as we expect. Or maybe we feel disturbed when people don’t treat us or behave in a certain way.
Happiness and fulfillment are not attained from the outside — with the next raise at work, the purchase of that next outfit/car/plane ticket. We will never be truly happy if we are constantly searching for the “golden ticket.” Fulfillment comes from within, from the thoughts and connection within yourself.
Practicing yoga and mindfulness allows us to train our brains and bodies to remain in the present moment. We can start to notice the patterns within our thoughts that are based around raga (attachment and desire). If we do not accomplish a certain pose or we become distracted during meditation, Raga would lead us to feel discouraged, frustrated, or otherwise unhappy. Instead, we can acknowledge the reality of a certain situation, accept it, and move beyond it.
By letting go of these fluctuations of the mind, we enjoy the fullness of life in the present moment without attaching our emotions to the success or failure of every situation. This is the art of “letting go.”
Look at your hands and clench your fists tight. Now think about all the “things” you are holding on to with that grip. Think about how hard it is to hold them so tightly and with such force. Now slowly open your hands and imagine how much MORE you can receive when you let go!
So here’s to letting go of that which is not serving us (our higher good, our higher power) and finding JOY in the present and all the infinite possibilities it will bring
When I was a kid, Christmas was my favorite holiday, hands down! Special decorations, shiny things, presents and all the traditions that only come in December. As I have gotten older, the magic of Christmas morning has changed to a profound awareness of thanksgiving and gratitude during the Thanksgiving season.
Maybe because with each passing year, the thread of my life gets shorter and so do the opportunities to say thank you, to remind someone how precious they are and to acknowledge their imprint on my journey.
Many of you know, my mantra is living my life in gratitude and I hold on to a number of profound statements that I hope keep me authentic. There are scripture verses and those four agreements that Ruiz shares, but one that I feel can be an umbrella to them all is Ram Dass; “we are all walking each other home.”
I am aware of my flaws and imperfections and I am humbled when I think about all the people who are in my life to teach me. Thank you for being alongside me, behind me, and in front of me. Thank you for being there for decades, years, seasons, weeks or just a day.