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