I’ve always been a goal driven person, prior to training as a yoga teacher I worked in sales and fundraising for over 20 years where outcome or results is what counts.
I was bought up to believe that if you work hard, push hard and don’t give in you can achieve anything, but as I have matured, I have decided this is perhaps not quite how the universe works! The more I learn, read and watch the example of others leading a spiritual path, I can see that this intense focus on outcomes is really where all the stress comes from.
But what does this all have to do with yoga you might ask!
Forgive me for giving you a little bit of history to start ….
Most people agree that yoga originally comes from the Vedas (ancient Hindu scriptures), which dates back 4,000 to 5,000 years. This learning was handed down orally from teacher to student but in the second century B.C. a sage named Patanjali wrote down his interpretation of the oral teaching and this became the Yoga Sutras, where Patanjali presented his ‘Eight Limbs of Yoga’. It’s a classic text for anyone doing their yoga teacher training and that’s certainly where I first came across this fascinating piece of literature.
‘Aparigraha’ is the last ethical rule in Patanjali's Eight Limbs of Yoga -. this can be translated to non-greed and non-attachment. You can read more about the Eight limbs of yoga here -
And Patanjali in his Sutra 1.12 introduces two essential elements of yogic philosophy: abhyasa (persistent effort) and vairagya (non-attachment to the result) but what does this actually mean and what’s its relevance to me and you living here in 2019?
As part of my yogic and spiritual development, I have been trying to practice non attachment. Doing the work, doing your best and then letting whatever happens happen with no judgement, no disappointment, no congratulations, no ego. It’s not easy and I have found something interesting that if you practice non attachment in our goal/outcomes driven society it can appear to others as if you don’t care.
I have two recent examples I wanted to share with you.
Firstly, you may be aware in my spare time I am often found on our sailing boat (when I am not teaching or doing yoga!) recently we have had two potential crises on the boat. Both times I was so calm that my husband turned around afterwards and suggested that I didn’t realised the seriousness of the situation (at one point it was a possibility we might have had to call the lifeboat or harbour master to rescue us) and also that I gave the impression that I didn’t care. We then discussed how I was practicing non reaction and non-attachment; and this it got me thinking…. It’s not that I didn’t feel the emotion of fear and anxiety arising and I did worry about what was going to happen, but then I managed to let this not overtake my judgement, speech or how I appeared to others. I kind of just thought the universe would sort it all out and me having a massive reaction to the situation(s) was not going to change the outcome. In the end all was well and my cleaver husband managed to fix the problems.
Secondly, in my other job (I still work part time in another job) because I aim to maintain calm and non-attachment to results, I sometimes wonder if the people I work with think I don’t care. That’s not the truth but it may appear like that as I am trying to keep the emotion and attachment to outcomes out of my work. It’s a real challenge, I think we have got so used to as a society this results orientated way of doing everything it’s odd when someone doesn’t behave in this way. I feel very different at times from others and then it’s hard to keep the practice going. Conforming to what society expects from us is so deeply ingrained in me (as it is in most of us) it’s hard to forge another path. BUT I know that practicing non attachment will enable me to live in a happy, calm and potentially more productive way so I’ll keep going with it.
And of course, this can also be relevant for our yoga practice, sometimes we are so striving to ‘achieve’ a pose that the result is all we care about. We forget that experiencing the ‘practice’ of the pose here and now is of equal value to us ‘nailing’ that pose we have been wanting to perfect. We might not be able to ‘achieve’ the full pose yet for a variety of reasons (and maybe we never will!) but we may get huge benefits from using props, modifications and experiencing practicing the pose and how it makes us feel now. I try and keep this mindset during my practice (if I can!) I’ll keep practicing handstands and maybe one day I’ll get there but if not, I am quite happy with my practice on my yoga wheel. If you find that in your practice the end is all that counts, see if you can focus on the present moment and focus on the abhyasa (persistent effort) and vairagya (non-attachment to the result) and see how this changes your mindset.