Hello. I have mused over this newsletter for sometime, feeling like I only wanted to write when I had come up with something worthwhile to say. I may be setting myself up in that last statement, however I now feel sincerely compelled to share my musings with you. Bear with me then, your printed version of this newsletter in hand, relaxing on your deck, fragrant smells, iced drink close by and the beautiful spacious quality of a mid-summers night.
The past few months have been significant for me personally in ways that may have relevance for us all. By giving you a glimpse, I imagine that some of those signifyers may become part of our shared learning/experience.
One of the questions I am most commonly asked by both students and friends is; how has this situation (quadraplegia) changed you and how do you deal with it? People are fascinated and fearful of this predicament and at the same time hopeful that somehow I/they – can/could transform it. Bless our tender and innocent Souls. After a couple of years of dealing with the challenging realities of living and teaching with a severe spinal cord injury my answer is this: I have been given the opportunity to really understand non-attachment and the profound and essential role it plays in our spiritual development and freedom. Now by no means am I an expert, that is not what this conversation is about, however if I could offer you the perspective I have been gifted regarding the subtilies of attachment and the limitations of it, this effort would not be in vain.
Think of your life right now: your roles/identity, your loves, and your practice, your desires, your body and even your problems (yes you are attached to these too!) and imagine giving them all up in an instant – everything, all at once. Could you? Likey not, and with good reason – we think. What if you had to give up only two things? How and which would you choose? Perhaps you would give up your status and desires, in order to keep your family and physical abilities, but wait – no ego, no association with accomplishments, people and no desires? Hmmmmm
Many will argue they could easily give up things they don˦ really care about and some will have a feeling that attachment and caring are one and the same and aren˦ we supposed to care: about our bodies? About our loved ones? About our career? Aren’t we bound to have attachments to the things we care about? Curiously enough, “bound” is the operative word here and I will make the case that one can, and ought to care greatly for all of these things, but we confuse caring with attachment and the state of attachment is binding, limiting, and always based on an emotion drawn from the past or projected into the future.
Think of this situation: you have put considerable time and thought into what you feel is a worthwhile contribution in your chosen field, a book, a meal, a piece of art, a class you just taught. Now someone comes along and strongly disagrees with your work, not only that, they feel offended and put off by your intrepretation so much so, that they want to bring it up with you.
Their reaction makes you feel attacked and put down, perhaps angry you may be inclined to defend yourself and your work. Now this could be any scenario – bottom line is you feel wronged, misunderstood and that you are right about your feelings and also about the validity of your efforts, after all how can they be so insensitive?
Your body feels tight, you are not relaxed in this defensive state, and you may feel like attacking or shutting down, you reach an impasse with this person and a communication breakdown. Now regardless of who’s right, what’s wrong with this? And who is suffering? You are, and not because you’re right or wrong, but because you are attached to your concept of rightness and your ego’s identification with it, which may be based on an old stuck emotion – perhaps rejection. Attachment brings misery.
In the ancient texts there are many examples of how attachment in its various forms binds the soul. In present time I have observed how we negate the physical cues of an attached/bound state of mind and blame all sorts of outward circumstances and people for our angst and misery. The teachings point out that most of the effort we expend in life, which cause us so much stress and strife, are actually contrived around our most unrealistic attacments to our self/ego and the fear of death.
This points directly to the misunderstanding of the purpose of life in the first place, which according to yoga is to master the Self. In the tantric tradition, when we are functioning effortlessly and harnessing the creative and manifesting power of Shakti we are truly unattached, abundant and joyful.
When one considers the goal of yoga as Self-realization/freedom, attachment to the physical body can even become a hindrance. It is a means, not an end.
Having said that, it is where we are and the vehicle with which we experience reality, so it is important to respectfully utilize it in our intentions toward freedom. That is the science of yoga; the more perceptive the lens, the clearer the picture. In Theseus’ speech in Shakespeare’s Midsummers Night Dream our wise old man proclaims that, options however irrational, color perception and create illusions. Our attachments are directly related to our emotions.
Blessings to you all,