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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Yama and Non-attachment

8.21.11 Sunday 7pm - Meditation based on Patanjali's Yoga Sutras
Saraswati Andrea Lee and Chitra Jessica Sunshine
Starseed Yoga and Wellness of Montclair, NJ

Hari OM call and response opening chant led by Saraswati-ji.

Yogic Philosophy and Theory
Raja Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga is based on an eight limbed system of Yoga.  The limbs includes abstinces and observances, as well as physical poses, breathing techniques, and concentration techniques that lead Self Realization, unshakable peace and complete union with all.  The first limb is seen as the Do and Do Not's, with the first being the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have done to you. Let us take a closer look.

Patanjali Yoga Sutra 2.30  Yama consists of nonviolence, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence, and non-greed.

1. Ahimsa - non-violence, harmlessness, supreme of all yogic precepts - Do no harm.  It applies to our words, thoughs, and deeds, intentions as well as actions, with all human beings, animals, plants, inanimate objects, and ourselves.  
2. Satya - truthfulness in word, thought, and deed.  Listen more, say less.  Become united with truth and test it against non-violence - "If by being honest we will cause trouble, difficulty, or harm to anyone, we should keep quiet." - Sri Swami-ji Satchidananda
3. Asteya - non-stealing, which includes improperly borrowing or using another's property or ideas.  Do Good, Be Good. Do I take things which are not mine without asking?
4. Brahmacharya - continence, abstinence, moderation, the middle way.  The classical sages and even swamis today make monastic vows to not engage in sexual activity.  The act of sex is considered to be the most energy depleting on the body, especially for men. Therefore, by keeping this energy sacred and within, it becomes transferred into even more powerful energy leading to deeper states of enlightenment or meditation. "Be efficient." - Sri Swami-ji Satchidananda.  It also applies to not too much nor too little eating, sleeping, working, etc
5. Aparigraha - non-greed.  Greed comes from our attachments, an unsatisfied mind always reaching for more, more, more.  Want less, love more.

Attachment lies at the core of human suffering and it is multi-layered. There are attachments to things that are external -- people, places and things and attachments to ideas and opinions. In Yoga Sutra 1.15 Patanjali states that "Non-attachment is the manifestation of self-mastery in one who is free from cravings for objects seen or heard about." Right off the bat Patanjali tells us that living without attachments leads to freedom. But this is not to say that it is easy. The practice of non-attachment can be tricky because it goes against some of our ingrained beliefs about what it means to love well, to take care of people and to be committed to one's work and beliefs. It may also force us to think about the ways we are attached not only to objects but also to the roles we play -- who we think we are. Perhaps we think that if we are attached to our families or to the work we do, the better we will be at it. Or we may believe that if we are attached to certain objects or items we will feel more secure, happier and more fulfilled.

There are numerous things that we are attached to, some of which are obvious to us, others which are not as easy to identify. Part of our yoga journey is to start to uncover what our attachments are, to discover why we have those attachments and to gently through our practice loosen our attachments. One of the reasons we cling to certain things is that at a fundamental level we feel we lack something. One saying I've heard from my teacher is that each one of us has a God-shaped hole in our hearts that we are constantly trying to fill with other things, whether it be money, a new relationship or even a favorite pair of shoes. Instead of acknowledging the divine within us and filling that hole from within, we attach ourselves to external objects and internal thought systems to make us whole. As we've discussed before, yoga advocates that all we need is inside of us and when we still our minds we begin to understand how full we already are.

Of course we will have wants and desires. Non-attachment is not about getting rid of desires but about re-directing that energy towards things that are useful, helpful and in service of others. Non-attachment is also about being able to give without the expectation of something in return. It is a courageous move from selfishness to selflessness, but it is not about repression or deprivation. To live with non-attachment is not to drop out of our daily lives and live alone in a cave. It does not require us to end long standing relationships, quit our jobs or give up all of our possessions. Non-attachment means that we are not emotionally, physically or mentally locked into the results of our actions.

I would like to discuss a few ways in which attachments prohibit our journey towards liberation.  If I have an attachment to something I will always have some element of anxiety over losing it. This kind of subtle anxiety keeps the heart closed and fluctuations of the mind very busy. Most of our worries stem from the possibility of loss. How much can we really enjoy something if we are anxious about what may happen to it? This can apply to an object, a loved one, a professional position, etc. Non-attachment allows for appreciation and joy for what we have without being entangled in what may come of it.

Selfless service or Karma Yoga, is one of the six major branches of Integral Yoga. (See more here - The Six Branches of Integral Yoga)  When we serve selflessly we have to let go of our attachment to the outcomes of our service -- whether or not we get recognition or acknowledgement for our work. Without this release, our service gets tied up in our own wants and needs and we are less able to devote our time and energy to those in need.

Similarly, if we are attached in a relationship we are at some level thinking what can this relationship do for me? This may be an innocent question and the answers may range from "it gives me security" to "it makes me feel wonderful." We may be attached to the emotional outcomes of our marriage, of our parenting and attached to how well we will succeed at each respective role. When we love with non-attachment we can give our families and partners one hundred percent of our loving attention and free ourselves to weather any challenges without letting our attachments interfere. This is also known in some schools of thought as unconditional love; love that is given freely and not based on the prospect of return. When we let go we allow the heart to fully open.

A reading from our beloved Sri Guruji Rev Jaganath Carrera's book, Inside the Yoga Sutras, referring to Patanjali Yoga Sutra 1.15 - non-attachment, p. 45

"Non-attachment is not a negation of the world but the cultivation of the appropriate relationship to the transitory pleasures and pains of the world.  It isn't sense objects that cause our grief but our inappropriate relationship to them based on unrealistic, often selfish expectations.  This principle is illustrated by an answer Sri Swami Satchidananda gave in response to a student's question at a public program years ago....
"Is it ok for a student to have chocolate ice cream from Maygolds?"  Maygolds was a dairy farm and restaurant about twenty minutes from the ashram.  It was popular with ashram residents who enjoyed dipping into one of the restaurant's homemade desserts on warm summer evenings.
"That's a very good question.  Allow me to answer it in this way.  Everyone please imagine that tonight's program has ended.  It is very warm outside and you decide to go to Maygolds for some chocolate ice cream.  Is everybody with me so far?"
"So you drive to Maygolds, order an extra large chocolate sundae.  Can you taste it?  Is it good?"
"Yes, Gurudev."  I suspect that a few ashramites were ready to turn this exercise of imagination into a reality once the program was over.
"Are you feeling happy?"
"Okay.  Fine.  Now lets try it again, but with one small change.  After the program, you drive to Maygolds, but find it is closed.  How do you feel now?  Are you still happy?  If the answer is yes, then its okay for you to occasionally have some ice cream.  If the answer is no, it is better to stay away from it for awhile and analyze your attachment to it.
We have to ask ourselves if we are really enjoying life or if we are simply on a rollar coaster ride of cravings, the efforts to fulfill them, and temporary satisfaction."

Distracting Thoughts
Part of dealing with distracting thoughts is working with our attachments. There are attachments to our individual thoughts but there are also the attachments to how “well” we are doing our practice or being attached to the illusion that there is one particular way to practice. These assumptions may appear during our practice as distracting thoughts like, "I'm not doing this right," or "This wasn't as good as my last meditation." With these thoughts we can again ignore them and move back to our object of meditation. However our daily work with non-attachment will have an effect on the frequency of these kinds of distracting thoughts. Eventually detaching from our distracting thoughts becomes a habit during meditation and in day to day life.

As our meditation progresses and we quiet the mind, we open ourselves up to thoughts that may be deep-seated. Samskara is the Sanskrit work for residual tendencies and habits that reside in the mind. Sometimes these thought patterns will arise during meditation and come as a bit of a surprise. These thoughts are also considered distracting thoughts but they may require some analysis in order to eventually free these patterns from your life. If you chose to analyze them attempt to do so after your meditation session when you are in a space to quietly observe these new emotions and feelings.
Practice of Ujjayi Pranayama and Visualization Meditation.
Closing Peace Chants
Asaato Maa Sad Gamaya
Tamaso Maa Jyotir Gamaya
Mrityor Maa Amritam Gamaya
Lead us from unreal to Real
Lead us from darkness to the Light
Lead us from the fear of death, to the knowledge of Immortality
OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti
Lokaah Samastaah Sukhino Bhavantu
May the entire universe be filled with Peace and Joy, Love and Light

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