26 February 2012

Life can be easier...

...unfortunately, we often choose to make it more difficult.

Take for example, a few things I thought (or found myself saying out loud) this past week:
  • I wish I had a long and lean body
  • I don't want to be sick with this cold/flu anymore
  • I need to have new sweaters for next winter
  • I don't want my cat to die

Now, I am short and curvy no matter what exercise or nutrition program I follow. I finally did catch the cold/flu everyone at work had, and still feel a bit under the weather. I don't really need sweaters to replace the perfectly good ones I already own. My cat is likely on the last of his nine lives and like all creatures, will inevitably die. These are the REALITIES of life, and they actually have little to do with what I want or don't want. In yogic philosophy, such ways of thinking are referred to as attachments (raga) and aversions (dvesha).

Yoga also teaches us the truth of life, which is that it just happens: around us, within us, and in spite of us. Being attached or averse to something means we're working against life's natural current. If an event is truly unpleasant and we try to push it away--or conversely, try to hold onto the way things used to be--we're likely causing ourselves more suffering than if we just allowed ourselves to feel and deal with the actual situation fully. When we desire something, getting what we want doesn't usually make us happy for very long. True happiness and freedom lies in the acceptance of life AS IT ACTUALLY IS.

That's tough! It's easy to say that you should or can just deal with whatever life throws at you, but acceptance is a lot easier said than done. To me, the answer doesn't lie in being indifferent or in any quick fix, but rather in continuous and self-compassionate practice. Just as we exercise and train our bodies to maintain our physical health, we need our minds and hearts to learn how to be more accepting so that we can maintain an optimal level of mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Techniques like breathing meditation and mindfulness (i.e. conscious self-awareness), are useful for everyone--regardless of whether you can twist yourself into some wacky yoga pretzel. And like nutrition and exercise, techniques for developing acceptance require us to prioritize and make time for them on a regular basis.

We could all benefit from exploring techniques to help us learn how to be more accepting, and now is the perfect time to start. As a quick look through Facebook's news feed or my examples above show, every single day provides us with new opportunities to practice letting go of our tendencies toward attachment and aversion. The more we practice surrendering to life's inevitable ups and downs, the less we will label situations in our lives as "good" or "bad"--they will just be. Sure we'll still feel our experiences (and of course we want to), but we'll not be adding our own layers of angst on top, making things seem better or worse than they really are. And when the really painful or bad situations do hit us, we'll be much more prepared to handle them with grace and equanimity.

One of my favorite movies of all time is Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. In it, Del (played by the late John Candy) describes how he goes with the flow "like a twig on the shoulders of a mighty stream". Would you like to be more like Del, and surrender to life more completely? Do you think it would make life easier if you were able to? What do you find yourself being attached or averse to? What have you tried to dispel this way of thinking?

I'd love to know what you think....

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