At the end of my 200 hour teacher training, my teacher, Sivakami gave us each an opportunity for a private chat with her as we walked down the picturesque Siesta Key. I was one of the last students to talk with her and by the time it was my turn, my mind buzzed with all sorts of problems I wanted resolved - things I wanted to accomplish, things I wanted to avoid, ways I wanted to become - before I felt I could love myself unconditionally. I tried to consolidate all my angst into a singular, coherent question.
The sun was moving lower, scattering prismed rays across the white sand. I walked next to her now, trying to keep pace with her long legs gliding across the floury surface. We pulled ahead of the group and she wrapped my shoulders in her arm, pulling me close. “So Shanthi, what is your question?” she asked softly, diverting me from fluttering into small talk.
I said, “I’m so hard on myself and I just don't know how to stop.” She looked toward the sunset pensively, ushering me forward in her embrace. After a moment, the answer: “Just let it go! Now, let's talk about when you are coming to India."
I don't remember much more of the conversation, but I do know this bit of it perplexed me for years. That's it? Just let it go?! If I knew how to do that…
I've thought about this moment many times in my jnana yoga or self-study practice. The warmth with which she welcomed my pain, protected me, and released the suffering from that pain has been a model for how to treat myself. How deftly she had deflected my attachment to a painful way of thinking!
Accepting pain when it comes is as actually a part of the niyamas (or observances) in Raja Yoga. As living things, we can't avoid pain or loss, but we can accept the pain we receive as a way letting go of attachment in our experience of love. We also can protect ourselves from further suffering by letting go of negative narratives that surround our ideas of “failure” and “loss”. Narratives that only serve to create more suffering and attachment.
I'm learning that loss is not only part of life, but is also part of all great love. One of my other mentors and I have recently been talking about what it means to lose the beloved. She has suggested that accepting the loss of a loved one - in my mind, supreme non-attachment - is a way of honoring the beloved's path.
There is grace in loss, painful as it may feel to sit with it. By accepting this pain we can transcend it, journeying deep into grief as a hero on a divine quest. A quest to know what it means to live and love and lose. Emerging stronger on the other side.
Valentine’s Day or not, it’s easy to get caught up in attachment when we try to experience love; attachment to the physical presence of someone, or to a certain way of being or experiencing, or even to a specific time and place. I will remind myself that I can't truly experience love if I am holding onto attachments. The only place to experience true love is in the present moment and the present moment is always changing.
Just some thoughts about yoga as I go...