“I want what she’s having” the famous line out of the movie When Harry Met Sally highlights the human tendency to want what others have got, because we think it will make us feel good. This week’s blog is dedicated to the Yoga of “Less is more” and how we can cultivate a sense of Non-Attachment. We also take a look at the flip side to this (always wanting more) and the grief that it can cause and the strain it can put on relationships with ourselves and others. Learning how to handle feelings of envy, jealousy, desire (all part of being human) in a skilful way so we don’t act out these feelings to the degree where we are letting greediness drive our behaviour is part of the path of Mindfulness and Yoga. In Mindfulness there are teachings on what are known as the three poisons, desire being one of them. In Patanjalis Eight Limbs Aparigraha (Non-Hoarding) is one of the Yamas mentioned to help guide us away from man-made or ‘mind’ made suffering. Basically so we can enjoy and appreciate the life we have been given.
(First just a brief re-cap for those who missed the last blog on what the first two limbs of yoga are)
As an integrated way of life, Yoga includes moral standards (traditionally called “virtues”) that any reasonable human being would find in principle acceptable. Some of these standards, known in Sanskrit as Yamas and Niyamas ‘disciplines’ are encoded in the first limb of Patanjali’s eightfold path.
Yamas (Universal Morality). The Yamas are broken down into five wise characteristics, “they tell us that our fundamental nature is compassionate, generous, honest and peaceful.” – Below are links to each, so this week as mentioned the focus is on the fifth of the Yamas ~ Aparigraha (Non Hoarding / Non Attachment)
A famous quote, actually a wall hanging I have hanging on my bedroom wall that I wake up and see every morning from Buddha that says :
How well did you love
How well did you live
How well did you learn to let go
There are many ways to express this teaching. ‘Letting Go’ is one of the Pillars of Mindfulness. On the yoga mat, it may mean only taking the options in the yoga class that will serve your body and leave the rest behind. To do that we have to put aside our tendencies of desire to want to look the best, be the best (whatever that is?). Off the mat, it can be practised by only taking that which you need. I’m sure we have all had conditioning around this too with the common saying from possibly your parents “No you don’t ‘need’ it, you ‘want’ it, there’s a difference.” Perhaps they too were trying to teach us the Yoga of Non-Hoarding and teaching us to discern between desire and what we really need. Desire has a few different ‘cousins’ so to speak Envy being one of them.
“Envy makes you work hard and it seems as though you keep coming back again and again to measuring your self-worth against that of the other person. The thoughts and feelings that are evoked when the emotion of envy is triggered in your brain can make you experience animosity toward that person and anguish within yourself” Mary C Lamia from Psychology Today says ‘If you are envious of someone you may want to put them down, as though this will raise you up or lower everyone else’s opinion of them. But it just doesn’t work!’
Causing harm never works. There is another saying “What Sally says about Suzie says more about Sally than it does about Suzie” Having envy can be a reflection that we are feeling that our self-esteem is under threat due to what someone else has.
Today, more than ever, especially with the exposure that yoga has had on social media to ‘want’ what other people have got…whether it be their yoga tights or their great form/body when performing the poses. This can be a form of desire that can lead to suffering. Thankfully the eightfold path in Yoga can give us some guidance and tips on how to approach Yoga as a way of life to help reduce the suffering that can be caused from the reactivity we can have inside. Both envy and jealousy cause secondary feelings of inadequacy so it is very worthwhile to learn how to deal with these ‘misunderstandings’ where we can get confused between the fabricated idealised self and what’s real. There will always be an element of underlying dis-ease when there is a gap between ideals and what’s real.
One of my mentors/teachers Dan Millman who wrote Way of the Peaceful Warrior, was one of the first to really open my eyes to the cycle of suffering that goes on highlighting ‘we suffer when we don’t get what we want, or when we get what we don’t want, we suffer’.
Learning to handle these energies of desire and aversion skilfully is the way of a warrior and a yogi so we can stay in the present moment. Rather than be tossed about between wanting and not wanting states of mind. Learning to sit with it all, to see it for what it is without getting hooked by it opens up a doorway of insight where we can begin to ‘trust’ the path that is unfolding for us.
Perhaps there was something in the Mick Jaggar Mantra of:
“You don’t always get what you want, but you get what you need”
is not a bad seed to sew to help us ‘let go’.
Inhaling “let” exhaling “go”
Be mindful of what you are grasping for and the seeds that you sew.
Be willing to let go a little each day
Trust your own process and the law of nature that reminds us nothing lasts, nothing stays
The time you take however to drop into to stillness and become centred and calm
Reveals a reality, a sense of self that feels like healing balm
No need to envy or to be caught by greed
Yoga on and off the mat can help us discern between wants and needs.
Mindful Poetry coming up in our blogs dedicated to our Pillars of Mindfulness Challenge that we will share in the coming weeks.
We offer specific Meditations and Mindfulness Practices in our Mindfulness Teacher Training Levels 1 + 2) and private mentoring sessions virtually or corporate mindfulness programs in the workplace – click here
Until then feel free to join us on our Yama + Niyama Challenge by sharing your own insights and hashtagging #yoganrg #yamaniyamachallenge and you could be the lucky soul coming with us on our NRG FOR SOUL RETREAT AT THE WHITSUNDAYS
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