What’s on your list of dislikes? Pineapple on pizza, delayed trains or endless queuing? Would you go so far to say you hate those things? In this article on dveṣha, or aversion, we examine why those things that you resist might be the very things you need to embrace to find true freedom and peace.
Getting Stuck In Your Ways?
Having an aversion to things we don’t like might seem to make sense at first. For example, if we know we are intolerant to gluten, then it might make sense to avoid bread and pasta. The same applies if we go deep sea diving with great white sharks or stumble across a rattle snake in the desert. We know it’s best to avoid too much contact with the things that could cause us harm.
However, this isn’t about a resistant to the things we know are bad for us, it’s about a resistance which is born from our beliefs of ourselves: “I’ll never be able to do headstand,” or, “I’m not brave enough to go on holiday on my own,” are just two examples.
These thoughts and beliefs can be so strong that we experience real fear, anger or reluctance to change them. We easily become stuck in a self-perpetuating cycle of believing what we are and aren’t capable of, and these beliefs go on to dictate our lives. We become rigid in bodies and minds, and this can lead to a lack of fulfilment, tension or general dis-ease.
Paths To Freedom
Lots of us have found ourselves in a yoga class, often not really knowing how or why we got there. In the words of B.K.S. Iyengar,
Yoga allows you to find a new kind of freedom that you may not have known even existed.
Still not so sure? Here are five reasons why getting out of your comfort is the best possible action you can take to discover pure freedom.
1. Do the posture you “hate” most
I’m not suggesting for one moment you put yourself at physical risk here, more that you truly ask yourself, “Why do I hate this posture?” Do you avoid any inversions because the thought of viewing life from a different perspective frightens you? Do you hate doing balancing postures because you know you have weak ankles, and you can’t ‘perfect’ these poses, which drives you crazy? Whatever the reason, the only way to free yourself from the bind of hatred is to practice. Over and over again.
2. Make time to rest
Rest is equally important to your mental, physical and spiritual health as showing up on your mat is. This applies to taking adequate śāvāsana at the end of your practice, as well as having days when your practice is simply sitting. Notice what thoughts come up when you do this. Is your mind berating you for being unproductive? Does that never-ending list of things to do keep popping up like an unwanted visitor? Don’t try to push away these thoughts; instead just sit them with a while. You’ll be amazed at what results this simple practice can yield.
3. Be uncomfortable
In our modern-day lifestyle of needing comfort, being uncomfortable seems like, well, a bit of a silly thing to do. We have comfy sofas, soft pillows, central heating, all designed to keep us comfortable. Although some believe that physical discomfort can be part of the path to enlightenment, I’m more interested in exploring mental discomfort.
Let’s say you hate being on your own. You hate it so much that your diary is filled to the brim, you check Facebook at least twice a day, and you fill your home with noise, be it TV, the radio or maybe both! In this example, try going a day without Facebook, or spend an evening by yourself. See what comes up. It might not be pleasurable, but it doesn’t have to be painful either. Just sit with it, and see how the experience is. You might be surprised.
4. Control the to-do list, don’t let it control you
Speaking of to-do lists, how is yours looking? Is there one thing that you never quite tick off? Could it be doing the washing up, catching up on your finances or calling that relative you’ve been meaning to call? Sometimes the simplest way to overcome the aversion to this task is to just do it. Don’t think about it, don’t build a big story about how much you hate doing this task, just get on with it.
5. Practice a steady state of mind
Someone faced with a big juicy steak may think, how delicious. Someone else will find it repulsive. In our yoga practice we are trying to find the middle ground. I’m not suggesting you give up steak (or saying to try it), but instead don’t react quite so strongly to the idea of the steak. You can still make a choice about whether you eat it or not, but you don’t have to have such a fiery reaction. This is the ultimate goal of yoga: to achieve evenness of the mind.
If you can control the rising of the mind into ripples, you will experience yoga.
~ Yoga Sutras
Who Do You Think You Are?
This isn’t about being able to “achieve” something in our yoga or even our daily lives, it’s more about realising that we are in control of the thoughts which so often dictate our actions. This realisation can be hugely empowering — so give it a go! You don’t have to give up your personality, or start eating food you don’t like, but you can put less energy into liking or disliking things. Now that sounds like freedom to me.