What can’t you live without? Whether it’s not knowing when to say no to that last drink, eating one too many cakes, or even being attached to how you think your body should look on the yoga mat, attachment isn’t about giving up the pleasures in life, more about learning how to enjoy them.
Renounce And Enjoy
Rāga, or attachment, is the third obstacle on our road to yoga, specifically attachment to pleasure. “Wait a minute,” I hear you cry, “attachment to pleasure? Come on, aren’t we entitled to a little bit of pleasure every now and then?” I’ll be the first to say that everyone deserves to treat themselves, whether that be a sugar coated doughnut or perhaps something a little more risqué (like a sugar donut with sprinkles!).
Let’s get one thing straight early on: attachment is a problem, enjoying life isn’t. If you like to have a little bit of something sweet everything now and again, no one’s taking that away from you. What we are looking at are the problems caused by the attachment we get to having that something sweet. Before we know it we’re craving that something every day, or needing bigger hits of it to really feel satisfied. This might not always be in relation to sweets, but to the latest pair of trainers, our next holiday, or our next promotion.
Gandhi was once asked his philosophy to life, to which he replied “Renounce and enjoy!” No one is suggesting you go into austerity and stop buying those caramel frappucinos that you love, but trying to just enjoy what you are able to have without always striving for more, does have a peaceful ring to it, right?
Still not convinced? Here are five other ways being attached becomes a stumbling block, and how to overcome them:
1. We Take Things Too Far
Going out for a beer after work? Great. Still there 5 beers later? Not so great. We’ve all been there, yoga practitioner or not, and we all know the temptation that comes from wanting to have one more. I’m sure no one out there needs me to explain why sticking to one or two beers is usually the best way forward, but this is a great example of how our attachment to pleasure from having that first beer easily turns to pain the next day when we wake up with the hangover from hell.
2. We Become Clingy
Feeling as though we need more – more possessions, more recognition, more love — can result in an unattractive persona of clinginess. Constantly needing your boss to pat you on the back or needing your partner to tell you they love you every half hour not only makes you look very needy, but it’s also pretty wearing on the other person, and we all know how that story ends.
3. We Get More Impatient
In a world where being still and quiet is undervalued and under-practiced, no wonder road rage and frustration with slow internet seems to get worse, despite advancements in new machinery and technology. Ever looked back and wondered where the last six months or even six years went? If so then now is the time to get that meditation practice into gear. Simply sitting for five minutes a day, allowing the thoughts to enter and leave the mind without getting attached is the best way to begin to fully engage in the present moment and avoid that awful feeling of time slipping away.
4. We Never Have Enough
We want a chocolate covered biscuit. If we’re lucky, we find one and eat it. Five minutes later we want another. Then another. Soon we develop a daily habit of eating a chocolate covered biscuit every day, but somehow, it never tastes quite as good as that first one. You may have worked out that I have a soft spot for biscuits (I actually prefer plain digestives, but that’s another story) but the point is that enjoying a biscuit isn’t the problem. It’s the reaction of needing another one that creates attachment, and ultimately leaves us dissatisfied.
5. We Become Rigid
This is where our yoga practice becomes a useful mirror to our lives. If we are rigid in our thoughts, beliefs and ideas in life, this reflects in our bodies. When do we begin to notice this? If you guessed ‘when we show up on the mat’ you’d be right! Take a kind and curious approach to how our bodies move on the mat and you’ll be able to notice much more of what’s going on in your mind.
Just like the other obstacles, the answer to overcoming attachment is never far. It can’t be bought in a fancy shop, and no one can sell you the secret. Instead, get closer to your inner self (be it through seated meditation, yoga, running, dancing — whatever!) and it will get easier to see things for what they are. We become more aware of our attachments, and we can judge more wisely whether to cave into them. We notice whether that thing we desire is going to bring us temporary pleasure, or whether the effects — like an attachment to a regular, safe, balanced yoga practice — will go beyond that.
Don’t be too hard on yourself in the beginning. We are all human, and the quality of ahiṁsā, or kindness, is essential at all times. Slowly, with time and practice, we can begin to find contentment in our lives just as they are — and still be able to enjoy the odd biscuit here and there.