Impermanence, Non-attachment and Union
Each week I give myself a theme to plan my classes around. I really enjoy having a focus as I plan my classes and something I can meditate on in my personal practice as well. The past few weeks the themes have been non-attachment then reflection. I often find myself thinking about non-attachment as it is such a prominent part of eastern philosophy and religion, and something that, to me, just makes sense. I wanted to write out some of my wonderings on this subject so that they can maybe inspire you to reflect and meditate on them yourself.
The first thing that came up for me was the distinction between that which is impermanent (the parts of life we ought to lose our attachment to) and that which is permanent. Sri Swami Satchidananda(1) uses the phrases 'ever-changing' and 'never-changing' which I feel describes this separation clearly. Some things are always changing: flowers grow from seeds to bloom then decay back down to nothing; material things come and go; you change your mind over and over; even permanent-seeming things like buildings will eventually deteriorate and change shape. If these things are ever-changing, why do we waste our time on them? The never-changing. The light inside you. Perhaps you call it your soul, your spirit, your true self, your higher self, or a part of the divine. The part of you that is constant, that is pure, that is you. Surely this is the only thing that matters? What if you focus, not on the ever-changing, but the never-changing?
But what is the Never-changing? I've been delving deep into yoga philosophy and have not as yet found a conclusive answer. I believe, the never-changing part of you is the stillness you feel when you meditate, the contentment you feel when you spend time in nature, and the connection you feel to others. The never-changing is peace, truth and wisdom.
You may or may not know that the 'aim' of yoga is union (yoga translates to union), Patanjali calls this absorption (Samhadi), the never-changing part of you is the part that is united, again with what is pretty much up to you.
Thinking about the union between the divine spark within us and the divine beyond (this is just the terminology I use). Imagine the never-changing as a droplet of water. There’s a droplet (divine spark) within all life, within every cell and atom, and every droplet wants to get back to the sea (the divine). Life after life these droplets of water are flowing and moving and changing but are still separated from the sea. There’s so much of the ever-changing blocking the way and confusing the droplet on its path. The greatest purpose you have is to help the beautiful intricate perfect droplet inside you return to union with the ocean, and to help other droplets to also find union. To find absorption into the divine ocean.
There is a droplet of the divine within every living thing so every life is worthy of respect regardless of their race, ability, species or sentience. Life in and of itself is sacred.
Impermanence, non-attachment and union are intrinsically intertwined, with each other and with yoga. Although these concepts can seem daunting and alien (arguably because I have grown up in the material and ego centered western world), the shift in mindset that understanding them can have is tangible. Perhaps next time you feel stressed, worried, or like you’re losing control, spend a little time meditating on these three concepts and notice what difference it makes.
A little disclaimer.... I do not claim to be a yoga guru, or an expert by any means, I just spend a lot of time reading yoga texts and interpretations, reflecting and meditating on these concepts and discussing them with others. My blog/instagram posts are simply my thoughts and reflections (often still in the format they appear in my brain!), I try to reference any sources that aren't my own contemplation but this is hard as these ideas have trickled into my mind over many years of yoga classes. If you have any thoughts/concerns/queries please contact me I'd love to discuss it with you firstname.lastname@example.org or @floga_yoga
(1) Sri Swami Satchidananda’s translation and commentary of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Book II-26, 2017