I begin by pulling wild weeds and raking fallen leaves. I whisk a winter’s-full of caked loam from stone steps. The dirt provides my manicure and the sun warms and massages my stiff back. A deep breath, the first in many months, hands me softly-scented sweet air. My mind shifts. I step back from task complete, into stillness and contentment.
“Aparigraha”. The concept came to me in the middle of yoga class, when I was supposed to be focused on my breathing. “Aparigraha”. There was my answer.
Aparigraha is the yogic Sanskrit term for “non-grasping”. Non-grasping, letting go, or “non-attachment” for the Buddhists out there. All of this pain associated with my new work situation and the uncertain relationship status with the guy are a result of my grasping, my attachment.
In this life, nothing is FOREVER. People, jobs and things come and go in our lives. It may be a marriage for 20 year – or even 50 years, a relationship that’s 9 months new, or a career of 10 years, but at some point, change happens.
In life, forever doesn’t exist – we die, we change, they change, things wear out, get lost – things get broken. We should delight in what we have NOW (its OK to hope that the good things lasts a very, very, very long time) – and temper our mourning when things must change and move on across the sky.
My Buddhist friend calls the myriad of possessions, relationships, events and beliefs in our lives “transitory clouds in an illusory sky”.
I’m a dabbling Buddhist at best, but this statement has resonance.
If we think of these “things” as clouds – changing, disappearing, migrating – it makes the rollercoaster of life essentially bearable.
When unwanted or unexpected change rears its head, our first reaction is often to cling or clutch for what we know, for the comfortable. If we see the absurdity in this grasping at clouds, it allows us peace with these things we cannot control.
It’s perceptive to find delight in a cloud’s formation and just as foolish to mourn its passing.
Sometime around 1989 (and with a much flatter tummy), I ornamented my navel. To mark the start of a new chapter in my life, I hung from it a stainless ring and small silver scarab, a sign of rebirth, change and new beginnings. Fast forward to 2009 and my scarab has been with me for 20 years. It’s become a part of me and helped me through much change and rebirth. I’ve stopped seeing it when I shower or feeling it when I sleep. I sometimes forget that I have it.
For the last three years, I contemplated replacing my scarab with an amulet suitable to the life I’m cultivating now. I don’t want new beginnings; I want to wear a symbol of balance, tranquility and stability. I’m done with change!
After searching for the perfect bauble, I bought a small Om in silver, moonstone and amethyst. Om is the Sanskrit symbol for the universe, the union of mind, body and spirit as well as all that is and all that is not. Om is the ubiquitous symbol in yoga, something that has become important in my life. As I slid my scarab off the ring and slipped the Om on in its place, it felt odd against my skin.
Who knew a sign of peace and universal love could cause such problems? Within a few days, my navel became infected. The Om charm snagged my clothes. One morning, I threw the covers off my bed and caught the Om in the process, almost ripping my ring from my navel. Not two weeks after removing my scarab for the Om, there I was with the pliers replacing my little bug.
My navel has healed and my scarab is once again ensconced upon my tummy. I’m almost certain he will be there for the rest of my life. My scarab and all that he represents are a part of me. When life is going well, we may want to eschew new beginnings or change for safety and stability, but that doesn’t work. The only thing that is constant in our lives IS change. We need to learn to embrace that – a little lesson I learned from my navel.
You are not your mind. You are not your thoughts or emotions. In yoga practice, meditation class and books on Buddhism, they all say this same thing – you are not your mind. I recently read a comparison that said, “Just as your hand is a tool you use to pick up a coffee cup, your mind is nothing more than a tool you use to think, plan and reason.”
I’ve fought this idea for many years. “Well, of course I’m my mind,” I’d say to myself, “If I’m not my mind with all it’s preferences, experiences, ideals, ideas, and desires, what’s left?” I had an epiphany the other night during yoga. It was my “ah-ha” moment when I realized that those are all things collected in my mind, but they are not Me.
However, to say that one can separate Mind and Self completely – to shut off the chatter and internal voice – is a Herculean task, indeed. My mind is more like my conjoined twin than my tool. It’s a conjoined twin who talks loudly and ceaselessly in my ear (and knows all my fears and secrets). Perhaps I can tune it out momentarily when I’m focused on something else, but eventually (and quickly), I’ll begin to hear its incessant babble once again.
Instead of trying to cleave Mind from Self, doesn’t it make more sense to try to live harmoniously together?