We are born with nothing, even clothes. At the moment of death we might be donning some attire, and perhaps be clutching something –a person, animal or object (or all 3). But those physical remnants remain. We come into the world with nothing physical but the body. When we leave, we leave even the body behind. The only thing that goes is that light in our eyes, our spirit.
So why do we become attached to anything? Why do we spend that precious time between life and death hauling around stuff? Worrying about stuff? ‘Stuff’ being our cars, clothes, friends, jobs, or status. The only thing that really matters is the imprint we leave on the planet, created through our spirit. We can’t haul anything but our spirit out of this world, so why isn’t the spirit the main focus of living? Why are we focused on stuff?
I started yoga like many others for the physical practice. My first experience was with a VHS tape at home in my living room. “This is easy!” I thought. It must be because I’m flexible and was a dancer when I was young. I moved from position to position and sat there waiting to see what I would be told by the TV to do next. I ignored the cues to breath “Geez, I know how to breath” and ‘open up’ “Isn’t that what I’m doing?”. I was annoyed at the end when the suggestion was to lie on my back for several minutes. “What a waste of time!”
I went to actual classes a few times, but I didn’t quite understand it. I only did yoga at home because I heard it was good for you. I didn’t particularly enjoy it and I absolutely skipped the lying on your back part at the end.
Until one day I went to a class at a local chiropractic office that was offering free classes for a week. The classes all had different names. I couldn’t tell them apart and really didn’t care. The time I was able to get home from work and get my husband situated with the kids was far more important. I went to a class Monday and Tuesday. Same experience, but this time I had to lie in silence at the end. I really disliked that part. However, the Wednesday class was life altering. It was called “Love your body yoga”. Yoga was yoga to me. The postures all even seemed the same. But there was something different about this class. Perhaps the teacher’s voice or encouragement, I don’t know; it was too long ago now to remember. Somehow though, I was able to do the postures better. I listened to the cues to breath and expand in certain parts. I moved slowly, mindfully, and with grace. At the end I was looking forward to the lying meditation (known as savasana – pronounced “shavasana”). During savasana the teacher came around with an oil for our foreheads. When she gently put her hands on my temples I felt at such peace I almost wanted to cry. The smell was like light and citrusy, but like incense. The experience was so comforting. When I left class I kept touching my forehead and smelling the oil. I felt a sense of peace.
My practices at home became a little different after that, although I was never able to get into a good routine and reap the benefits of yoga. Years later on a whim I signed up for a local class at the Park & Rec. I knew yoga was good for me, I knew how to do it (I thought), and I wanted a steady place where I knew I wouldn’t be lazy and skip it.
The first class was amazing. I drove away with a sense of bliss. That night in bed when I turned over in the middle of the night I felt space in my body as well as an overall sense of harmony. I kept going and the benefits kept getting better and better. It wasn’t very long before I had my first cry on the mat while in pigeon (something I now know is quite common). Soon after that; the mind, body, spirit connection was undeniable. Where has this been all my life? Do other people know about it? Why isn’t this more well known??? Our spirit is the key to life.
I didn’t know it until long after I started yoga teacher training, but the word yoga means “to yoke”. Particularly; to yoke the mind, body, and spirit. I know there are many other ways to link the mind, body and spirit. Others have found the answers in various different ways, but have come to the same sense of yoking. Once you sense that connection to the mind, body, and spirit it’s difficult to go back to the material way of living because you know deep down that it doesn’t matter.
Yoga isn’t a magical cure that works all the time. In fact many times I move through a whole practice and never feel ‘settled’. The difference is that I know my mind, body and spirit are disconnected and that I do not like feeling that sense of separation. I know that giving into that separation by trying to fill the space between with stuff only leads to suffering and a sense of even more separation. I know this and most of the time cannot master it. But the time in between remembering where the sense of true peace comes from grows a tiny bit each day.
The time in between birth and death is our life. In that life we accumulate things. Physical things. We become attached to those things. We become attached to people. We become attached to happiness and think something is wrong when we are sad. We need to eat, sleep, and eliminate to order to function and stay healthy. To stay healthy through eating, sleeping and eliminating we need stuff. So we spend our lives from birth to death hauling around stuff. Stuff to eat, stuff to sleep, stuff to look good in the eyes of others. At any moment in time we are likely hauling stuff, whether it’s a wallet, purse, tube of lip balm, or like me – bags and bags of food, drink, or ‘stuff’ I might need.
I’m not proposing that we don’t have stuff. We absolutely need to haul around things from day to day, or house-to-house, or city-to-city in order to function and stay alive. The disconnect comes in two forms: 1) From taking more than you need. 2) Becoming attached to that stuff.
There are two ways to not take more than you need and/or become attached. 1) You can listen to authorities that preach this. 2) You can discover for yourself.
The problem with number 1 is that most of those who preach it and know it at a spirit level do not practice this. Our parents taught us not to take more than you need, but we then probably watched them eat, buy, shop, and generally consume more than they needed. We observed as they became attached to their jobs, cars, houses, other people, stories, the news, etc. The same went for teachers, preachers, friends, family… the society that shaped our thoughts growing up. The message was conflicted and if you are anything like me, didn’t even question the confliction.
Discovering this for yourself is a whole different ballgame. Once you realize that non-attachment and taking only what you need is the key to liberation, it’s hard not to incorporate it into your decisions. Before the discovery on your own, the hypocritical authoritative voice in your mind may have caused a sense of guilt; but the knowing it is not right through your very own voice is far more powerful.
Old habits are incredibly difficult to break. There is not a switch that goes off where one starts to make perfect decisions from here forth. In fact there is more debate, guilt and remorse over not making the right decision than ever.
Wikipedia describes the Monkey Mind as a Buddhist term meaning “unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable”. The monkey mind is the voice in the head that never stops talking. Like a monkey it cannot sit still. It jumps from thought-to-thought, worry-to-worry, new shiny object to new shiny object, without a care in the world. It is like a toddler that never grows up. It responds to the wiring in the brain that lights up “like” impulse. It likes stuff – food, taste, status, objects. Its concerns are all about ‘me, me, me’.
The spirit on the other hand is quiet and all knowing. It knows right from wrong. It will make the best, most loving, decision on behalf of the good of your body and the the world every time. The spirit doesn’t talk to you, but if you ask it – it will give the mind the right answer.
Here is where you learn that the habits formed in your physical brain wire faster and respond more quickly to your mind than what your spirit speaks to it. Your mind has been accustomed to ignoring that wise, quiet, but all knowing spirit within because that monkey chatter is so loud. We give into it as we might a toddler, just to quiet it down. It’s why yoking the mind, body and spirit are so important. Once they are all on the same page – there is no conflict. The right path is clear.
Even if you haven’t yet made the mind, body and spirit connection on your own or have no idea what I’m talking about and are curious –
- Consider not hauling around so much stuff – whether it’s physical or emotional.
- Become unattached, knowing that nothing ever lasts.
- Take only what you need.
Know with practice and time, the space between remembering becomes greater and greater…. and with that comes a sense of peace.