Yoga training typically culminates on a late Sunday afternoon with the Sutras. We’ve hit chapter two, which is the meat of the mental practice – because yoga is all about reaching the interior whether it be the muscles and organs or the thoughts and emotions.
We spent a great deal of time on teaching beginners, so Patanjali got shorted. Thirty-five minutes is inadequate to the task of fleshing tapas.
Tapas is all about the pain and the letting it go. Emphasis on “letting it go”.
Patanjali insists that we are only anchored to the physical world through the pesky inconvenience of having bodies. Bodies that are not us. The true “me” of me is not my body at all. Therefore, all experience happens to the body and what “I” should be doing is experiencing, acknowledging and then letting it go.
Everything. Good, bad, meh and bloody awful. Feel it. Know it. Wave goodbye.
“Nothing is permanent,” Cat, our instructor, pointed out.
True. It’s our attachment to the idea that good things should have no end and bad things are unfair (I’m overly simplifying) that leads us into the mud and mires us there.
I just listened.
Not because I have no thoughts or concrete experiences to share, but because I know that this is one of those deceptively simple ideas that become nightmarishly difficult when reality envelopes a person.
“Our reactions are choices,” another woman chimed in.
Essentially, we can shape our lives through letting go or just acknowledging that all experiences are finite.
And here the conversation veered into the anecdotal experiences that, I think, aren’t helpful.
A fellow student was in a serious accident and was told by her doctors that she would never regain the use of her arm. She told us that had she listened to the doctors, she would indeed have no function, but she chose to ignore them and rehabbed herself to the point where she is now able to use her arm – not 100% – but no one could tell by simply looking at her that she has difficulties.
I hate these analogies. They are exceptions and they lead others to believe that we are all destined to be exceptions when we aren’t.
We are the rule. Sometimes reality is what it is. No exceptions.
This doesn’t preclude trying to be an exception but it does mean that more often than not, one will have to accept that they are the rule and then – let it go.
“We can change our reality,” Cat said.
But we can’t. Reality is. Sometimes all we can choose is our reactions and how to live within the reality. There are some realities that can’t be let go. They can only be managed.
Managed isn’t the best term, I’ll admit, but there are experiences that stick even though we have let them go.
Will is dead. I have a dead first husband. Not much I can do with that. Very little to work with. Certainly can’t change it.
But I can acknowledge it and let it go, knowing that its effect on me is permanent and that “letting go” might have to be revisited periodically throughout my life.
Same holds true for my classmate. If she had not been able to regain the use of her arm, she would still have had to let the experience go and live within the parameters of her altered reality.
I don’t know if Patanjali addresses this later on, but letting go is a process and it can take years or a lifetime. The choice – I believe – is the attempt to let go in the first place or to cling and not bother.