Last week, at the end of a yoga class that I was teaching, I watched the participants as they got up from savasana and went back to their seated position. There was one girl who seemed dazed and kept her eyes semi-closed as she got up, and I had a flashback to my own similar experience from a few years ago. I remembered how one particular teacher’s classes would always leave me feeling blissed out, and that at the end of the practice when we would get up from savasana, I would try as hard as I could to avoid opening my eyes as I sat up because I didn’t want the magic to end.
Throughout the years, I’ve attended lots of yoga classes that haven’t left me with that blissful feeling, and in fact, sometimes I just wanted the practice to hurry up and be over. Whether it was a teacher that I didn’t seem to connect with, or I simply couldn’t get out of my own head, I would leave feeling disappointed that the “Yoga magic” didn’t occur.
But maybe that was my own fault? Maybe I was holding too tightly to an “every-so-often” blissful yoga class and expecting all others to be the same way. Maybe I was being judgemental towards others or myself if I felt the experience didn’t live up to my expectations. Maybe I should’ve been letting it go… After all, isn’t that what yoga is all about?
There are many situations in life where we want things to end, like an exhausting project or a time of hardship, and there are many situations when we want the moment to keep going forever. There are many things we forcefully try to control, many times we get hung up on our expectations, and many circumstances that leave us feeling disappointed.
Though I still struggle with letting go of control and expectations, Yoga has taught me about non-attachment to situations. I know I can’t control the outcome, so why do I put so much pressure on myself or others to try? It’s like the quote by Wayne Dyer that says:
“You can’t always control what goes on outside, but you can always control what goes on inside.”
Non-attachment isn’t about carelessness, it’s simply allowing life to flow at its own free-will and not get hung up on the outcome.
Easier said than done, right? Especially when we live in a society that’s obsessed with controlling the end results. We’re all so focused on quick-fixes and reliant on outside sources to dictate how we look and feel. We expect major changes from these 21-28-30-whatever-day diets, and if we didn’t achieve those results, we beat ourselves up for not having the same genetic make-up and metabolism (and secret personal trainers) as the people advertising the product. We feel bad when we see signs of aging, even though we know it’s inevitable, and we take drastic and costly measures to control the natural process. We watch movies and shows of scripted love and get upset when our own relationships don’t play out the same way.
And what does all this cost us? It costs us in our health and wellbeing. It costs us in our happiness with ourselves and others. It costs us our peace.
I’m definitely not perfect at this, so I’m not about to try to give you my own advice, but I am aware of when it’s occurring and actively trying to change my mindset when it does. If this resonates with you, here are a few things that BJ Miller said during his interview portion in the book ‘Tools of Titans’ that may be helpful to share:
- Stargazing as Therapy – “When you are struggling with just about anything, look up. Just ponder the night sky for a minute and realize that we’re all on the same planet at the same time. As far as we can tell, we’re the only planet with life like our own it anywhere nearby. Then you start looking at the stars, and you realize that the light hitting your eye is ancient, some of the stars that you’re seeing, they no longer exist by the time that the light gets to you. Just mulling the bare-naked facts of the cosmos is enough to thrill me, awe me, freak me out, and kind of put all my neurotic anxieties in their proper place. A lot of people – when you’re standing on the edge of the horizon, at death’s door, you can be much more in tune with the cosmos.”
- Delighting in Perishability – The following is BJ’s answer to “What $100 or less purchase has most positively impacted your life in recent memory?” – “I would probably point to a beautiful pinot noir from Joseph Swan up in Sonoma Country. It’s like the artwork of Andy Goldsworthy or anyone who delights in anything ephemeral. The charm in a bottle of wine, the craft, all the work that goes into it… actually delighting in the fact that it’s perishable and goes away I find really helpful. I’ve gotten a lot of miles out of a beautiful bottle of wine, not just for the taste and the buzz, but the symbolism of delighting in something that goes away.”
- Advice to Your 30-Year-Old Self? – “Let it go. I do mean to take life very seriously, but I need not take things like playfulness and purposelessness very seriously… This is not meant to be light, but I think I would have somehow encouraged myself to let go a little bit more and hang in there and not pretend to know where this is all going. You don’t need to know where it’s all going.”
Those three excerpts from BJ Miller were enough to make me question a lot of the ways I spend my time thinking and living. Remember that you can still care about situations and practice non-attachment. You can give something your all, pour your soul into a project, and love with all your heart… but still be unattached to the endpoint. Non-attachment is remembering that everything is about the journey, not the destination because that desired destination can change and shift many times as you travel your path.
Go outside, look up at the stars and mull over the amazing idea of the universe and our lives, delight in the things that eventually go away – because everything eventually does – and then, let it go.
Keep living, stop worrying, stop expecting, stop holding tightly to things that are out of your control.
You don’t need to know where it’s all going.