Abhyāsa vairāgyābhyām tannirodhaḥ
The fluctuations of the mind cease through practice and non-attachment
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1:12
I’ve been thinking of this sutra a lot lately; I feel its wisdom is necessary for where we are headed in the US on Inauguration Day. The work is not over just because Trump is no longer president; all that has been brought into our awareness over the last four years must now be met. We are still in the midst of a pandemic with millions unemployed, homeless and without health insurance; racism and white supremacy is a real demon needing to be slain; the health of our planet is a genuine concern. In many ways, we have only just begun.
Abhyassa, translated from sanskrit, means “to apply oneself” and as Judith Lasater said in Living Your Yoga, “ practice is not about what you get, it is about what you give.”
This sutra explains that union happens through dedicated, repeated practice that is rooted in non-attachment. Not being attached doesn’t mean apathy; it simply means that you are not expecting a certain outcome.
Vairagya, in Sanskrit, is “supreme detachment.”
Through vairagya you can observe the chaos around you while not getting swept up within it; this can make you a very powerful agent for change. When we expect a certain outcome, we limit our ability to see what is and create a breeding ground for resentment. Through that action of becoming present with what is, the mind quiets, space is created and solutions are found.
When I bring awareness to what is, the worries of ‘what if’ and the emotions about ‘what once was’, dissolve as my senses invite me into what is tangible in the present moment. The smell of the air, the breeze on my skin, the rumble in my belly or my feet on the Earth all provide touchpoints into the NOW. When I’m in the now, I can be curious about what was worrying me moments before and often will find an action to help me move forward. When the thoughts return or outside distractions claim my attention, I simply invite my awareness back to my immediate surroundings, my breath and the flesh on my bones; I let the present moment be my focal point as I navigate my experiences. By meeting what is, I am presented with choices and opportunities to take action.
So, as a new president is inaugurated and a new cycle begins, let us remember Abhyasa & Vairagya. When we continuously surrender to now, it enables us to show up in the moment and respond to what is with grounded presence and resilience.
It is simple, yet not easy—that’s why it’s called Yoga practice rather than Yoga perfect 😉