an orthodox Vedantic Brahman who united the two very different Indian traditions of Tantra and Vedantic Brahmanism. The founder of modern day yoga that we practice (hatha yoga).
student of Krishnamacharya, author of Yoga of Heart: the healing power of intimate connection.
I received a message from a friend that attends my yoga classes. I am adamant about asking questions, and I encourage that my friends and students feel comfortable having an open line of communication with me. The other day I talked about "detachment" in class, and got a really fantastic inquiry last night in reference to the level of detachment that we should have in our lives. This exact topic has been weighing heavy on my mind for the past two years as I dive deeper and deeper into the true essence of yoga, and I've really struggled trying to understand. That was until I got Mark Whitwells' YOGA OF HEART book. It has shed some light on a controversial issue, long debated in the 'yoga' world. I'm going to break it down for you, in a way that I have taken from the teachings of the great Krishnamacharya and Mark Whitwell.
This is the letter that I received:
"...I've really liked your discussions on detatchment. It's something I've been working on for the past year or so and I've definitely felt it has helped me get through life's frustrating times. I have a question about it though. I've learned in yoga literature and from teachers that to achieve pure "bliss" (whatever that means) the unattachment has to apply to everything in life - the good times not just the bad times. I don't really like the idea of that. When I'm happy, I like to dive right in and experience is fully. I don't want to detach and recognize that the moment is only temporary. Observe without reacting - I can't do it. It's so much easier for me to detach from the bad times. How do you feel about it? Do you detach from the happy times and pleasurable things in addition to the tough times? I've always struggled with the concept for a while and your classes have only made me wonder about it more."
And this is my response (with a huge thanks to Krishnamacharya and Whitwell):
We already ARE bliss. It is not something unachievable that we must attain. Refraining from good times, or trying to detach from positive experience isn't going to help us get any further to Bliss, because Life IS Bliss. These good times are Bliss - the beauty of Life. It's important to observe and not react during the bad times, because they will pass. Reacting to them will only give them more power. So instead of reacting and turning your world upside down, just mindfully observe. Don't detach from the good times. Observe that yes, perhaps it is only temporary - but enjoy every bit of it. Soak it up. And when it is gone, don't want for it. Hold on to it in your heart, but reflect on it with a smile, not with longing. Don't let the good times of the past negatively affect your Now. Don't let a happy memory of the past take you away from Life. Life that is right now. Whitwell has said that the only thing that can be done is enabling people into EXPERIENCING. A moment. This moment. The miracle of Life happening in us as a breath... Jivamutki means "Life Liberation". The conventional interpretation is that yoga means union with the Self: the little self merging with the big self, leading to liberation FROM Life. But yoga is union WITH life - embracing life in all its wonder and incongruities, embracing ourselves and ALL of our Selves - leading to liberation from all things that take us away from life. Traditional Brahmans (an elite caste of Hindus) developed Vedanta yoga. It rejected women, sex and other pleasures in search for a "higher" pleasure and reality. How can intimacy between two people in love be a bad thing? Is sharing that love taking us further away from God? I think not. It's enjoying a night out with friends...enjoying a surf and some beers taking us further from God? No. It is us, enjoying our Lives as they were given, and THAT is yoga. The religious method of attempting to know "source of experience" by denying experience DOESN'T WORK. It is the ultimate unreality of reality - it's denying the wonder that is Life. This is Life - given to us by God. A Blissful Life. And as Whitwell reminds us, Yoga is the mere participation in the wonder of Life as it is already perfectly given. Yoga is not an attainment but a participation in the Given. It is devotion to the Given and not a search. This occurs naturally when there is no effort in the mind to know or achieve. God is not absent, therefore does not need to be found. The basic religious notion that truth needs to be found, that it is higher, deeper but not here in this ordinariness, has denied us our power which is Life.
SO...the next time that your ipod craps on you and you start to lose your shit - DETACH. Detach from this silly object that is causing you pain. And when you have an amazing day with your family, soak it up. ATTACH. Denying love and pleasure is an antique, out-dated way of thinking. And when the good times are over, don't let your longing for them ruin your Present. Life is a river, it will bend right and left and rage with water - and at times it'll run dry. So just go with the flow and enjoy the beautiful moments, and don't identify with the painful and sad moments. And remember, we ARE Bliss. No one and no thing can help us to attain something that already lives inside of us...