Walking on Grass
Life has been all about vairagya as of late.
I have been trying to walk the path with grace.
These things are always like walking on grass vs. walking on concrete for me.
It’s like... you walk barefoot on concrete first, see how that feels, then hop over on to the grass and see how THAT feels by comparison. Feels good right? Feels GREAT on the metaphorical grass! Yet, for some reason, I don’t stay there, where it feels good, I have to step back onto the metaphorical concrete again... just to make sure.... just to see if it really is better on the grass. Then I get bored on the concrete and hop back on the grass and go “ooh ya, that feels amazing, yes!” It’s like I have to go back in forth in order to continue to calibrate.
Does anyone else do this?
I do this with all sorts of things: healthy eating versus eating junk, getting up at early to practice versus sleeping in until 7pm and not practicing, or going to bed early versus staying up late, the list goes on.
In class on Monday we explored vairagya, non-attachment, and now that theme has been following me around all week. All month, in fact.
In Sutra 1.15, Patanjali talks about attachment to worldly things being a spiritual “dead end”. Service towards others is the secret to happiness and any pursuit of worldly things is to be viewed only as a step towards helping others.
Yes, we, ourselves must be fed, sheltered, clothed and relatively sound in mind and body to be of any use to the world around us. So of course we need to attend to those things in a basic way first, as a foundation for service but Patanjali warns against making it our sole pursuit or being attached to material things in any kind of solid way.
Sure, we all like nice things, but if we are really honest about it, we could likely agree they don’t bring us lasting joy or happiness. The thrill of owning the latest cell phone only lasts until it is cracked, broken or out of date when the newer version gets released for sale.
It leaves us constantly chasing the next cheap thrill, the next new “feel good”.
As well, we often try to micro-manage our lives. We try to strategize and co-ordinate to get things to go our way. We do this because we are attached to how things work out and we want to direct events in a certain way that we feel would be more desirable and favourable for us (as if WE know what is best).
But what we miss out on when we do that is the magic, the serendipity, the things working out even better, in a way, than they ever could have with all our meddling. We miss the magic of the moment. We are so busy trying to orchestrate a specific outcome that we can’t see the forest for the trees sometimes. We miss the whole point or teaching for us along the way.
Even in our service or karma yoga we can attach our identity to it and get all wrapped up in who we are as we help others.
Vairagya applies to all attachments.
Let me be clear on what I mean when I say “service”. To be of service doesn’t mean that you have get all gung ho and jump on the bandwagon of some organization or project to “do good” in the world.
Nor does it mean you are going to be someone's "savour" or give them your infinite wisdom because you have all the answers, or some such rhetoric. Nobody wants that actually. It's annoying.
Of course you can do that if you feel so called, but all service simply means is that we are available.
It means we are present and able to be beneficial to those around us.
We are not distracted, caught up or pre-occupied with our own selfish pursuits so much that we fail to see when there is a need that presents itself right in front of us each day. This can be at the grocery store when someone who can’t stoop over drops something, or can’t open a door etc. It can be noticing when a friend just needs you to lend an ear to let her talk.
It means that we are as fully available as possible on a moment to moment basis to address and be present to whatever need is presenting itself to us IN THAT MOMENT.
It is so simple and so beautiful to be of service in this way.
What is the answer then?
Work to take care of the basic needs and comforts for you and your family, then turn your time, energy and resources towards helping others but do the work for the work’s sake, without attachment to the outcome, recognition or reward of your service, do it without attachment and expectation and you will find true joy and pure happiness.