Attachment & Aversion: can you walk the path between?
We seem to know what we like & what we don’t. We avoid things we find uncomfortable & are drawn to things that give us comfort. In our life we are constantly reacting to things we are attracted to & averse to. But another person may find the same things you are attracted to unpleasant & those that you are averse to very pleasurable. What makes us like & dislike things and why can we feel so strongly about it? It tends to be the experiences we have had in the past & our conscious or unconscious outcome that happened after that fuels our reaction to the thing being presented to us now.
The problem comes when we care about the outcome of what we do. If we find we like something, like a specific yoga pose, we will be drawn to doing it over & over to create that same pleasant feeling. But what happens when one day that wonderful feeling doesn’t arise out of that yoga pose? Do we abandon it & search for one that gives us the same feeling we used to find in the last pose? What would happen if instead we did not have any expectations when we came into this pose next time? We call this beginner’s mind, a way of seeing a pose as if we haven’t done it before so everything we experience is just what it is in that moment. That we don’t judge pleasant or unpleasant, but simply become aware of every nuance & adjust our body to find the most kind way of being in that pose. This would take us from naming good or bad poses to just being open to the experience & working with what is found accordingly.
On the other side of the coin, what happens when you find discomfort or pain in a pose? We would tend not to want to go back to that pose again, but what if we took that reaction as a learning experience? Aversion can be used as a tool to see if we are being to forceful in a pose, if yes, then we would adjust or come out of the pose. But what if we are just trying to avoid the feeling it invokes? We need to learn that our ideas of aversion or attraction are important to keep us safe in our practice, but once we learn how to keep ourselves from overdoing a pose, can we then become comfortable with discomfort? Each week as I teach at the Yoga & Meditation Centre of Calgary, I ask this of my students & of myself.
In essence, we need to become unattached to the outcome of our poses & just be present & compassionate when practicing. Over time we will see the response our body & mind have to the poses. That it's not just about seeking pleasure or avoiding discomfort, but we need to find the middle road that allows us to walk safely though all that arrises in our practice.
Now can we take this idea off the mat into our life? This will always be a work in progress, seeing when we are procrastinating, or jumping head first into something because of our comfort level at that moment. Can we step back & allow ourselves to really let go of the outcome & meet each challenge, head on in the moment, whether we are averse or attracted to it? Mindfulness is the key & not judging your immediate reaction is essential. Become aware of the reaction that undoubtably will come up, so we can un-attach ourselves from the suffering that can be caused by unconsciously moving towards or away from something due to the past memory it invokes.
These ideas are difficult to practice in all moments of our lives. However, practice makes progress & when we stumble along the way, just dust yourself off & get back on the path, find your bearings & start again one step at a time.
Here is a great article that goes a bit more into this idea:
Anne Cox E-RYT 500