“I feel I change my mind all the time. And I sort of feel that's your responsibility as a person, as a human being – to constantly be updating your positions on as many things as possible. And if you don't contradict yourself on a regular basis, then you're not thinking.”
I wrote an article recently that included the idea of non-attachment. The second of the four noble truths of Buddhism claims that “attachment is the root of all suffering.” Many yogis and yoga teachers, myself included, strive to practice this Buddhist ideal. Recently, I decided that path is no longer for me.
Since I began the practice of yoga, I decided that to be a true yogi, I needed to practice non-attachment. I felt that I was not a real yoga teacher if I did not incorporate this idea into my life in a significant way. I often took pride in how little “attachment” I showed toward my belongings. I often gave things away on a whim, and I recently got rid of many, many, MANY of my belongings in preparation for a move. In all reality, I never really felt 100% on board with the idea. In the back of my mind, I knew that if one truly wanted to live by this principle, non-attachment also includes people, relationships, memories.… anything to which one might feel attachment. But, I felt I was proving myself as a “good yogi” if I was able to give away my belongings or show little interest in material items. I was never confronted with practicing non-attachment at any level deeper than surface, so I never had to deal with my true feelings about the practice.
There is much to learn from ancient spiritual practices and religions, but I feel that it is important to forge ones own path. I’m not an expert on Buddhism, so it could be that I am interpreting this non-attachment thing all wrong. I have so much respect for the path of Buddhism and those who choose to practice non-attachment, but right now, it just isn’t for me, at least not the way I have learned about it and incorporated it into my life. If it is for you, that’s awesome, do what feels right! For me, I’m done pretending. I don’t want to practice renunciation. I don’t want to deny my humanity any longer and pretend that my things don’t have any meaning. I don’t want to strive for some “ideal” where I feel no attachment to my relationships or people in my life. As long as we can remember that everything is temporary and we one day will lose things and people who are important to us, the practice of non-attachment seems non-essential, at least for me. I welcome the grief, suffering, anger, and sadness that come with loss. These feelings are the flip side of the coin that we call humanity and we must experience the dark so that we can recognize light. In my own life and practice, non-attachment limited my experience of human emotion. I want to feel grief, anger, and sadness. If this is suffering, let me suffer. I no longer have the desire to eliminate those feelings from my life. Trying to be positive-polly all the time drained my energy and forced me to deny my inner darkness, which is very real, and needed to be acknowledged. I am human, and I want to revel in all that it means to feel pain.
What makes more sense to me is to practice “attachment and release.” I feel that dancers have first hand experience with an attachment and release mindset. Dancers spend their lives dedicated to their craft. Blood, sweat, tears, hours, injuries, failures, and successes. All the while knowing that one day, their dance career will end due to age or injury. This art is not something dancers can take with them into their later years, at least not with the same intensity. Yet, they throw themselves into their performances with fortitude. They aim to be the best. They wrap up their identities in being a dancer. It is who they are. It is what they do. They are nothing without it. and all the while, they know that one day it will be over. Non-attachment would put forth that we should modulate our feelings of connection with our passions in order to prevent future suffering. Dancers are passionate anyway. Dancers say “I don’t care” and await the inevitable grief that accompanies loss with open arms. The experiences of love come and gone, passion gone and went, a dancer’s young body turned older, contain within them all that it means to be human.
Dancer or not, I say set your passions on fire and grieve your losses, for you know they are inevitable. Scream and cry into your pillow when you lose something of meaning. Know that these feelings are temporary, too. Your darkness is just as beautiful and just as human as your light.
Photo Credit: @andrewbussphoto / Dancer: Elisabeth Beyer