Friday, June 3, 2011

Non-attachment and Love

I've been pretty quiet on the blog front lately. I've had lots to think about. It relates to yoga only in the way that everything relates to yoga if the picture is broad enough, so I'll toss some of those thoughts out here.

I've been in several Yoga Sutra study sessions at workshops with Beryl Bender Birch. In each session the idea of non-attachment has come up at some point. Beryl will often have us go around the room and name something we're attached to. The same answers always come up: partner/spouse, children, family, pets, career, house, city...and someone always says yoga. The idea of non-attachment to non-living things that are none-the-less important is generally something that the group has no trouble wrapping its collective head around...but then the group starts to wrestle a bit with the idea of non-attachment to the living beings that are important to us. How do we reconcile non-attachment with love?

I was at a workshop with Beryl only few days after her husband of 20-some years, Thom Birch, had died suddenly. We wrestled with these same questions at that workshop and I saw what it looked like when someone with 30 years of yoga practice came to face this question in a very direct way. Beryl grieved for the husband she missed, but not in an overly-dramatic, grasping way. Years of practice of non-attachment meant that she was able to let go with some amount of grace. Years of love meant that it still hurt.

I do not yet have her grace.

A week ago, Asha, our beloved mix breed dog was diagnosed with liver disease. There is no cure and very little that can be done to treat it. The prognosis from the vet is that she might live 2 more years, or maybe considerably less...they just really don't know. She's only 3 1/2 years old and is very much a "fur-baby" so this is especially tough. I find myself wrestling with these same questions of non-attachment and love. When the liver function is reduced to the point that she can no longer enjoy being a dog, will I be able to make the right decision?...a decision that comes from loving non-attachment?

Ultimately, these events are what I practice for. Nearly every day on the mat these questions come up even if I don't catch them at the time. When I do a pose, realize it's not happening, resolve to revisit it again the next day, and let it go, I set a pattern of non-attachment. When I give in to frustration because things aren't going as I'd like, I set a pattern of grasping, and of attachment.

When I can get myself/ego/identity out of the way, there is room for grace and for love even amidst pain.


  1. Our hearts and thoughts are with Asha, you, and Jay!

  2. Thanks Bob! We have great friends. :)

  3. Wow. This is a powerful piece. I've been practicing yoga and non-attachment to deal with letting go of stress, anger and discontentment. Practicing non-attachment of love would be a lot more difficult. I'm sorry to hear about Asha's condition. Perhaps the true expression of love IS non-attachment? I think I get the concept but practicing unselfish true love is no easy feat. Something to work towards for the rest of our lives perhaps.

  4. Thanks Yyogini.

    I agree, a true expression of love is without expectation and non-grasping...and I agree, definitely something to work towards for the rest of our, is it ever tough sometimes!