The afflictions of attachment and aversion

सुखानुशयी रागः ॥७॥

sukha-anuśayī rāgaḥ ॥7॥

 The residue of pleasure is attachment.

duhkha-anushayi dveshah ||8||

दुःखानुशयी द्वेषः ॥८॥

duḥkha-anuśayī dveṣaḥ ॥8॥

The residue of pain is avoidance.

In the practice section of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, the second “padah”, Patanjali offers a set of three powerful practices which propel one towards the experience of yoga.  The three are the practices of Tapah, Svadyaya and Ishvara Pranidhanani, which were discussed in the previous post.  After presenting these practices Patanjali notes that not only will these practices lead to samadhi, but that they will also diminish our afflictions.  We all want to diminish our afflictions.  They are forms of mental fluctuations which create the experience of disturbance.  We experience them, until we learn to work with them. 

Today we will discuss two potent kleshas or afflictions:  raga (attachment) and dvesa (aversion).  In this context attachment and aversion refer to the experience where we form a judgment about a person, place or experience based on our history with it.  Either we , want it again, or we never want it again.   While it may seem that this is sound reasoning – to avoid something which has caused pain and to go near that which gives us pleasure there are three important things to note here.   First, by dividing the world into that which we like and that which we don’t like we are creating division and separation.  This moves us away from the experience of our ourselves as whole.  We split off parts of ourselves and others.  To be yoked to our higher self, to be in union with, is to join with our higher self.  Any kind of duality will interfere with that joining.  Second, these judgments are based on the erroneous idea that because we experienced something one way one day, that we will always experience it that way.  We project the past on the present.  Third, that projection of the past into the present creates an expectation which can create conflict in ourselves or with others.   The experience of connection is obstructed when we are absorbed in a memory of the past.  We only experience connection when we are present!

Practicing yoga philosophy  in our lives and in the techniques of yoga asana,  we encounter the dynamic play of opposites.  Through cultivating a harmonious aligned relationship between apparent opposites we create stable foundations for unlocking the power of a posture or an experience.  This is central to all asana, but today we will consider this approach in relation to back bends. 

Back bends transcend time.  They are constructed in such a way that it is possible through practice to open the heart chakra.   The heart chakra is an energy center, or realm of consciousness where we begin to open to our deeper connections with the whole of existence around us.   Whatever we might be holding which could be termed a judgement or a lack of forgiveness will show up as a congestion in the body which obstructs our ability to experience the back bend with a fully open heart.  I use the word experience deliberately because in one body the back bend may appear small to the observer, but is experienced as vast and open to student.  Likewise a back bend may appear as a deep curve but still contains the experience of pain or restriction for the person doing the back bend.  The postures, like all other experiences which we could label good and bad, are all relative.  As we cultivate spaciousness and non-judgement of ourselves in our postures we train the mind to be spacious rather than judgmental towards others.

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