How many of you have a label for yourself that someone gave you? Are you outgoing? Maybe serious? Controlling? Spontaneous? Irresponsible? Intense? Relentless? Ruthless? Kind? Passive? Or maybe you got a diagnosis…you have celiac disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes. Or maybe a doctor told you that you are depressed or anxious or codependent.
We receive these messages all the time in subtle and not so subtle ways. Maybe a parent told us we were disorganized, and then we bought into that belief. Or maybe you were diagnosed with a herniated disc, and now that you have that diagnosis, you are both relieved and believe yourself to be broken. Still, another might hear that they are depressed and now believe that they are a depressed person.
Don’t hear me wrong, I think that celiac is real and that it’s important to identify when we are in a state of depression or anxiety and find ways to support our whole self. And I also think that health is not a constant state of being, so why does a disease have to be a constant state?
What is self-reflection that can lead to awareness and connection to one’s spiritual path? What if we become aware of the labels we carry around for ourselves? What if we realize a belief system that we bought into because our attention was focused outwardly, and we were seeking external validation? How aware are you of the labels you carry?
I think of the scene from Scrooge in which he is visited by the ghost of his former partner Jacob Marley to warn Scrooge of his fate if he does not change. Marley is wrapped in heavy chains in the movie that he must carry for eternity. Do you have labels you carry like those chains? What do you believe about yourself that no longer serves you? Again, I am not saying that disease is not real. I have celiac, and I do not eat any gluten; I am conscientious about making sure everything I eat is gluten-free. I also believe that this diagnosis came at a time in my life when I could not digest my emotional or spiritual state. I also don’t buy into the belief that I am permanently broken or that someday I might be able to eat gluten again. Svādhyāya helps to see that celiac didn’t just happen to me and then leave me powerless to control it. My life experiences had an impact, and this is how my body responded, reminding me to pay attention. To use self-reflect as a yogic tool to help me heal. I may never be able to eat gluten again, or I might, and I can still heal that part of me that couldn’t digest my experiences in life.
Before Svādhyāya in the Yoga Sutras, verse ll.39 there is a concept of non-attachment
“Aparigrahā sthairye janmakathaṁtā saṁbodhaḥ.”
“When non-greed is confirmed, a thorough illumination of the how and why of one’s birth comes.”
Aparigrahā is abstention from greed or hoarding.
Satchidananda, Swami. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: Commentary on the Raja Yoga Sutras by Sri Swami Satchidananda (p. 141). Integral Yoga Publications. Kindle Edition.
When the mind becomes this calm and clear by being free of desires and obligations, we gain the capacity to see how our desires caused our present birth. We directly see the cause and effect relationship because we are detached from it; we are no longer bound up with it.
(Satchidananda, Swami. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: Commentary on the Raja Yoga Sutras by Sri Swami Satchidananda (pp. 141-142). Integral Yoga Publications. Kindle Edition.)
What beliefs are you hoarding today? What concepts about yourself are you holding onto that don’t serve you in your life anymore? I believe until I am aware of what I am holding onto, it’s impossible to let go and make shifts in my life. What do you think? I am a simple yogi seeking to understand myself better and serve the people in my life. From a particle place, this means if I am hoarding resentment or anger towards someone, this is not severing my body, mind, or spirit. It doesn’t help my family relationship if I keep replaying the time that they deeply hurt me and continually want to hold them accountable for that pain. I am the one hoarding that thought over and over and over. I’m not advocating that a yogi should allow people to hurt them continually. I think that boundaries are an important part of the yogic lifestyle, and holding on to past hurts and allowing them to dominate our minds only leads to more suffering.
What belief are you holding onto today that you want to let go of? Can you start the process of letting go of the attachment you have to a diagnosis? Can you start to see a different option? Can you allow yourself the freedom to explore the concept that you are not broken but rather whole?
This is just one yogi’s thoughts as she explores the yoga sutras and continues my studies in Yoga Therapy. As I grow older, I hope that I will have more questions than answers and more compassion than judgment. May you find peace in a moment of stillness today. May you find joy in a moment of surprise. May you find love in the act of kindness. Peace.
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