As our third month in lockdown draws to a close, I am astounded at how mentally “all-right” I am. I’m still not perfect, obviously, and it’s a constant battle with anxiety to get through each week. But, the sun is starting to shine a little brighter and we are slowly headed towards freedom.
Through this epic lockdown yoga has been a steady support for me. Over the years, having a good yoga teacher who works with not just the physical but spiritual aspect of yoga has really helped me add balance to my life. Yoga isn’t only about getting on the mat to do a work out, but it’s also about giving yourself a safe place to mentally let go and unwind. Similar to having a special place to meditate or draw, or perform your favorite hobby, after you’ve cultivated a nice routine, just stepping on your yoga mat can give you an instant sense of calm. This month my teacher, Sam (great name huh?) discussed some principles that really hit home and their ideas stuck with me. While I find it hard to always recall them and put them into action in my daily life, knowing about them will help me more in the long run. I wanted to share them with you now in hopes that maybe you can benefit too.
According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, there are Five Kleshas, or causes of suffering in the brain. The five kleshas are Avidya (ignorance), Asmita (egoism), Raga (attachment), Dvesa (aversion or hatred), and Abinivesah (clinging to life and fear of death). While they are all very interesting and I urge you to read more about them (a succinct but thorough blog about them can be found here), I want to focus on the two that affected me the most, Raga and Dvesa.
Raga is attachment, specifically to things we like and what we want. Sound familiar? I find myself extremely attached to things I want. And that can be material things, like clothes or antiques or it could be intangible items like vacations, experiences or even a lifestyle as a whole. After our class focusing on Raga and letting go of our personal attachments I started thinking more about what I am attached to that causes me the most amount of stress and anxiety. What I came up with was that in the biggest sense I’m attached to what I thought life was going to be like when I lived in England. I’m attached to the expat life I was and desire to live without the VWSNBN. When the pandemic came it changed all of that. I thought the last 12 months would have been filled with new countries, foods, wines and friends. But it wasn’t and I even now, one year on from the beginning of lockdown 1, I still find it hard to cope with the loss of all those trips.
The more I thought about the concept of Raga, I realized that a lot of the sadness and anger I was having was because I was holding on so tightly to the experience of England that I WANTED, and not what I was getting. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m still upset about this whole lockdown and it STILL sucks to see basically everyone else doing normal things by now, BUT learning about Raga has made me a little more aware of it all. It has made me try a little more to be appreciative of the things that this year DID give me. I DID still get four international trips in last summer. I did become closer with some amazing people. I did learn several new hobbies including riding a bike, archery and quilting. (Yes, It took me until I was 34 to learn to ride a bike but that’s a story for another time). And these are all things that may or may not have happened without the pandemic. So I am trying to ease my tight hold on what I want the rest of my expat life to be and appreciate it for what it is.
Non-attachment is not the elimination of desire. It is the spaciousness to allow any quality of mind, any thought or feeling, to arise without closing around it, without eliminating the fire wines of being. It is an active receptivity to life.Stephen Levine
The second week Sam focused on the Dvesa klesha or avoidance. In other words, Dvesa is the avoidance of things that we think make us upset or uncomfortable. Sam discussed avoiding things and whether this avoidance is truly helping us be happier and the really made me think. Now, of course we can avoid things that make us upset like scary movies and that probably does really make you happier. But avoiding everything that makes us uncomfortable probably won’t lead to a completely fulfilling life. For example. I am noticing that the longer we are in lock down, the less I want to go out. While I, of course, really truly miss traveling and eating at restaurants. I feel like my people skills are diminishing. Going to the large, crowded Tesco is absolutely exhausting and has even lead to a panic attack while I was shopping alone. My initial reaction when I returned home from this ill-fated grocery trip was “I am never shopping at that Tesco alone again.” But does avoiding that really make it better? Maybe, or maybe not. Because now I’m avoiding large groups, but what happens when we get back to normal and I want to return to London? I can’t and won’t stay homebound forever, but I know that the avoidance is getting the better of me right now. Being aware of Dvesa and making myself do things that I might find uncomfortable like shopping in a crowded store will help me work through it and maybe even embrace the things I’m avoiding.
You cannot find peace by avoiding life.Virginia Wolfe
If you want to join us for yoga, we’re still doing virtual classes so you can join live classes or take prerecorded ones wherever you are in the world.
I hope that learning about these kleshas and maybe following up on the rest of them can help you in some way. Even if only to learn something new about the world. Maybe it will give you a little food for thought to get you through your day, week or the rest of lockdown, wherever you may be.
That’s all for now.
Love from the farm.