Recently I blogged about the temporary nature of the world, and how the yogis recognize the pain that is caused by attachments to the ephemeral, and therefore try and develop attachments in the eternal realm. I had included the poem “The Magpies” by Denis Glover, in which a mortgagee sale took a farm from the once were hopeful mortgagees. A similar story was playing out in front of me this week. The pain that is caused by our attachments to things of this world is constantly visible to those looking through the lens of yogic knowledge, but those who are not so educated often do not see this until something more extreme forces the realization on them. And even then this realization is very quickly covered up by the development of new hopes, plans and attachments.
I had met up with a friend in a small rural town, to go to a yoga retreat. He was staying off site in an idyllic location with a panoramic view of the beautiful New Zealand bush on steep hillsides, opening out to a view of blue grey waters. His self-contained holiday rental apartment was to the side of an Eco-designed signature home. The owner was had been doing a high powered job, and though his body was relatively young his hair was salted with grey and he looked drawn beyond his years.
He had emigrated from New York, following the dream of a green, simple, ecologically sound existence in an unpolluted paradise. But these things cost money… So he had gotten a big mortgage and bought an investment property as well as building this Eco-hideaway. However plans and reality don’t usually run in parallel. Now he was suffering greatly because this dream had popped. He could no longer cover the mortgage, both properties had been sold and he and his wife were due to shift out, moving from this high end existence to live in a converted garage.
As my friend described this we both felt very sad for them. And even sadder than this current suffering was the realization that they were heading for another dream which would in turn be popped, and that this cycle would continue until they had a complete revolution of consciousness. My friend, who is a teacher of yoga meditation, was anxious to help them however he could, but despite the obvious suffering of the husband who was relating this situation to him, and of his wife, they were not yet ready to turn away from attaching themselves to the temporary.
They already had begun developing new plans to wrap their hearts and minds and efforts around. More modest plans perhaps, but, whether one wraps one’s attachment around a palace, or around the plan of building a simple 2 roomed batch, the pain of eventual dislocation from that attachment is the same. And that dislocation will come, whether it is brought about by death, by a mortgage sale, or because of having to move to an old age home.
And what to speak of the pain of having to leave behind a house, a home we are attached to, it is nothing compared to the pain of having to leave this temporary home we walk around in, our physical body. We don’t have a lease on this house of flesh and blood, and at any time we may be kicked out. We may think if we maintain it well, exercising regularly and eating organically, that we can ensure a long healthy life, but ultimately we have no control over when we leave, whether at 19 or 90.
My next door neighbor exercised every day, ate well, took flax-seed oil which he had couriered to the house and kept in the fridge to minimize oxidation, and so on. Yet he died of a brain tumor. Although he was relatively old (late 70’s) the doctors had told him that in every other respect his body was in great shape. Poor Barry said to me, bitterly, “What a waste, what a waste.” And although I did talk to him about the fact that he could leave that body, and still exist, and although he had some intellectual grasp of this, he was not able to step back enough to much lessen the suffering he was going through as he gradually lost control of the function of his body. First his legs went, and I found myself being called over by his wife in the middle of the night to get him back into bed when he continued to try to walk to the bathroom in the night. Then his speech went, so that he was lying there able to hear but when he tried to speak the frustration could be read on his face as only gibberish came out.
Actually Barry had even had some experience of not being the body. He described to me a time earlier in his life when he was in an industrial accident, and was temporarily knocked out of his body, and could see it lying there on the ground. But intellectual understanding alone was not enough to give him a place to rest in as all his material attachments were being slowly but firmly pulled from his grasp. And sadly, I was not clear enough in myself to help him much, and was nervous about how much I could say in front of his caring and well-meaning family. I therefore live with some regret, recalling him looking me the eye as I made some trivial remark, and saying to me “That doesn’t help much.” He wanted more and I failed to deliver it.
For ourselves, who are dying day by day, but with the date of the mortgagee sale still unknown, perhaps, we should know that the yoga process is designed to be practiced, not just talked about. And yoga here means the full expression of union with the Supreme. This is not a matter of exercises. Asanas are good for the body and mind, but not so useful when lying bedridden. The full expression of yoga is an internal relationship with the Supreme and the simplest process for achieving that union is through the hearing and repetition of “mantras.”
These mantras are designed to quieten the mind and draw it away from the things of the world. One gradually focuses one’s heart and mind inwardly, relating to the Supreme Soul who travels with the living entity throughout eternity. As we do this we gradually and voluntarily lessen our grip on the things of the world. When one is practiced in this process one is able to go within at will, and then the ailments and incapability of an aging or sick body do not matter.
The increasing attachment to the inner world signals a corresponding detachment from the external world. Thus we are not ripped from our attachments, we let them go, because we are instead holding on to the only attachment we can take with us through death’s door, our personal relationship with the soul’s counterpart, the Supersoul. This is the essence of Yoga.