The ethical guideline of non-attachment
The Yama, Aparigraha, translates to ‘non-greed’, ‘non-possessiveness’, and ‘non-attachment’.
I sense that there is generally a great deal of misconception when it comes to the topic of non-attachment. For example, when we consider non-attachment to the pleasure of our senses, which so many religious and even spiritual traditions advocate, I do not feel that the negation of the senses or the body for that matter, in the pursuit of enlightenment, is a very healthy stance to take. Often times when we deny ourselves “innocent” and even “innocent erotic” sensual pleasure, the natural inclination to want to experience beauty through all of our senses is repressed in the unconscious mind, where it goes underground, so to speak. However, what lies beneath plays out unconsciously in the form of triggers, acting out, disproportionate reactions of projection, addictions and even somatic symptoms, not to mention the energetic blocks and “shutting down” of our sacral chakra, with consequent lack in creativity which may ensue.
However, if we can engage our senses (feminine principle) in service to Spirit (masculine principle), that is tantra: the union of opposites, the state which exists beyond duality and absolutes, from which all things birth and to which all things return. This is by no means a hedonistic endeavour: intention is key here. What is the intention behind me wanting to engage a sensory, sensual and/or experience? If the answer to this question is based in the quest for Love and experiencing the Divine in Self or Other or Life, while still upholding the principle of ahimsa (non-harm to self and other), then by all means, have that experience. After all, we are here to expand our consciousness, not contract in living a life based on dysfunctional beliefs and doctrine. And herein lies another key of non-attachment: Gnosis (know thyself).
We can only start to know ourselves and move towards Self-realization when we investigate our motives for being attached to outer appearance, success, certain people, relationships, possessions, behaviours and even food/mind altering substances. There is nothing inherently wrong with attachment, in fact a certain level of attachment is necessary in the formation and establishment of healthy, deep bonds/relationship with others, however, if we are attached to an outcome, this may become problematic. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna shares: “Let your concern be with action alone, and never with the fruits of action. Do not let the results of action be your motive, and do not be attached to inaction”. This implies that instead of concerning yourself with the outcome of a situation, rather concern yourself with what you are actually doing right now, in accordance with your values, as you are working towards that outcome.
On the mat: Gnosis means that we pay attention to the ways that we may be attached in our yoga practice. Am I attached to achieving a certain level of achievement, comparing my success to the person next to me, or attached to how yoga will make me look or feel, or to certain postures at the expense of others?