Vairagya…Your WHAT hurts?

by Milissa on October 2, 2011

in Dharma,Intention,Philosophy,Quotation,Seasons

This Sanskrit word is not one that rolls off the tongue. Vairagya is more likely to stick in your craw. It has an underworld feel that’s not very inviting. In fact, the first time I heard the word was at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, where, over a decade ago, vairagya was a corner of the cellar that people could leave used clothes in for others to claim if they had a use for them. Even though it was a dark, uninviting place, I could get behind that. Reuse was already a practice I embraced. And I loved picking up new, used clothing.

But here’s the deal: the crucial piece of vairagya is letting go. Not so easy for many of us. Me included (if you got a glimpse of my full closet I’d be so busted on this).

We get so fixated on how we want things to be, especially when it comes to our heartfelt intentions. And, as we begin to live more intentionally—ready to cocreate with the universe—attachment can be a form of resistance.

I have found myself vacillating between two poles: being hell bent on making something happen and collapsing in defeat. But vairagya isn’t about collapsing. As Rod Stryker teaches in The Four Desires :

“…once you have an intention you must surrender your attachment to how it will unfold. Relax and know that larger forces are at play. Non-attachment rooted in a willingness to let go of even your most precious ideas and beliefs is the key element of stage two of vairagya. However, it’s important not to confuse non-attachment with inaction or passivity. You have to choose to respond to what life offers you in the way of challenges.”

One of the things I’m learning (and Stryker’s book illuminates this for me) is that  sankalpa, our intention for the short term, is in service to dharma, our life’s purpose. We may tweak our description of dharma as we gain clarity. But we don’t ever abandon it, if we want true fulfillment in life—including the ability to offer our gifts in the world.

What we do need to learn to let go of is how it will unfold. And that’s where the sankalpa practice comes in. We set very clear intentions and, any resistance we encounter, we look at—whether it seems to be external or within us. Either way, if we can keep moving along the path of least resistance, we’ll find our way. This is not to say there isn’t a plethora of feelings—fear, confusion, grief, loss—that may come up. Those are part of the hero’s journey. If we’re stretching ourselves we’ll feel some growing pains. But when we’re stopped in our tracks, trying to plow ahead by staying attached to patterns of behavior that are not serving our higher purpose then it’s time to let go. Once we are clear on what our dharma is, it becomes easier to trust that it is unfolding in perfect timing.

And each intention we choose can be held up to our life’s purpose and see if it serves that dharma. Or, are we just practicing another form of attachment?

What/how are you surrendering these days, in this season of falling leaves? Post your comments, aha’s and questions below and we’ll continue the conversation.

If you would like assistance in getting clarity on your sankalpa, click here to contact me and schedule a FREE 30-minute Sankalpa Session by phone.

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