"The things you own end up owning you. It's only after you lose everything that you're free to do anything."
- Chuck Palahnuik (Fight Club)
It felt like something inside me shattered into hundreds of pieces, and I'm still trying to gather them back into myself. Then I felt heavy and tired. It was difficult to focus at work, and I wanted to write but deleted every sentence that made it onto the page. Words didn't feel adequate. At first, I thought I was going to write an article about the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, but then decided against it. There were plenty of articles available online, and I didn't have anything significantly different to add. The election results were merely a catalyst. They created an unexpected emotional response within me, which led me to self-reflect. I meditated. I read articles posted on social media. I talked to friends and family. I stopped reading articles posted on social media. I turned to my yoga practice and studies to reconnect with my Self.
Why did I feel so caught off guard by the events that had unfolded? I'd been so completely absorbed in a story with a different ending, that I hadn't noticed the real one that was playing out around me. This reminded me of the kleshas in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. The kleshas are described as afflictions or obstacles that we encounter in our quest for spiritual growth and union with the Divine. Avidya is the first klesha, and is often described as the trunk of a tree from which the other kleshas sprout as branches. Some translate Avidya as 'Ignorance'; the essence of it is our inability to see reality as it truly is. Each of us looks at the world through from our own perspective, and believes (at least to some extent) that we see things as they are. We use books, online articles, endorsements from others, and may even create evidence to prove that we're 'right'. However, the truth is that few of us see reality clearly because a veil of our emotions and beliefs obscures our view. Spiritual practices can help us to remove the veil, although we often just replace one illusion with another, and continue to believe that we see clearly. Life also has a way of tearing away the veil of our illusions, leaving us naked and staring at some aspect of reality that we had previously refused to see. I've felt naked more than once in my lifetime.
I've danced with each of the kleshas. Sometimes it's a slow tango with one of them. Other times it's a group dance, and I groove with a couple of them at the same time. Avidya (Ignorance) has led me through some intimate relationships, whispering in my ear to ignore red flags and see only what I wanted to see in my romantic partner. Asmita (Ego) cuts in frequently. We always show off our best moves - trying to impress everyone with how 'good' I am, wearing myself out on the dance floor as though I'm striving for first place in a world class dance competition. Raga (Attachment) showers me with sparkly outfits and sexy music. We always do the same steps and dance to the same song; it makes me confident that I'll look good and won't make any mistakes. Dvesha (Aversion) does the same dance with me as Raga (Attachment), constantly convincing me that other styles of dance or unfamiliar venues are undesirable. Abhinivesha (Fear of Death) mostly hangs out in the shadows, but occasionally pulls me into a dreadful waltz that leaves me feeling helpless, unable to enjoy the dance because I'm scared of the day the music will stop playing. The partner I'm dancing with right now is Raga (Attachment). It's not an exclusive dance, but I'm keenly aware that I've danced this same dance for years. I know the steps well by now, but I pretend not to recognize the music or the patterns that I'm repeating. It's like I've put on a new costume and added some flair, but am essentially doing the same steps. Even if the dance of my life reflects a bit more of my personal style, it's still not my own choreography.
Over a decade ago, I had the courage to make some tough decisions and disassemble my life to build something new. I convinced myself that I was starting over, and in many ways I did. Looking at my life now, I realize that some things have changed, but much has remained the same. I spent years re-building the very thing that I'd taken apart. A decade ago I lived in a single-family home in Lakewood, California and spent about 40% of my waking hours working a job that didn't challenge or interest me in order to pay the mortgage and maintain the standard of living I'd become accustomed to. Today I live in a single-family home in Lakewood, California and spend about 30% of my waking hours working a job that doesn't challenge or interest me in order to pay the mortgage and maintain the standard of living that I've become accustomed to. While there is nothing "wrong" with any of this, I'm beginning to see how my attachment to stability and order is keeping me from experiencing something totally different.
To clarify - I'm not unhappy with my life. I could fill an entire book with all that I'm thankful for. I have two amazing daughters who light up my world with their creativity and courage. I have a lover who is creative, adventurous, and willing to open heart to see me and to be seen. I've got friends and teachers who encourage me to keep moving in the direction of my dreams, even if it is just one small step at a time. I'm safe and healthy. I have both time and resources to socialize and travel and study and coach and write.
AND...there's something else that wants to happen in and through me. There's a profound longing to go deeper, to let go of who I think I am in order to remember myself. I'm tired of clinging to stability. I'm tired of telling myself that I have to be 'responsible' and 'pragmatic'. I'm exhausted from checking items off to do lists and working the plan. It's like I'm standing on one side of a chasm and trying to get to the other side by walking for hundreds of miles to find a bridge, when all it would take is one solid leap to get across. I see different terrain within myself that I want to explore, but I cannot make a leap of faith and hold onto the railing at the same time.
In a blog post this summer, I described a ritual that my boyfriend and I did as we prepared to begin walking the West Highland Way in Scotland. As part of our impromptu ceremony, I visualized leaving the key to my house at the base of the obelisk which marked the beginning of our week-long trek. That key was symbolic of my attachment to security and my need to have my life look a certain way. I boldly wrote "If I have to choose between stability and freedom (and I probably don't have to choose), then I choose freedom."
It IS a choice, and it means letting go of my attachment to the 'known' to venture into the unknown. I'm taking one hand off the railing...
I met with my realtor last week and am planning to sell my home. It's a first step. There are those who will call me crazy - tell me that a house is a long term investment and is the foundation of my retirement plan. From a purely rational standpoint, this seems true; but this choice isn't about being rational. Since purchasing my home two years ago, I envisioned selling it when I was ready to move on to something else. However, the longer I hold onto it, the more I can feel it holding on to me. I'm becoming more attached than I'd like to admit. It's time to let go and see what happens next.
What are you attached to? What would it feel like to let go?