Yoga practice gives us tools to navigate the many experiences of life with less struggle. The idea of non-attachment, or aparigraha from Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga is especially important to embody.
One of the five yamas, rules for ethical, social conduct, aparigraha teaches us to let go of things that no longer serve us. Things that are broken or are no longer working have little value to us and block the flow of good, positive energy. Like rotting food, we have to “throw away” spoiled things and clean out our lives. Rather than trying to put pick up the pieces and put them back together, which can sometimes be more painful, we have to sweep away the broken parts of our life and let them go.
Letting go, or cleaning out, does not necessarily always have a negative connotation. The ability to surrender can actually be a sign of great strength. So often we want to hold on to or control things that are out of our control. It can be quite freeing to recognize this and make the choice to release our attachment to that which is beyond our control. For that matter, there’s no need to hold on to that which is in our control. A wise teacher once said, “If you can control it, why worry? If you can’t control it, why worry?”
Friendships are an especially important part of our lives where this idea can be practiced. The relationships we create with other people can both enrich and spoil our personal well-being, and it is sometimes here where we have the most difficulty letting go. In my personal experience, I have found that I often feel it is wrong to not work to maintain a friendship. I rationalize that, because I’ve known a person for so long or that because we have mutual friends and will often see each other, I have to make an effort to be a friend. What I have come to realize recently though, is that trying to be friends with people who don’t reciprocate the same effort or with people who might actually have negative feelings toward me, does not support my inner peace. It leads to empty friendships. As such, I’ve realized it’s okay to have those people in my life who I see in passing and we both say “let’s grab lunch!” and never really do.
As junior year continues to fly by and it seems that everyone is consumed by hectic and increasingly more demanding schedules, I’ve learned to put these ideas into practice more and more. Putting more energy into myself, the friendships that are truly important to me, and letting the other stuff play a more minor role in my life feels so much more rewarding. It also feels ten times less stressful. It’s not that I’m not open to new friendships or don’t care for other people. Rather, I’ve learned to let go of feeling – a need to see everyone all the time. I guess you could say in practicing non-attachment in relationships, I have found a little bit more of myself.
Practicing non-attachment has helped me value the times I do see friends and to also know that people will always come and go in my life. Each experience is valuable, and just because some last longer than others doesn’t make any experience less valuable. We have to keep moving with time, with the ever flowing river of life, and take in and let go of experiences as they come and go. This fosters our ability to fully appreciate what’s happening here and now, with no expectation of anything in the future, and slowly over time realize the nature of existence. That is, that everything is flowing and changing, and the more we try to force the river to flow in a certain direction, the more the waters push back against us, sometimes making it feel like we’re struggling to just stay afloat. Letting go is ultimately an opportunity for relief and awakening, as we release the struggle and instead go with the flow.