Last night was the last time I’ll ever sleep in my childhood bedroom.
Tonight, I’ll sleep in a “guest room” in my parent’s new house. I don’t live in the same state anymore (and haven’t for the past 5 years), so I don’t really get a room in their house.
Over the past couple of days, I’ve helped my parents with the move. We’ve spent a good deal of time in the new house, and I’ve noticed that the new house felt like home almost immediately.
That’s because, as we’ve all heard many time before, home is where the heart is. Turns out, the heart doesn’t care much about stuff, walls, or structures. As long as the people you love are with you it’s home. It helps to have your stuff make things feel familiar, but that’s just a perk :).
This whole process of moving from my childhood home has brought to the forefront the practice of non-attachment. Non-attachment is a very important part of yogic living off the mat.
Why non-attachment is so important in yoga
In yoga sutra 1.12, Patanjali spells out how to quiet the mind, which is the first step in achieving progress on the yoga path (albeit not an easy first step). In case you weren’t aware, the Yoga Sutras are one of the seminal texts outlining how yoga works.
My own combination of English translations of this Sanskrit phrase looks like this:
The five types of mental activity can be settled through practice and non-attachment.
We can talk about the five types of mental activity another day.
Abhyasa means practice. Vairagya means non-attachment.
What is non-attachment?
Non-attachment is being okay with the natural flow of life. It’s not getting caught up in the details, the stuff, the extraneous, the complex. It’s about letting things go that don’t matter.
It’s both an absence of desire and aversion. It’s about letting things be as they are without getting caught up in mental patterns or assigning emotional stories to things.
It’s not that you go through life without caring. It’s that you choose to care about what really matters. Non-attachment is about living in the present moment rather then the past.
When we hold on to things and refuse to let them go we create barriers in our mind. Since it’s moving day over here, you could think of every attachment as a cellular moving box in your brain. Every thing you choose to hold on to has to be packed away in a little box.
As you attach to more and more things, you start to fill up the crawlspace and basement of your brain. In our house, the basement was called the “Republic of Clutter” and it was a running joke that it was always waging war on the house. The house always lost.
If you continue to stay attached to things, you start to fill up your entire house-brain until there is no room left. If you don’t let things go, soon there will be no room left to let new things in. You’ll be stuck in a life of boxes filled to the brim with your attachments and you’ll be unable to live free of clutter.
How to let go of your brain boxes
When your brain is cluttered the only way to get clear is to do some serious letting go. Unfortunately, letting go of mind-stuff is a lot harder then letting go of stuff-stuff. It takes some serious internal work to truly burn through all the attachments we store over the course of a lifetime. The process is not quite as simple as taking the boxes to Goodwill.
The process for letting go of mind-stuff is meditation.
The good news is, Patanjali didn’t say we have to master non-attachment. We just have to practice.
Make some room for the new and the now
Seeing as I’ve moved 7 times in my life in the past 10 years, I’ve gotten some practice with the whole moving thing. I think that’s why moving from my childhood home isn’t that big a deal to me.
Yes, there are so many memories in that home. Yes, it’s where I grew up. Yes, I’ll miss the landscaping and the little waterfall in the backyard. But, by being open to letting go, I get to enjoy the beauty of the new house.
In the new house, there is a sun-room and the way the light shines in is beautiful. In the new house, there is a patch of woods in the backyard that deer run through on a daily basis. In the new house, there are heating lamps on the bathroom ceilings. All things I’ll eventually need to let go of, but right now, I’m enjoying the present situation very much.
You can find beauty everywhere around you if you know where to look. You can also choose to be bitter and hold on to too many boxes of attachments and block the light from shining through that’s right in front of you.
You get to choose.
When you choose to practice non-attachment, you let in the light. When you let in the light, you step onto a path toward freedom.