Revealing attachments

This past week, John and I went to a yoga retreat at Bocas Del Mar in Panama. The teacher with whom I study—Shanon Buffington—organizes a trip each year for her students. We spend a week practicing in the mornings, sightseeing in the afternoons and having conversation over dinner in the evenings. John doesn't practice, but he really likes the yogis (and the yogis really like him) so he comes too.

Stepping outside the normal routine and practicing that much has a cumulative effect. I always leave the retreat different than when I came in. While the lessons are still unfolding for me, two strong themes regarding attachment hit me personally this week. (Background: one of the practices of yoga is non-attachment, vairagya, which is about learning to let go of the fake things we identify with so we can get to what is real.)

The first attachment I became aware of was how much I define myself based on outcomes. In a practical scenario, that might look like feeling like a failure when I pour my heart into something and it doesn't excite people like it excites me. Or having my ego engage when I create something that many people compliment me on. This idea of focusing on heart and method without measuring its worth by the outcomes is not a new idea, but is a difficult one to practice. I'm reading about it and believe I have a lot more to learn on this track.

The second attachment was about how too often I get caught up in the labels. Shanon shared a beautiful illustration from SwamiJ about a gold bracelet. A gold bracelet has two ways it can describe itself. It can say it is a bracelet or it can say it is gold. The latter statement is more true. Because though the gold may currently have the form of a bracelet, it could also be melted down and shaped into something else while still being gold. Sitting in meditation listening to the waves crash and being surrounded by undeveloped island beauty, it was easy to be aware that my life is God-breathed. It is a deep personal passion to keep proclaiming that we are so much more than workers, parents, spouses, singles, and any of the other labels that we wear in our lives, and yet there are still so many areas where I am overly attached to the form and its label.

This week reemphasized the value of retreats. There are places in our soul that are easier to access when we break away and change our rhythms. It helps us focus more on the gold than the bracelet.

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Maira Gall