Monday, October 08, 2007

The Renunciation

As a tethered bird flies this way and that
And comes to rest at last on its own perch,
So the mind, tired of wandering about,
Settles down in the Self
-from The Chandogya Upanishad




Friday at noon I started yet another three-day yoga training immersion. This is my tenth in the past year. I was tired. I was also deranged by some personal iss-yews which my mind resisted relaxing about. I dragged my carcass to class, and submitted to my teachers' direction, and by and by allowed myself to step into the goodwill of my beloved tribe of yoga people.

A little. It's not easy to let go of some problem or thought that has become part of my recent identity. I can get pretty invested in it. Oh, I think, I've done all this work to get to this state of obsession! I would hate for it all to go to waste. Maybe if I obsess a little longer, I will solve my problem.

So even though I was noticing some pretty strong indications that it was time to lay down my burden for awhile, I continued to grasp it. I thought, I won't let myself be pulled into this squishy, goody-two-shoes, everything-happens-for-a-reason BULLSHIT. Never mind that it's probably true. I'm enjoying my torture. Anyway, I'm just going to end up right back here, because, hello, the problem has not been solved.

By the beginning of day two of the immersion (hour seven, but who is counting), I started to think, well, maybe I'll let it rest just while I'm in yoga class. We talked about the idea of renunciation. Denise, my teacher, asked us all the question, What happens when you think of renunciation? Several people said they felt a huge sense of relief. I said the same thing. It was true. I felt relief when I thought about giving up about half the shit I own (even my house!), my many consuming desires, and smoking, to name a few things. Just for a start. What if I didn't have to argue with myself about these things anymore? How glorious and free would I be?

Denise told us that the way the Buddhists talk about renunciation can be described thusly: Release the grasp. YES! I thought to myself. What a wonderful, uncomplicated, non-wordy, non-esoteric way to think about it. This will work for me. I scribbled into my notebook:

Release the Grasp!


"Susie," said Denise. "What is your relationship to renunciation?" I looked up at her, my pen still scribbling. I started to laugh. "There's this one thing I really don't want to give up," I admitted. "I can't get my head around it."

She nodded. "Try to observe that moment of grasping that arrives when you think of having to let go of something."

Uh huh.

"Consider the difference between gratification and fulfillment."

Okay, I know, I know. But is it so wrong to want to take the low road sometimes? Is it so bad to immerse oneself in the baser pleasures of life every now and again?

The Upanishads say that once you release your grasp on all things, you will be prepared to meet your true self, which is to say, God.

"Reaching the state of Self is 5,000 times better than any of the sense pleasures," said Denise.

All right, fuck it, I thought. Maybe there is something to this. (The fact that wise and transcendent people have been practicing these ideas for 4,000 years just isn't a good enough reason to buy into it, apparently.)

By the time we practiced yoga for 75 minutes and had reached the pose of savasana, I had undergone a subtle shift. I lay in the dark, spread out like a corpse, covered by a scratchy wool blanket. Around me, 40 or so people did the same. My teachers sang us the Gayatri Mantra, which is the most beautiful song I have ever heard. By the time they rang their little bells to signal us to start stirring again, I felt such fullness in my heart. I felt grateful, really, for the whole human experience.

I went home, ate dinner with my family, played a game of Go Fish with the kids, and put them to bed.

Maybe I am going to be ok for awhile.

1 comment:

kimberley said...

It's fun to see your blog after so many years. I think my best memory of knowing you was when you attended my birthday party. We were young, perhaps in elementary school, and you wrapped my gift in handmade wrapping paper. You had stamped and drawn cats over the entire paper. I saved that piece of wrapping paper for so many years. I don't remember what the gift was, but the paper was divine.

Then we lost touch and became friends again, got wrapped up in the woes of high school and moved on once again.

Just wanted to say, "Hi"...