There are many yogic principles, both modern and ancient, that we as practicing yogis try our best to uphold. It’s one of the defining marks of the yogic lifestyle and living mindfully, with intention, and with purpose. The golden rule is Ahimsa, or non-harming. This trumps them all.
We yogis also hold non-stealing, truthfulness, and even non-attachment as high priorities. These yamas and niyamas are fluid, open to interpretation, individually based, and are more like guidelines than rules, really. You can read here and here about the other yamas and niyamas.
Non-Attachment as a Mindful Practice
Non-attachment seems to be thrown around quite a bit in the yoga world. When we see a pose we want to try, or when we would rather have cake than lentils with kale, we utter “non-attachment.” When we’re up for a new job, a promotion, or a grand prize giveaway, we whisper “non-attachment.”
This is a great mantra, and it definitely has purpose. After all, getting hung up on things slows progress, distracts attention, and can drive us crazy. It’s a solid, beneficial practice to regularly come back to a place of non-attachment.
Okay, you fell over in handstand.Maybe you didn’t get that big promotion, or the bid on your dream house fell through.These things happen – it’s called ‘life’ – and there will always be more yoga classes, other promotions, and other houses. Non-attachment is a mindful practice in letting go and moving on.
Sometimes, though, the pendulum swings too far in the other direction. Yoga is and always has been about balance. The good side of the balance is that practicing non-attachment keeps us present and grateful.
Meaningful personal and social change requires our determination.
However, when it comes to promoting social change, or say, fighting for human rights, or even creating your dream life, then extreme non-attachment can actually hold us back. We can’t rely on change to happen by itself and simply remove ourselves from the responsibility of being that change.
A famous quote by Mahatma Gandhi is, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” He didn’t say “Just let stuff happen and don’t worry about it, because non-attachment, right?” There is a fine line between non-attachment and un-attachment, and the latter may actually violate Ahimsa.
We know that nothing is constant and that the fluctuations and changes in society play a large role in our lives, our psyches, how we interact with each other, how we support our livelihoods, and even how we behave.
“The modern yogi has to be driven, active, and should care about the world around her or him to incite change.” – Taylor Harkness
This is important because yogis are at the forefront of a global social awakening. We have the strength to unite people for good causes, and it is our responsibility to stand in our power.
There are, in fact certain instances in life when we need to take action and fight to see them through. There are times when we cannot take “no” for an answer, when we cannot leave things to the universe or to fate, when we’re called to stand up because we are the universe and we create fate.
These causes range from our own personal happiness in our relationships and careers, to the much grander scale of human rights, the environment, and beyond – these matters need our determination and perseverance so they can be resolved.
This puts the onus and accountability of manifesting the reality you want on you as practitioner and yogi. This is also where your practice comes in.
Yoga washes away the non-essential and leaves behind what really matters. This allows you to fight for your own passions.
What lights you up? What makes you come alive? If you don’t know, then try asking yourself what really grinds your gears. The answer to your question might be hidden in what frustrates you with the world — begging you to initiate the change.
For some of us, it’s children and their futures. Some hold animal welfare and well-being as top priority. Still others are concerned about healthcare, art appreciation, or even the preservation of historical landmarks. The list of what brings each of us to life behind a cause is endless.
Yogis have the unique and special opportunity to rinse away the clutter of the mind and to find their flame, to stoke those embers, and to rally others for their cause.
Yoga teaches you to know when and how to practice non-attachment, on and off the mat.
The practice of non-attachment is clearly a very important aspect of mindful living. When we’re met with disappointment about a situation or circumstances that we cannot change, practicing non-attachment is vital to maintaining happiness and sanity.
When change is within our control, however, it’s our duty to act with passion and determination. Change is only made by those who are willing to put in the hard work. This often means being strong, making sacrifices, and showing up full force, even when staying in bed or remaining quiet seems easier.
There is a fine line between non-attachment and un-attachment— and if silence left to its own devices breeds silence, then I’d say it’s about time to speak up, make waves, and fulfill our duty. The cause is entirely up to you and that heart in your chest.
Practice non-attachment to the outcomes, but rush heart first into the actions. Shine on.