Do you sometimes feel unhappy but can’t work out why?
Is there something you would like to let go of, which could make you feel better?
Perhaps you are attached to an image you have of yourself, to money or status, or to your beliefs and cultural systems?
As part of Wellbeing, red10’s Lisa Smith explores the Yoga concept of vairāgya – how recognising our attachments, and then seeking to let them go can help us feel happier and freer in all areas of our lives.
The theme I’ve been exploring recently with my group yoga classes is vairāgya – letting go – which seems appropriate given the strange times we are living in.
This Sanskrit word literally means:
vi – move away from
rāga – desire (klesa)
It comes from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, first mentioned in YS 1.12 which states that stilling the mind (the goal of yoga) is achieved through:
For many of us, attachment is what causes our unhappiness; attachments to an image you have of a person or yourself, attachments to money or status, attachments to a certain time or place, attachments to a job or a way of life, attachments to our beliefs, politics and cultural systems.
Attachments cause unhappiness because we cannot control how long we keep them. Attachments are what make it so hard to accept change – once we have them, we don’t want to let go.
I believe this is why many people are struggling with Covid-19 and the restrictions it is imposing upon us. We were totally attached to life we had, we had no control over the arrival of this pandemic, its virulence and impact, and we cannot control what life will return to afterwards – or when.
It’s all in the mind
True vairāgya however refers to an internal state of mind, rather than to external lifestyle, which is good news because it means it can be practised by everyone, whether you are engaged in family life and career, or a renunciate! Everyone can learn to let go, detach.
It is not giving up what you love
What vairāgya isn’t, is suppression or repulsion for material objects.
My teachers Ranju & Dave call it ‘non-stick openness’. It’s not turning away from or rejecting our lifestyle and beliefs. It’s about cultivating an open space in which new possibilities can arise. It’s turning towards something, being open to what you want and need.
Yoga philosophy says there are 4 stages of letting go.