"Anger is like a holding a hot coal, the only one that gets burned is you."
This quote speaks to Aparigraha, one of the Yamas from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, an ethical principle of yoga. Aparigraha means non-attachment or non-holding. Our attachment or holding onto physical things, emotions, beliefs and thoughts cause us suffering. Like this quote says, we can hold on to the anger and resentment from a situation, but once the situation has ended, it is the anger we refuse to let go that causes us to continue on in misery.
I also like to use the analogy of trying to hold onto a wet bar of soap as well. When we are fighting against reality and trying to make it what we want, it's like trying to squeeze a wet bar of soap...it will keep flying out of out control because we never had control of it in the first place. When we are focused on clinging to something, whether it be a relationship, wanting an certain outcome, or an idea, the usually desperate clinging creates more stress than if we would find a way to let go and allow things to work out as they need to.
Where I live, there has been a wildfire that has been burning close by. The smell of smoke and at times the clouds of smoke and raining ash are a reminder of what the fire is burning up in its path. One of my friends has been close to those who are involved in fighting the fire. She said a couple of things that resonated with me and bring me back to Aparigraha.
The first was how amazed some of the firefighters were that a small town near where the fire started didn't burn down. A big part of this was just luck of what the fire ended up doing. She shared that the fire has had "a mind of its own" and doing many things that aren't always typical of a fire. I can only imagine that these firefighters really understood that despite their efforts,the outcome was more about nature does what nature does and we don't have much control over it.
The second thing she shared was feeling sad about the loss of some of her favorite mountain biking trails because of the fire's path. Yes, this is a loss of fun times and memories, at least until the area recovers. The reality is that we live in the west and fire danger is high...increasingly higher each year. There will be wildfires. We won't know where they might start, but they will happen. There are areas and towns that have been accepting this fact and have done some amazing fire mitigation to clear areas of dead wood that is fueling these massive wildfires. There was a great example of how this acceptance and hard work help save homes and businesses this spring in Breckenridge, Colorado. By accepting what is, we can make choices that are going to be more helpful to our well being. If we don't and fight reality, we are turned away from where we actually do have control with our intentions and actions.
And the loss of the mountain bike trails is actually very normal. The two guarantees in life is that things change and our bodies will die at some point. Loss is a part of life and it opens up to new beginnings. Remembering this can be helpful in moving through grief, no matter what the loss is.
Here are a couple of ways to practice Aparigraha:
1. Breathing, especially focusing on a longer exhale. The inhale is always followed by the exhale. If we cling to the inhale, we will die. The exhale is a practice of letting go and a longer exhale allows a more full letting go happen. Notice how you feel after a few of these longer exhale breaths.
2. Look at the material items in your house. Are there some things that you are clinging to? Items you no longer use but can't seem to let them go? In Marie Kondo's book "The Magic of Tidying Up," she reminds us that by clinging to our stuff, we don't allow those items to fulfill their purpose. If you have boxes filled with unused items, these items are trapped and unable to fulfill their destiny. By allowing them to move on to the next person who can use them, they can fulfill their purpose. Most of us know how fulfilling it is to be in our purpose and what it feels like to feel purposeless.
3. Be with yourself in a difficult situation or take a Time In. Take time to observe how your are feeling and what thoughts arise. This allows the process of choice to arise. Do you choose to hold onto those reactions or let go of them and move to a response that may feel more helpful and come from a more compassionate place. An example of doing this is on the Samya Yoga Healing YouTube Channel.
And be compassionate with yourself...we all can use practice with Aparigraha! We are all clinging to something. If we weren't clinging, we'd be fully in a peaceful state of mind...I know I'm not there yet.
Real detachment is not in letting go of activity but letting go of the attachment. - Prasad Rangekar