I was recently reminded of the importance and power of non-attachment in yoga philosophy. I did something for a friend and expected her to do something specific in return. Of course, as a yogi, I should have known better.
After a few days, I realized the outcome I wanted hadn’t happened. And I noticed I was sad about it. At first, I wasn’t sure why I was sad. I was discouraged in general because I’d been doing a lot without getting the kind of feedback I’d like.
After this incident with my friend, I started thinking about the yogic law of non-attachment. Soon I realized I wasn’t sad because I wasn’t getting recognition for my efforts. In fact, I was getting it from many sources. I was just not getting recognition from a specific person, a person I value (my friend).
Let It Go
As a yogi, I know it’s effort, not outcome that counts. I’m here to serve, not to seek recognition.
Oh, but I’m also human.
Okay, my friend didn’t appreciate what I’d created for her. Let it go, I told myself. And soon enough (thank you, yoga), I did let it go.
But I was still a little sad. And I realized the issue wasn’t so much the offering but the creating. I wasn’t struggling with whether to offer what I create. I was struggling with the purpose of creating—or of making any kind of effort—without evidence that it has any value.
Struggling With the Law of Non-Attachment
In his book The Great Work of Your Life, Stephen Cope talks about purpose. He says we’re all born to do something. We’re obliged to do it, Cope says, but we’re not entitled to its fruits. This is the law of non-attachment, and for the most part, I think I’m okay with it.
But what if there are no fruits? Or what if there are fruits, but you don’t get know about them? In other words, without recognition (the outcome we often seek when we offer something), how do you know you’re making a difference?
There’s monkey mind in action; the mind loves to play with our sense of contentment.
The Law of Non-attachment Is Not About Indifference
Swami Rama put it this way: “If you really want to enjoy life and be happy, learn to practice and understand the philosophy of non-attachment.” And he also says, “Non-attachment does not mean indifference or non-loving.”
Swami Rama’s ideas helped me see what was really getting me down after the incident with my friend. It wasn’t that I was attached to recognition. It was that I was struggling to believe what I do makes a difference and wondering how to align my efforts with results without needing to know for sure about the outcome.
Well, that’s simple enough to do, right? You just need to know what your gift is and find a way to use it well in true service.
Ah, if it were so easy, non-attachment wouldn’t be a practice.
We’re Human After All
As yogis, we practice letting go every day. As humans, we all need acknowledgement and encouragement to nourish our gifts.
Nourish is an important word. A tree or flower can’t continue to offer its gifts if it’s never watered. We must, as many sages have said, plant our seeds in fertile soil, and then trust them to do their thing.
It helps to remember that our gifts come through us, but they are not of us. They come from something much greater than we are. We can appreciate, use and even nourish these gifts, but we don’t own them. And that’s why the yogic sages teach us the law of non-attachment.
I’ll try to remember all this next time I wonder whether to continue searching fertile soil where I can plant seeds and then step back and let them go.
Do you struggle with attachment?
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I’m Maria, devoted yogini and author of Yoga Circles. I’m a writer, editor, and content marketing creator. I help small businesses, wellness brands, teachers, and authors publish books, develop marketing strategies, and communicate effectively in writing. Visit my website (link below) to learn how I can help you connect with more readers, clients, and students!