You know those ads for missing people that you see on the side of milk cartons? Well, I was about to put out one of those, or better yet, an APB (no, that’s not some trendy new texting lingo, just a good old-fashioned police term for an “all points bulletin”) for my missing yoga mat.
The crisis occurred over the summer when I needed a yoga mat to take to the beach for my summer beach yoga classes. My newer, thicker professional grade yoga mat could not be exposed to the elements and the sand, so I pulled out my very first yoga mat and decided it was perfect. Even though I only paid $5 for this mat and it is ridiculously thin, there is just something about that first yoga mat that makes it special, and I decided that I would always hold onto mine. I like using it from time to time to remind me of just how far I have come in my yoga journey both physically and spiritually.
I always bring extra mats to class in case a student shows up without one, but one day when I did not have enough extra mats, I ended up offering my very first mat up to a student. It wasn’t until a few days later when I went to pull it out for a beach class when I realized that my beloved yoga mat had gone missing.
I immediately went to retrace my steps of the day to figure out where my missing mat could be. I didn’t think the student took it. Instead I thought that they had handed it back in, but I had never picked it up. I couldn’t believe that I was so negligent as to leave my prized yoga mat out on the beach. I could only imagine what would happen to it. Someone would use it for a beach toy or throw it away; the seagulls might perch on it or try to eat it; or it would get swept away with the waves. I went back to the scene of the crime, scouring the area to find the mat, but to no avail, my yoga mat was MIA.
I could have gotten hung up and upset about the loss, but my yoga training reminded me of two very cool Sanskrit words that encompass the concept of having non-attachment to material possessions.
1. Aparigraha – is one of the yamas (part of the eight limbs of yoga) and is all about not having greed over material goods, possessions, and relationships. Or, in other words, it means not hoarding and instead being happy with what you have.
2. Vairagya – is all about releasing attachment to other people, substances, and material possessions (like a cherished yoga mat). I really love how the meaning of this word can relate to personal desires. For instance, if you do things in life without the hope of personal gain, the work you produce will not only be better but more meaningful, and you will experience joy while doing it. I don’t know about you, but that is how I want to describe the work that I do.
How silly was it for me to get so worked up about losing this yoga mat? I gave myself a much-needed kick in the ass and released my attachment to my yoga mat. By doing so, my mind would be free of the distraction of my desire for the mat and would be open for more important matters.
Two months later, I was packing up my gear after class when one of the owners of the Firefly Beach Resort where I taught came running up to me and said, “Hey, we found this propped up against the front door last night. Is it yours?” She was clutching my long lost yoga mat, a little worn from wherever it had been, but nonetheless it was back!
I still don’t know where my mat had been hiding out for all those months, but I didn’t care; my yoga mat had safely returned to me. I had let go of my attachment to it, and it came back to me.
So, sure, my story has a happy ending, but the takeaway that I’d like you to have is not so much that you should let go of possessions or people in your life in order for them to come back to you; rather, you should let go of your attachment to personal possessions and relationships to focus on what you have versus what you lack. When we get all caught up in our possessions – you know all the time we spend worrying about whether we are going to lose them, or how we can get them back, or why we can’t have them – we lose sight of what is really important in life. To quote Sri Swami Satchidananda from his translation and commentary of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali:
‘There is joy in losing everything, in giving everything. You cannot be eternally happy by possessing things. That’s why we say, ‘Have vairagya, have dispassion, have non-attachment.’ By renouncing worldly things, you possess the most important sacred property: your peace.”
He went on to say that the practice of vairagya alone is enough to change your entire life into a joyful one. When I see a statement like that, it definitely piques my interest, and I have seen firsthand what peace of mind and joy vairagya can bring.
Got a personal non-attachment story to tell? Please feel free to share by leaving a comment below.