Tag Archives: bad habits

Abhyāsa Vairāgyam: Effort and Relinquishing

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I’m not sure what happened, but I forgot about blogging until 8:38pm on Thursday night. This is surprising because I’ve written and published something every single Thursday since June of 2011.

I’ve given up some old habits recently and I’ve found that this requires much discipline and causes a surprising amount of unrest and upset to my system. I didn’t expect it, really. I’ve been making my way to this point for several years, now – trying out quitting… coming back.  But I think I’m really ready to actually let these things go. This time, the letting go has happened without much fanfare. I decided that it was time and I stopped without much conversation or buildup. But I find it does require energy. The energy that I’m putting towards these efforts means I have less for the other things I need to do. Like remember things.

I’ve heard from my teachers that Mr. Desikachar would say that you can measure the strength of a person’s practice not on what they can do, but on what they can give up. I don’t think he was talking about forcing a change onto ourself as a measure of how much ascetic and painful torture we can endure without whining, but as an exercise to see how attached we are to the things that we enjoy. Or how much our balance and sense of peace depends on the weekly chocolate bar we get at the check out line, the evening run we have to take to unwind, or the glass of wine before dinner. Maybe giving something up that we enjoy is something that lets us see if we have our attention, our sense of self, or maybe even our joy anchored in the right place.

In the past, I’ve ‘let things go’ but I haven’t really. I must not have been ready. I’d decide to give it up and then thought about whatever it was constantly. My body might not have been indulging in the behavior, the substance or the distraction, but my mind was totally linked to it. This time, it’s less dramatic. It feels like I’m waiting for the old stuff to flush out of my deepest tissue layers. I’ve noticed these occasional pangs of wanting, but I’m not obsessing. Even so, I’m a little thrown off. I get confused about the timing of things and my dreams have a different quality. I’m likening the new patterns to a transplanted organ. Right now, I’m still recovering from the surgery. I’ll have to remember to take the anti-rejection medicine for a while. Then, maybe after a long time, it will be more normal and the new thing that I’ve taken in will be a part of me.

Yoga Sutra 1.12 abhyāsavairāgyābhyāṁ tannirodhaḥ

Make some efforts (abhyāsa) then relinquish what is getting in the way of your effort or goal (vairāgyām) so that you can reach a state of yoga (nirodha)