Relief! Ever have that feeling after a big project or deadline is done? The stress leading up to it, and the release afterwards? Yes, I had that last night, after my daughter’s birthday party was over.
BUT…I also noticed that the feeling of “relief” is very short lived. There is always something else ahead, another project, deadline, thing I “have to” do. And the cycle continues… stress before, relief after.
It is possible to step out of that cycle. One way to do it is from yoga philosophy – the two foundational principles of yoga, Abhyasa and Vairagya
Abhyasa means practice. This principle reminds us that everything, everyday is practice, when we bring consciousness to it. And even when we aren’t. But when we are aware of the fact that we’re learning, we’re practicing, then every moment is an opportunity.
We practice being in the moment, breathing consciously, noticing where we put our attention – a myriad of possibilities for practice. Practice isn’t perfection. By allowing ourselves to simply practice whatever we are doing – even if getting ready for a party – we can feel more ease and trust in the process.
The second principle is vairagya, which translates as non-attachment. It goes hand in hand with abhyasa, because without being unattached from our practice (say, witnessing what we do from a place of neutrality), we set ourselves up for disappointment. Sometimes, we’re delighted with the outcomes, but other times we fail. It’s simply how life goes.
If we are committed to practice, and trust what that practice offers us, then we do it regardless of the outcome. We practice anyway, whether it’s pleasing and gives us what we want one day, and other days we just don’t feel like it or have a bad time. Vairagya releases us from the like/dislike polarity that spins us around into constant seeking of pleasure and approval, and avoiding discomfort and shame.
Freedom from the Cycle
These principles from the Yoga Sutras offer us freedom from the cycle of stress and relief. Abhyasa, practice, in everything that we do. Practice presence, kindness, patience, or awareness, for example. Vairagya in each moment, letting go of the results so that we can be at peace right now. I have a chapter in my upcoming book exploring these essential yogic concepts.
Although I did feel some relief at the end of the party, I had been practicing all along. When I noticed the stress and worry arising during the week leading up to it (like distress about favors not arriving on time, my daughter worried about pleasing her guests, having to drive across town to get a baker who could make the cake we wanted), I trusted the process and let the Divine resolve all the details.
I just plodded ahead and did my best to stay in the moment. There was still some stress, but it was much less. I enjoyed every minute of the party, and even when I was behind on the cooking, it all came through in the end.
Although there was some relief as I lay down in bed after a long day, I knew it was an illusion. Today, I wake and face book writing deadlines, my upcoming retreat, and a myriad of other things. Just like you.
Together, we can utilize abhyasa and vairagya to cultivate that inner peace that transcends the to-do list and the stress-relief cycle.
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