This morning I’m thinking about attachment to results. First, a bit of background. In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali instructs us to practise Yoga without attachment to the fruits of our practice. What does that mean? It’s about just doing it without hoping for a particular outcome. I know that practising Yoga makes me feel good, but that’s not the point– although it serves as an initial inducement, taking my practice further means just doing it every day no matter what bubbles up. Ok, so why bother? We bother because it’s the process that matters. The exploration of how to get from point A to point B is more instructive than actually arriving at that point.
Here’s an example. Vrksasana, or tree posture, is a standing balance– the sole of one foot rests on the inner thigh of the standing leg, arms are overhead with palms together. That leotard-clad lady on the cover of the Yoga magazine looks great in Tree pose, and perhaps it might be nice to look like her, but the greatest learning for us has nothing to do with actually looking like her. We think that practising Yoga is about being in a series of contorted postures, when actually it’s the in between bits where the transformation happens. What does it mean to balance? How does my body react when I move? What is happening with my breath and what is my mind saying?
So why am I wittering on about this on a brisk Scottish morning as I breastfeed my baby? I was reflecting that maybe I can take something away from these principles for my parenting. I think that I, and probably many people in our society, are results-oriented parents. I want to say what I want my children to do, and I want them to do it. I want to instruct and be heeded. I want to see a positive outcome for my work and efforts in raising my children.
Of course this is only natural. Just as it feels good to get into tree posture like that magazine model, it also feels good to be obeyed, heeded and to feel that I’m ‘getting somewhere.’ But am I missing out on the process?
That seems laughable this morning when my daughters are screaming at each other, one of them hit the other and now the hittee is retaliating against the hitter! What process is there here? I just want it to stop. Seeing my children fighting and harming each other makes me sad. I want to walk into the room and say “no hitting” and I want the hitting to stop. But it doesn’t. They keep doing it. I might say to myself, “well, that didn’t work. What can I do that will work?”
I’m so focussed on the results that I’ve missed a lot. I am no longer present to myself or to them. I can’t hear most of what my mind is saying and I hear nothing of my heart– it’s only when I am quiet later that I can admit such painful feelings to myself as sadness, worry, despair, helplessness. And their feelings? When I demand that the hitting stops, they each try to tell me their side of the story. I feel like a referee pulled in to adjudicate at a hockey match– I want to send them both to the sin bin! I’m trying to think about their feelings but struggling. I can’t understand why I am struggling to empathise, and I wonder later whether it’s because I’m so attached to stopping the hitting that I can’t make a deeper connection with them.
I tell my students who struggle to fit Yoga into their lives that if I take two breaths in awareness that day I have taken a step on my journey towards greater self-awareness. Today I want to notice process and results.