For years Simplicity for me meant poverty. Harsh austerity and a cold monastery life, seamed like a self-inflicted suffering. The idea of limiting myself in this way brought about anxiety and a deep seated fear of not surviving. The idea of living well, was the idea of having plenty, more than I needed, plenty of everything in unending process of buying staff...
I think it all started when I was a little girl, and then it grew its deep roots into my adult way of living, choices that I was making, lifestyle I developed over the last years.
My mom had immigrated alone with me to Canada, when I was just a baby. Then, life at times was hard. Mom was working full time to be able to provide the best she could, what all other children around me had already. At first we really went through hard times, very simple times, but not a time of simplicity; my memory of these years were all about others having more than me; Canadian girls, with their amazing jeans and name brand jackets, carelessly enjoying their lives. Later mom started her business and things became easier. Slowly we could afford things that we couldn’t before dream about. We started attending yoga classes and spiritual seminars. Abundance and prosperity meant for me not only having enough, but way more than I could imagine before. "The Secret" came out and suddenly everyone was making Vision Boards; staying super positive with a whole list of goods to have, places to see, dreams to become true. "Monk in Ferrari", before he sold his ferrari, and "Poor Dad Rich Dad" were books everyone was talking about. Spirituality in the west was about how to become rich and spiritual; fulfilled in splendor and in a new enriching relationships.
I remember my first babysitting job, all money I earned I spent on clothes. I finally could buy, what I wanted to; it made me happy, it made me feel like I fit in. Later on, in my twenties, when I started working full time, clothes, jewelry, shoes and purses were staff where my whole pay check went for; STAFF FOR FAST GRATIFICATION (SFFG). It made me feel pretty, it made me feel equal, it made me feel loved. This didn’t even stop when I started teaching yoga, I still needed the new yoga pants, vegan eco-mat that everyone already had, top brand new computer to play fancy music on, and pretty malas to impress my students. Please don’t take this the wrong, there is nothing bad with buying or owning, but after many years I finally realized I was filling a giant hole within myself, the GIANT HOLE of DEFICIENCY IN SELF ACCEPTANCE - The Hole of the Sorrows.
Yoga and Simplicity
“You may have occasion to possess or use material things, but the secret of life lies in never missing them.” ~Gandhi
Simplifying doesn’t mean to punish oneself by living a life of austerity. Actually it is the opposite. Simplicity is the unwinding of the yarn, life thread, while our attachments to complicate, to engross, to pack our life can be considered an addiction.
As yogis we are taught from the first yoga class that we should learn to be unattached to the world of changing appearances. This attachment is considered the main cause of our suffering. It has to be, if grasp and hold on to things that change, disappear and loose their value easily.
Attachment hides itself in many aspects of our life, not only material, but also emotional and mental; we are attached to our possessions, to status, to ideas, beliefs, convictions, we are attached to family and friends, intimate relationships, we are attached to country and specific culture, we are very attached to our life.
Non attachment in Sanskrit is Vairagya. The ability to stay free in relation, but not to be bounded to things, emotions, ideas. Attachment is something that we consider necessary to live, but at the same time it prevents us from experiencing life fully. It can be seen as roots of a vine that has attached itself to a tree; from the outside the vine looks as if it's a part of tree, because it coexists with the tree, but in reality the tree is much healthier without the vine. The vine is a kind of plant parasite, that lives on its host and benefits by deriving nutrients at the other's expense. That exactly what attachment is, a misconception that "this" and "I" are one, and I, as a host, cannot live without this emotion. Quite opposite, without attachment you live and love more.
Where does attachment comes from? The seeds of attachments start in Ahamkara - Ego. The ego is like a king in front of his mirror, trying on clothes and crowns, to boost his importance. Each garb will make the king more royal, more fearful, more splendid, more wise, if not the garb is thrown to the corner, since it does not add to this kingly image of the person.
Ahamkara as a healthy aspect of the mind is just a sense of "I exist". Misplaced ego, ego on a throne, becomes a hungry ghost, pulling to itself anything that can strengthen its image, in fear and anguish of being recognized as a false king. So unhealthy attachments known as ego boosters bring company of greed, lust, anger, arrogance, intolerance, repulsion, delusion. We cannot anymore recognize who is under the pile of important and ridiculous, under this self made construct. So why we are afraid of being nobody or rather somebody else ? You are not afraid, the ego is ! The ego is not You, it is false usurper. The mind has a usurper mind installed. And now it becomes a dangerous game. This usurper is very tricky to catch. To remove. The answer is Awareness.
What steps did I take to become more aware in my life?
The drama of ridiculous complications covered one real feeling - NOT BEING ADEQUATE. This was a sad feeling in me, deficiency of love forced me to prove that I was as good as everyone else. Worth to be loved. So my first step in awareness: instead of proving to be worth of love, I was to create love for myself. This meant that I had to stop hurting myself along the way. Ahimsa - non violence, first toward myself.
So I started with Ahimsa, the first Yama of Patanjali Yoga. I started looking at how I was self-sabotaging myself, how I was going to fail myself over and over again, to feel not adequate. I found that this sabotage to strenghten the ego construct of feeling not adequate would expand into every corner of my life. The outside problem consumerism, the inside problem was pleasing others. Or even more precise, the outside consumerism and pleasing, the inside growing anger and being exhausted. I had spent money that I could have use for a real needs of mine, instead I invested this energy in building facade to prove that I was good enough.
So to stop the vines of the usurper, this false entity, the false persona on me, the ego, I have started trimming first the leaves on outside, because the deep emotional stuff was intertwined. I do not know how deep these roots are, where they star, who is the builder of this structure.
I decided to stop buying clothes and accessories, used or new for one year. For me this was the scariest thing because in some way it has become my identity, my colourful personality, my grounding. My ego felt good when I had something new shiny and hip. Even now, when I write this, my stomach turns. I have to actually observe my feelings, my energy, and this way recognize my addiction. I started to bring life into the Yama’s and Niyamas by bringing them home… bringing them to what I was and have been avoiding.
Yama and Niyama
The Rishis came to the realization thousands of years ago, that when one tires of the up and down pulls of the mind, when all things that supposed to make us happy, do not actually lessen our suffering at all, this moment we are ready to start the practice of Yoga.
Rishi Patanjali created a simplified map of the road to become liberated. Liberated from what and to what ? Liberated from the cause of suffering, to live life without fear. This map is known as the YAMA & NIYAMA of Patanjali. These are first to limbs of Yoga.
Yama is the outward expression of oneself, our guiding social cod.
Niyama is an inner expression of oneself, or guiding personal cod of discipline.
With awareness, we can shine the light into many dark corners of ourselves. My mind like all other minds is complex, but at the same time simple, great energy to be managed and used for my own life to become meaningful. I am observing resistance to make this ride easy, natural, effortless by letting go of deeply seeded attachments, old programs and rusted constructs of the ego. Not even mine. What is this ego anyway ? I know that I exist, but I also know that I am only a part of this divine play. I am, and I know my place. I play according to my place in this universe of diversities. I accept who I am, I accept my nature, I accept my role. There is nothing that I can add to make more of me, to be whole, but also nothing can make less of me, when I give away. I am who I am. I am whole already, always was and will be.
For now I am simplifying in the most outwardly way...letting go of buying. Letting go of buying is to stop lying to myself, this will never fill up deep need within me. Maybe along the way I will discover another branch, perhaps a trunk and finally the root of my attachment. For now I am only learning how to be with this fear, while I am committed to simplify my life. I will be chasing this fear until I hear the innocent child running and laughing.