I love my new house. It’s super cute, it’s the perfect size, and it’s on the same street as Westport Yoga so I can often walk to work. I love the craftsman style woodwork, the lofted home office and the spacious kitchen (WITH a dishwasher!). It’s seriously the best little rental for my little family. However, it was quite a different story five months ago. I didn’t want to move. At all. My Ironman expected to drag me out of our old house kicking and screaming. I wasn’t ready for change.
You know that saying: “The only thing constant in life is change”?
It’s probably true, but I still don’t like it.
Last year, I thought I had the perfect set up: I had hand-tailored my yoga teaching schedule, I had refined my weekly walking routes with Russell Clive, I had regular coffee dates with a Mentor… life was good. I remember saying, “Everything is perfect; I don’t want anything to change next year.”
‘Well, guess what, honey,’ the Universe said, ‘That’s impossible. So get ready.’
The worldview in yoga includes the belief that all of creation is in a constant state of flux. This means that what we see may not actually be permanent reality. The two Sanskrit terms used interchangeably in the Yoga Sutras to describe this are Drsya and Prakriti.
Prakriti is the opposite side of the coin to Purusha, the term for the Light of awareness inside each of us that is immutable and non-transitory (read about Purusha here.) Prakriti describes ‘what is seeable’ and what we observe through our senses, which is then filtered through our citta (heart-mind field of consciousness.)
Why is this important? Because most of us experience anxiety and distress when things change. Some changes may actually be positive (i.e. my new house has TWO bathrooms AND a dishwasher!) but we cling to old attachments and try to stop the natural progression of life; then we get frustrated when our efforts are in vain.
As scholar Nicolai Bachman writes, “Understanding the transitory nature of all things is prerequisite to letting go of expectations and attachments.”
This is really hard to do if you don’t like change. (Join the club.) In fact, understanding the transitory nature of all things and being ok with it is probably my principle challenge right now. I understand that I am the ‘seer’ and all that I ‘see’ is being filtered through my emotional (and very busy) citta, and I understand that everything I perceive and feel is according to my perspective. What I think of as a heartbreaking change (like moving out of a house I loved) someone else may think of as an exciting and fulfilling new adventure. It’s all in perspective, just like the time I had to practice on top of a picnic table.
But how the heck do I not get upset when things are changing and I liked them just the way they were?
What the Yoga Sutras tell us is that we can alleviate some of our suffering by distinguishing between what changes and what never changes.
Basically, if it changes, grows, shrinks, ages, dissipates, erupts or ultimately goes away, it’s probably in the Prakriti category, and it won’t help us move toward clarity and enlightenment if we hold on to it for dear life. Even extremely distressing emotional states such as grief, depression, and anxiety will evolve, change and dissolve over time. Just like Thich Naht Hanh told us in this post, suffering can be transformed, and it won’t last forever. However, if what you are experiencing is part of the conscious, permanent inner light of awareness that pervades our impermanent reality, then it belongs in the Purusha camp. That, we can rely on.
I am NOT AT ALL the Master of this concept, but I’m trying to get it. I’m trying to view material things as manifestations of an ever changing world, and think: “That’s just life, moving right along, and I am a small part of it!”
And maybe next time I move to a new house, I’ll look forward to the change.
What changes are happening in your life right now? Are you able to welcome these changes or are you resisting them? Are you able to separate what is part of the ‘seeable world’ (drysa or prakriti) and what is made of pure conscious awareness (purusha)? How can these two concepts change your world view?