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Practicing non attachment…in action

The past couple of years have been a continuation of a long transformation process for me, made more dramatic by the birth of my son, a few life threatening health incidents, and changes in my practice and satsang. Looking back, it is easy to see that everything happened exactly as it should have to deliver me into this moment, sitting under the shelter of an expansive fig tree with the warmth of the sun and the coolness of the ever-present Provence breeze. An angelic friend of mine often reminds me that everything works out as it should in life; more smoothly, more organically, when we let go of the reigns of our mind and let events and circumstance slip into their own place. This is a guiding principle of my practice.

However, there are moments in life when activation is necessary. Just as in the asana practice when we let the breath carry our practice while we control the breath, body and mind, in life too there is a balance between the elements we control, and those we release from our grip.

I have thought countless times about how much in life to let go of, and how much to actively pursue or plan, and will undoubtedly continue to ponder this for a long time to come. For now, I’ve come to believe that mindfulness, self-observation and the questioning of intent can help to guide the way. I’m not speaking of the type of planning involved for an activity or event. I’m more interested in observing and exploring the letting go of or manipulation of relationships. Ultimately its all about the relationship with the self, and secondarily how we relate to others.

Here is an example. Suppose a colleague, and someone you considered a friend, has been speaking poorly about you behind your back. You have some things you are working on together, so simple avoidance isn’t an option. Do you confront the person, and if so, why? Or do you let the situation go, continuing on in the relationship as if unaware?

It’s my belief that if one looks deeply into why the negative words were spoken — is there a truth to what was said? Were the words said for the benefit of you, or some reason beyond boosting the speaker’s ego? Is there a reason they weren’t said directly to you? — then this line of question and observation can help to guide the intent of a reaction. What would the purpose of a confrontation be — to redeem oneself? To cause the other harm as their words may have caused you? To clear the air? To reassert one’s integrity?

As someone who used to jump the gun and think that everything could be ‘fixed’ through an honest heart to heart chat, I have learned through experience that we never really know what is going on in another person’s mind or heart. We don’t have the ability to see eye to eye with everyone, and prior to engaging with someone who has said or done something malicious, it is wise to know one’s purpose of discussion. If the goal is anything other than beneficial to both parties, then it’s probably not worth it. As good as it may feel in the moment to cause harm to someone who has in some way caused harm to you, this never ends in a good way. If the purpose is meant to bring about a positive resolution then it could be worthwhile, even if this may mean saying goodbye to the relationship.

With every goodbye comes a new opportunity for a hello; an opportunity to build a healthy relationship based on mutual respect and sharing of truths.

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