Last week I learned the yogic concept of setting an intention and noticing changes – one of the many lessons I’ve learned on the mat that apply to life off the mat.
Another piece of yogi wisdom lies in the balance between the companion practices of abhyasa and vairagya. Put simply, these are the yin and yang of doing your best and letting go of the results.
Practice and detachment. Effort and surrender. Pursuit and dispassion. Continuous improvement while remaining centered and present. You show up for practice every damn day, but you don’t listen when your ego starts whispering in your ear about how good you are or aren’t, how good you should be, whether you’re improving fast enough, how good others are, etc.
There are two directions that one can go in life as well as individual actions, speech, or thoughts. One direction is towards truth, reality, Self, or spiritual realization. The other direction is opposite, and involves those lifestyles, actions, speech, and thoughts that take one away from the higher experiences.
Abhyasa means cultivating the lifestyle, actions, speech, and thoughts, as well as the spiritual practices that lead in the positive direction (rather than going in the opposite direction, away from the positive, and towards the negative).
Vairagya is the practice of gradually letting go of the mental colorings that lead one away from the spiritual (rather than going in the opposite direction, giving in to the attachments and aversions).
[thanks to swamij.com for the definitions]