Thought Bite: The Dance of Practice and Detachment

One of the goals of yoga is to cultivate a stable, clear, and calm mind, and this doesn't happen by wishful thinking nor by simple choice. Rather, doing so takes effort, to pacify the emotions, reduce mental agitation, and train the mind to become steady, focused and one-pointed. The effort the yogi makes to transform the mind in this way is called abhyāsa, that is, practice. Abhyāsa means engaging, with persistence, in actions that bring about change to the patterns of the mind.

Although abhyāsa is an essential ingredient in the change process, it's not enough. To change we also need to let go of where we began. This letting go is called vairāgya, that is, detachment or dispassion. If my practice is to step from here to there, to make progress I have to detach from here to get to there. Otherwise I can't move at all. Abhyāsa means loosening our grasping, becoming less attached and occurs on many levels: We begin learning to be less attached to gross things, and as we progress learn to loosen our hold on subtler things, such as our emotional habits and who we think we are.

Abhyāsa and vairāgya are two parts of a single process, and both are essential to progress toward the goal of cultivating a calm, clear, and focused mind.

During the next week pay attention to your own abhyāsa [practice] and vairāgya [detachment], and notice how they work together. If you'd like to learn more, see chapter one, sūtras 12 through 16, of the Yoga Sūtras of Patanjali.


19 Dec 2021;
07:00PM - 08:00PM
Full Moon Meditation 2020