As humans we become habituated to certain things within our environment, social structure, and interpersonal relationships. As a direct result of this, we develop certain boundaries around our experience of enjoyment and satisfaction; these are called preferences. So the human prerogative to choose amongst our preferences, in many cases, is equivalent to the human prerogative to choose amongst our fetters. In the yogic understanding these preferences can be experienced in two forms; Raga: likes and Dvesha: dislikes.
According to Swami Sivananda:
“Raga-Dvesha in the mind is the real Karma. It is the original action. When the mind is set in motion or vibration through the currents of Raga-Dvesha, real Karmas begin. Real Karma originates from Sankalpas (desire) of the mind. It is the actions of the mind that are truly termed Karmas. External actions manifest later on. It is desire that sets the mind in motion. When there is a desire, Raga and Dvesha exist side by side in the mind. Desire is a motive force. Emotions and impulses co-exist with desire.”
Take, for example, the case of thirst. If you have the habit of drinking soda when you are thirsty, the brain habituates to the soda, creating a preference for soda. Then, when you experience a feeling of thirst, you will more than likely reach for a soda instead of an alternative. Consequently, when soda is unavailable, forcing you to choose a less preferable alternative, dissatisfaction occurs. Essentially, the habit has limited your capacity to enjoy.
So, we learn how to enjoy life through our habits; binding ourselves through repetition and precedent. We derive a sense of satisfaction and a feeling of security from indulging our “likes” and rejecting our “dislikes”. Unfortunately, this indulgence only provides us with a “sense” of satisfaction and a “feeling” of security. And, as Swami Sivananda so aptly points out, this process is deeply interwoven with our emotions and impulses. Therefore, the indulgence of raga (likes) presumes the presence of fear and anger. This, because in the absence of the object of our desire, we are bound to become angry and dreadfully fearful of being without.
So, although it is not immediately obvious, detachment from our creature comforts, our status symbols, and our expectations of others is a more direct route to a truly enjoyable and satisfying life. Furthermore, and most fortunately, we never have to try to detach ourselves from anything. Trying to detach doesn't work and can, in fact, be counterproductive. Instead, focusing our attention in this moment on gratitude, abundance, and love will attract those same qualities to us. Where your attention goes, your energy flows. And the more you do it, the more you'll do it.
For more information on how to implement this process, come to a yoga class with Heather Promise.
Heather Promise is a perpetual scholar whose commitment to yoga is the guiding force in her personal, professional, and academic pursuits. Her dedication to yoga has spanned the last 15-years, and she has been teaching for nine of those years.