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Christmas over, still time for Hanukkah

December 27, 2016


Still struggling to find the perfect gift for that special yogi on your list? Considering Christmas has passed, your shopping game will have to be strong to beat the looming Hanukkah deadline. Likely, you’ve enacted your contingency plan and upgraded to Prime. Fortunately, there is still hope, and it isn’t 2 day free shipping!

You won’t find the perfect gift in stores, or even on the internet. Give the gift of vairagya, and skip the lines this holiday season! Vairagya is not only a great way to soften the financial blow of an overblown commercial holiday, but it will help your favorite yogi on their way to enlightenment.

What is this magical, special, FREE gift? It is renunciation, or in common parlance non-attachment. We humans constantly form attachments not only to material objects, but also to people, places and even feelings. The true benefit of vairagya is to be freed from the passions of pleasure and pain caused by attachment, which are impediments to meditation. Vairagya, an existential concept, is an unconventional gift at best; perhaps the antithesis of a gift. Your unique and thoughtful gift will not fill the Christmas stockings by the fireplace, so carefully hung. There is no tool measure the quality of your new “vairagya” in color, cut, karat or brilliance, but it will provide mental clarity.

In the enduring yoga traditions, we often think of renunciation in terms of material things. The image of a filthy, bedraggled mendicant comes to mind, or a pious monk. Relinquishing your worldly goods is a start, but not necessarily the summation of vairagya. Possessions can cause great mental distraction: take for instance a smartphone. Never has a possession become an appendage so thoroughly that wasn’t a prosthetic limb. Aside from stalking high school classmates, you depend on it for organization and basic contact. Without it, you are cut off from society and panic ensues. You may be able to conjure some focus and bravely proceed to the store to replace it, but until your phone is back in hand and your mind at ease, it would be fairly difficult to meditate.

More problematic and nuanced than material attachments are the immaterial attachments. Imagine the crushing heartbreak of a lost love. Another person was your true north, and your reason for getting up in the morning. Once that person was gone, depression loomed, food seemed unpalatable and marathon sleeping became your new favorite exercise. Meditation is difficult under the best of circumstances, let alone under emotional duress. A physical asana practice can prepare your body for meditation, but mental preparation is even more rigorous (and elusive). Giving up attachments is a most arduous task, but it is part of a cadre of necessities for preparing for a successful meditation practice.

Vairagya is a difficult gift to give, so perhaps merely put forward the suggestion this holiday season. While you can’t put vairagya in brown paper packaging, tied up with string, you can at least know that your metaphysical gift isn’t dooming their meditation practice or ultimately their enlightenment. Not contributing to the already unchecked amount of holiday waste paper is an added bonus. Happy holidays, but don’t get too attached

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