In yoga philosophy, we learn that the greatest causes of our own suffering are due to mental obstacles known as the Kleshas (poisons in Sanskrit). These mental obstacles, when active, serve as the motivation for what we do, while keeping us from a sense of what is real and true. Two of the Kleshas we encounter frequently are Raga (attachment) and Dvesha (aversion). These two mindsets cause us to pursue those things that we believe bring us some sort of pleasure and retreat from those things we perceive to be unpleasant. The reason these thought patterns can cause suffering is because they are essentially moving targets. For instance, a fantastic bottle of wine (pleasure) has the capacity to bring a hangover just like going to the dentist (unpleasant) reaps great health benefits (an oversimplification I know but you get the idea). What we perceive to be pleasurable, when outside of us, is impermanent and subject to loss. What we think is painful can actually be exactly what we need but, if we run from it, we never know. It is a common human tendency to fear not having the things we desire and to fear having to live with the things that we dislike.
Let’s put this in modern day terms. Raga (attachment) can be represented as FOMO (fear of missing out). With FOMO we become anxious and attached to the idea that there is something externally gratifying we are missing like a job, a relationship, going to a social event or looking a particular way. Because we are wired to pursue pleasure, FOMO pushes us to organize ourselves around the pursuit of that pleasure. This pursuit is endlessly unsatisfying and unsuccessful when we realize looking externally for our personal happiness will never yield what we want. Dvesha (aversion) can be represented by FOF (fear of failure). With FOF we organize our actions to avoid failing in order to prove we are worthy, valuable and useful beings. We are so afraid of failing that we avoid interactions, experiences and opportunities that may be outside our comfort zone just to appear like we have it all under control. But most of us know that fear of failure may be hindering choices that will bring us growth.
The commonality between these two conditions is twofold. One is that both Raga/attachment/FOMO and Dvesha/aversion/FOF are essentially fears and anytime we choose out of fear we are made small and separate from our true nature. Secondly, they are both defined by external measures. When we live our lives from the outside in, we lose touch with our own authenticity and wisdom. In dealing with fear, our work is not to eliminate it, whether it is fear of missing out or fear of failure, but rather to transform the way we relate to it. We can recognize it as the origin of our actions and make different choices, even if the fear itself remains. We can also begin to see that when we look for things outside of us to make us complete, we are looking in the wrong direction.
Yoga exists as a practice in order to help illuminate our original condition of wholeness and connection to Source. The state of fear is the antithesis of that essential condition and lures us farther from it. Being human, we will always be drawn towards alleviating that feeling and filling that void. The key is to choose wisely and meaningfully so our pursuits are productive. Beneath the push and the pull, the chasing and retreating, the attachment and aversion there is a saner way to live. Through the practice of yoga, we aim to remove this sense of being separate and realize that there is nothing we are missing that isn’t already within us. There is nothing that fear can do for us that love cannot do better.
Written by Liz Ortiz