We’ve all been tempted to run out and buy that new tablet computer, the latest fashion fad, the most up-to-date living room furnishings. We may spend hours or days thinking about a dream house, an ideal car or the wardrobe we’ll buy when we win the lottery. We’re not alone in these longings.
Many of us are attached to material goods. We ‘re also bombarded by advertisements, billboards and telemarketers — all of whom want to sell us stuff. “If you buy this/use this/do this/wear this you will be happy,” they say. But despite the fact we continue to acquire things (our personal and household debt levels have risen significantly in the last decade), we don’t seem to be any happier. Along with debt, depression is on the rise. Perhaps we need to collectively revisit the yogic philosophy of vairagya and apply it to our daily choices.
The concept of vairagya is the practice of non-attachment. In its application, vairagya requires us to avoid being tied to material or sensual comforts and to avoid relying on these trappings for contentment.
It may seem a lofty goal, the forsaking of the pleasure we derive from our possessions. But vairagya doesn’t mean we can’t have nice things or buy the things we need. It means we need to rethink the importance we assign to such things and instead focus on the importance of what truly matters to us. Our happiness should not be measured by the number of possessions we have or by the labels we buy.
We have all felt the pleasure derived from purchasing some fabulous item. But this fleeting joy is eventually diminished and it leaves behind a space that needs to be filled once more. When we are able to find contentment in our own self, our life and the world around us, we’re no longer defined by the job we do, the clothes we wear or the cars we drive. And this is a freeing concept.
As with many tenets of yoga, vairagya is a practice that takes thought, discipline and awareness. There will always be shiny new things to tempt us, to cloud our sense of self and draw our attention away from what’s really important. But by letting go of our attachment to these things, we’re actually discovering one of the keys to lifelong happiness.
Annabel Fitzsimmons is a freelance writer, runner, yoga and Pilates teacher and a mother of two young children. She blogs — as MeditatingMummy — about taking yoga off the mat and into motherhood.