We can’t possess anything anyway, so it is funny to me how hard we try. We use things and people to prop our insecurities on. It is like putting chains on these things and demanding them to never move, never change, and be available when we need them to make us exceptionally happy. We attempt to freeze joy so we can visit it when we are feeling depleted.
Patanjali knew that what we hold onto creates a problem not only for others, but for ourselves. Our fear of loss and losing causes us great suffering. (Patanjali expands this concept with the kleshas.) We alternate between anger and grief, constricting ourselves against life and missing the grace that is trying to find us. And by making ourselves a subject and everything else a possession, we become a lonely ruler of a kingdom devoid of relational opportunities.
These practices of restraint are difficult for those of us cultured in American ideals. We tend to hide violence under the voice of freedom, to be in love with the image of success, to justify our right to take what we think we need in the name of progress and civilization, to drown ourselves in noise, stimulation, and drivenness so we can’t see or hear the sacred, and to amass possessions as a sign of competency. And we have come to love the positive upbeat side of thinking which holds unpleasantness prisoner; we don’t want to disturb ourselves by acknowledging disturbances.
We are a great nation and a great people who have gotten ourselves out of balance. Restraint is not a bad thing or a negative thing. It is a much needed grace that can feel like a fresh breeze blowing a new hope and possibility in our individual and collective lives. It is an effort that can begin to bring us the very things we are longing for. And it is only the first step.