This is one of the greatest spiritual skills to learn, and one of the most difficult. It is the key to surfing life’s waves with ease and one of thesurest ways to achieve joy.
When I first taught this at a Buddhist kids camp (the Buddhists call it Equanimity and it is one of the “four immeasurables”, which are also discussed in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali), we struggled to teach it in a clear way that was not inadvertently teaching Equanimity’s “near enemy” – apathy. How do you distinguish between non-attachment and non-engagement with life itself?
I like Yogananda’s name for it, which is Even-mindedness. At Living Wisdom’s kids yoga camp in Portland, we chose Even-mindedness as our theme for a day. Rose, the director of the Portland school, illustrated it in a way that the kids could easily grasp. She had one hand moving in a straight line parallel to the floor, and the other hand was making large waves. She would tell a story and the wave-making hand would go up with the good parts and down with the bummer parts of the story. It was the perfect illustration of Even-mindedness.
But there is also an importance to teaching it as non-attachment. I think non-attachment is powerful if students KNOW that their feelings are valued and important. There is a saying sometimes used with kids: “You get what you get and you don’t get upset”. I experienced a jarring aversion to this saying recently while hearing it over and over in a children’s play. I was musing about what the Living Wisdom version might be. Perhaps, “you get what you get and it’s okay to get upset, but don’t get attached to that upset-ness”. Learning how to accept our feelings and find a way to move on with life is a powerful lesson for kids and adults alike.
This month, we will explore ways of teaching non-attachment. This is how we can learn to surf the waves that life brings us.