I recently read a quote by William Blake, an English poet, that said "Kiss the joy as it flies." I love it because, within the quotation marks, is one of the most difficult practices yoga presents to us. How do we recognize that the experiences we associate with joy and happiness are transient-as are all of our emotions and experiences- and yet enjoy them and participate in them fully at the same time? How do we interact with our experiences, embrace them and watch them pass?
Yoga philosophy encourages us to practice abhyasa-vairagya, or practice with full commitment and dispassion for the results, as part of our ongoing dialogue with the experiences of life. It is a practice that feels counterintuitive to us. When we care so deeply for something that it elicits our full attention, it is quite difficult to let go of the outcome. Sometimes the only reason we dedicate ourselves so completely to something is because of that expected outcome. And so it feels like a journey with no destination, or work with no reward. Ironically, that is the very lesson that abhyasa-vairagya is attempting to teach us. If we live in the actual moment we are occupying instead of the one we are waiting for, the reward actually becomes the moment itself and becomes inseparable from it.
The practice of abhyasa-vairagya requires us to re-wire the way we look at our work, our relationships and everything that absorbs our time and our hearts. lt asks us to place the attachment and desires for the outcome back into the work itself, and to be satisfied by that. It invites us to witness the fleeting nature of things and, rather than be saddened by that, to live as fully as the moment allows. Once our actions move through our hands, it is no longer ours to hold. That doesn't diminish the love of the work or the person or the circumstance, but it does create a quiet urgency to be fully alive in that circumstance so we don't miss the chance to actually experience it before it takes flight. We participate with no expectation except for the one that says, this moment is perfect as it is and deserves all I can give to it, for then it will be gone.
Abhyasa-vairagya is a full recognition of the arising and dissolving of life's moments and an understanding of which part of the cycle we can affect and which part is beyond our control. In that knowledge there is peace and in that awareness there is a chance to "kiss the joy before it flies."