By Hannah Maria
In Yoga philosophy, there are five types of suffering, referred to as the ‘kleshas’. The kleshas can be thought of as afflictions, negative mental states, or obstacles to enlightenment.
When we overcome the kleshas, we overcome our mental suffering and experience Yoga.
Here I want to talk about just one of the kleshas — abhinivesha — which means fear of death. It can also be interpreted more generally as resistance to change. I first wrote about this at the end of week 3 of the COVID-19 lockdown here in the UK, without knowing how many more weeks lie ahead. As we continue to contemplate the uncertainty of our immediate future, it seems an appropriate time to study abhinivesha.
When we fear death, we cling on to life. When we fear change, we cling on to what is. This clinging breeds a fear-based narrative across our everyday experience. Instead of experiencing how wonderful something or someone is in the present, we instead contemplate the experience of losing it. The result is that we replace opportunities for joy and connection with fear.
Yoga teaches us that change is constant. It reminds us that everything is in transition, whether we realise it or not. The Buddhist doctrine of Impermanence is an essential one. The doctrine asserts that all of conditioned existence, without exception, is “transient, evanescent, inconstant”.
Yogis expect change and are well practiced at responding to it. The best response is the ability to live in the present by controlling the thought energy to stop the mind from fluctuating into past and future.
This can be achieved by regular practice of Yoga, by controlling your breath as a practice. This will help you be here, now, and to appreciate the beauty and joy of being alive wherever you are, in whatever circumstance. To experience the joy of what is instead of mourning the projected loss of what isn’t.