Happy Valentines Day everyone! A day of roses, romance or repulsion. If you’re with someone, it’s full of expectation that your special someone has to do something for you, or else they don’t really care. If your single, you cringe at the excessive PDAs (public displays of affection), overplayed diamond ads, and gaudy material items being sold at every corner.
This year, instead of loving or hating Valentine’s Day, I’m going to use it as an opportunity to foster my yogi values from the great Patanjali. Ages ago, this legend compiled the Yoga Sutras, and set out the foundations of yoga philosophy. One of the keys to reaching liberation and clearing the mind is to overcome the Kleshas, or afflictions of the mind that make us suffer in this life. I want to focus on two of these Kleshas.
Raga - desire, wanting. That which makes us chase only what is pleasurable in our minds, and makes us want to repeat the experience continuously. Like, having a wildly romantic romp with your lover, after a candle-lit dinner followed by chocolate dipped strawberries. Every year, you want this experience, or better, and you’re drawn to this particular date because it’s a special time when you can relive that moment.
Dwesha - repulsion. The opposite of raga, it makes us run from the undesirable and unpleasant. It’s full of disgust, negativity, and blocks us in moving forward. So you hate the idea of anything that screams lovey-dovey, because you might throw up a little. It makes you despise this particular holiday because it makes you feel nothing but hurt and disappointment inside.
The Kleshas are afflictions of the mind. Not the heart. Valentine’s Day is just another day that we decide whether we like it or not. The day itself is just a perception that we have created in amongst our many afflictions. We suffer because we allow this day to take on an importance in our lives. We are stronger than that. We don’t let society create our expectations. Instead, let go and let it be as it is. It’s a day of love, so love fully and consciously.
I’m usually the cringing type that loves to bad mouth February the 14th, but secretly I always hope something special and unexpected will happen. Which again, is an expectation, and therefore will ultimately lead me to suffer in my own disappointment.
This year, I’m going to fight the Kleshas, those petty afflictions, and embrace the day as though it’s a greater excuse to send all my compassion to everyone I meet. To those I don’t see, I’ll be sending some your way too. It will also be a chance to focus more on self-love. Why not? Who said that Valentine’s Day is only about love for another. How about loving yourself first? I think that means I have an excuse to eat some dark chocolate, and then some.
I dare you to try: Watch your mind, and see where it goes when you see a cheesy advertisement, or when you go on a date with your partner. Try to stay present and embrace every moment as it comes, without expectation, clinging, or wanting more. Everything you need is right there, so enjoy it.
Only think or say positive comments towards yourself all day. Avoid the negativity that you hold on to. Take a break for at least one full day. So instead of saying “I like” or “I don’t like” try to stay neutral.
Love yourself and love others with the fullest of your compassionate heart.
Misery and joy have the same shape in this world:
You may call the rose an open heart or a broken heart.
-Dard (Sufi wisdom)
Shannon Lough is a 200RYT, who completed her yoga and Thai massage training with Yogi-Nomad in Nepal. She practices daily, and follows the principles of Tibetan and Zen Buddhism, after traveling to India and living in Japan for three years. She is a marathon runner, a hardy backpacker, and an avid writer. If you have any questions or comments please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org