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With this insight comes nirodha, or cessation. This is the third noble truth of the Buddha, often used as a synonym for nirvana and also Patanjali’s definition of yoga. Practicing asana, we may notice many small cessations. We may experience a pleasant sensation and the arising of a mental formation. With mindfulness, we see attachment, and based upon an awareness of impermanence, the attachment fades away. It happens once, and then again and again. Over time, the fading away continues until that particular attachment ceases. This is a small, but potentially profound taste of liberation.
Finally comes letting go. But there is also the insight that it is not you that lets go. Throughout practice, there was still that final vestige of self-consciousness that could take credit for the insight into impermanence and cessation. The final thing to let go of is the idea of a separate enduring self. The irony is that this is a letting go of what was never there.
This isn’t letting go of one thing in order to grasp something else. Letting go means to see through all that keeps us separated from reality as it is. The supposed boundary between self and other is seen as not real. Nothing needs to be removed or added or joined together. Enlightenment and liberation come not by turning away from our human condition, but rather arise within it, and as its fulfillment. This letting go means being with whatever is happening, free of personal agenda. When the desire arises that something be other than it is, we see through it to its fading away and ceasing.
From the July 2009 issue of the Shambhala Sun.
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