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What Falls Away

Updated: Nov 6, 2021

This is the season for letting go of what no longer serves or supports you.

The teaching of the malas is an idea from Hinduism that outlines three ways in which our consciousness cloaks itself, obscuring our true nature and access to true peace. Three attitudes, essentially, that we can practice allowing to fall away, so that we can be freed into our best selves.

The first is anava mala, what Tara Brach calls "the trance of unworthiness." This is the pattern of thinking too much about ourselves, and too little of ourselves. In anava mala, we get insecure—we feel we are incomplete, and the information we get from the outside world only makes us feel worse. Everyone else seems so successful, so happy, so fulfilled, especially on social media (sound familiar?). When this mala shows up for me, I find it helps to take a temporary fast from social media, to let it go. It is hard sometimes to feel connected to each other, to our best selves and the divine, when our attention is pulled in all the directions the media/social media point to. It is oh, so easy to get caught up in thinking that we are incomplete without more likes or followers or book deals or pets or children or money, or whatever “everyone else” seems to be enjoying. If lately there is something external you feel you need in order to be happy—it might be time to let go.

Second is maiya mala, the idea that we are separate from one another, that sense of being other, disconnected. We compare ourselves to each other (right?), we focus too much on other people and measuring up. Whereas with anava mala, there was too much subject, we were caught up in ourselves, with maiya mala, there is too much object—we are caught up in other people, and in our minds, worrying what they think of us. Sound familiar at all? We all do this, to some extent, and it's a great time to practice letting that veil fall away like autumn leaves. Are you with me?

So, there's another way in which this thinking that we're other, separate, disconnected actually makes us act as if we're other, separate, and disconnected, and can then reinforce that illusion of separation by isolating us from one another. If we are worried about others judging us, and about measuring up, we may begin to act the part of someone who has it all together, pretending that we're perfect—then we can't express vulnerability, ask for help, feel connected to others around us. Maiya mala shows up in those feelings of envy—why does she get all the awards? Why don't I have the status he has? When is it going to be my turn to have a partner/wedding/baby/house/ vacation (fill in the blank with that thing you've been craving)? Maiya mala shows up as irritability, scorn, and the attitude, "Oh, that person is nothing like me..." I see it come up for my yoga students when they get frustrated that their practice isn’t as strong as it used to be, when they get worried about their ability to "keep up" with other students. But the deeper reality is that we are all connected, and shine with the same divine essence.

Last is karma mala (“karma” here refers to action). Karma mala is all of our misaligned thoughts surrounding our actions: our tendency to be a human doing rather than a human being; our tendency to create identities for ourselves based on our accomplishments and activities rather than our character; to equate our worth with our productivity or career achievements. It includes the fear that we'll do the wrong thing, and the anxiety that our actions are not enough, that we lack the power to effect change in our own lives and in our society.

This season, we are encouraged to let these veils and illusions fall away, to notice our tendencies to think in these ways, and acknowledge instead that we are powerful, especially when we connect to community and the divine.

Power up this week by tapping into your Source, however feels right to you!

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