Abhinivesa: Clinging to life, fear of death
Self-preservation or attachment to life is the subtlest of all afflictions. It is found even in wise men.
— B.K.S. Iyengar. Light On The Yoga Sutras, p116
“Many ask me whether pranayama, controlling the breath, postpones old age. Why worry about it? Death is certain. Let it come when it comes. Just keep working. The Soul has no age. It doesn’t die. Only the body decays. And yet, we must never forget the body, since it is the garden we must cherish and cultivate.”
–BKS Iyengar, Light on Life, p. 104-5
Abhinivesa is instinctive, it is a desire to prolong one’s life and a concern for one’s survival. Socially it can make one suspicious in dealings with others and can cause one to become selfish and self-centered. Practically it is fear of falling, that instinctive reaction that keeps us from toppling over. On our mats it makes us reluctant to explore and go deeper. It becomes a convenient excuse for stopping. Often in class when I am teaching a balance pose a student will fall and then apologize. But I like to applaud that student because more often that not that person has had the courage to move into something new, has taken a chance on letting go of perceived boundries in order to explore without censoring him/herself. We all know how difficult that is.
“Long Afternoon at the Edge of Little Sister Pond”
As for life,
I’m without words
sufficient to say
how it has been hard as flint,
and soft as a spring pond,
both of these
over and over,
and long pale afternoons besides,
and so many mysteries
beautiful as eggs in a nest,
though warm and watched over
by something I have never seen–
a tree angel, perhaps,
or a ghost of holiness.
Every day I walk out into the world
to be dazzled, then to be reflective.
It suffices, it is all comfort–
along with human love,
dog love, water love, little-serpent love,
sunburst love, or love for that smallest of birds
flying among the scarlet flowers.
There is hardly time to think about
stopping, and lying down at last
to the long afterlife, to the tenderness
yet to come, when
time will brim over the singular pond, and become forever,
and we will pretend to melt away into the leaves.
As for death,
I can’t wait to be the hummingbird,
–Mary Oliver, from New and Selected Poems Vol II, p. 108-9