I am an avid to-do list creator. I write them weekly if not daily, listing every little thing I want to accomplish. Take the trash out, plan a yoga class, respond to emails, water the plants, write my newsletter, clean the kitchen, take a yoga class, go to the grocery store ... If it needs to be done, it goes on the list. The process of creating the list helps me feel organized, and the feeling of completing my list, seeing everything crossed off, is euphoric. I love knowing I had a productive day and I chase that sensation. In order to obtain it, I rush through all of my tasks and find myself in a panicked frenzy. I need to complete my entire list today (an arbitrary deadline). If I do not, then I feel like a terrible person. A nonproductive slob.
When I first learned of raga, or attachment, one of the kleshas in yogic tradition and a cause of suffering, I shrugged it off. I am not attached to any material object. I do not need purses, clothes, a big house, or any sort or things. I do not tie my happiness to objects. I am not attached to anything. Oh I was so naive! According to B.K.S. Iyengar raga is "the emotional bondage to any source of pleasure, manifesting in extreme forms of an inability to let go of anything". Looking back at my obsession with completing a self created to-do list, I'd say I'm rather attached to the feelings I get when I cross off the last item.
My first come back to that realization is "Who cares if you are attached to being productive? That's not a bad thing. It can't possibly lead to suffering." Oh but it can! For example, when I reached "plan your yoga class" on the list I groaned. I knew that it was going to take a very long time and possibly prevent me from competing other tasks on my list. With this mind set, I rushed through the process of planning a class. As a result, I resented something I normally very much enjoy doing (creating suffering when there could be joy), and I usually feel as though I have created a sh*tty class because I did not allow myself time to read, study, and practice (created suffering towards myself instead of happiness). I am so focused on completing the to-do list and obtaining that momentary euphoric bliss that I fail to embrace other joys that are right right in front of me. I am creating my own suffering by holding on to the notion that I must complete all tasks on my to-do list by an artificial deadline. It is ridiculous.
Now, I am not implying that I do not need to complete my to-do list, as all the listed items have to be done. And I am also not saying that I need to enjoy all the tasks on the list (I will never enjoy taking out the trash). What I am trying to suggest is maybe I should release my hold on needing a fully crossed off list at a certain time and to not chase that pleasurable feeling of being done. I should allow myself to experience that feeling when and if it ever occurs, but I should not tie my happiness up with it. Instead, maybe I should start on the list and see where it takes me. Enjoy the things I innately do and take my time.
Raga is a sneaky little thing that latches on in the most secretive ways. And we always have excuses ready to justify why in fact we do "need" A, B, and C. The next time you hear yourself saying "I have to do this" or "I need that", or if you find yourself reluctant to let something go, step back. See if you really do need it to be happy, and what you are giving up if you hold onto it. Now excuse me, I have to go start the next item on my list....