Self-preservation or attachment to life is the subtlest of all afflictions. It is found even in wise men.
Even though I agree with the statement above, I’m not convinced it’s an accurate translation. Iyengar explores the idea that once a person discovers their connection to the universal spirit the fear of death dissipates. Wise men recognize the inherent duality of life and death. He says, “Through this understanding, [a wise man] loses his attachment to life and conquers the fear of death. This frees him from afflictions and sorrows and leads him toward kaivalya.”
Kaivalya is translated as “absolute state of aloneness” and “eternal emancipation”. Those two things sound contrary on the first read. How can emancipation and aloneness be the same? It feels like an Orwellian paradox. Then again, I’m learning how to be alone and comfortable on a daily basis. When I let go of my fear of abandonment and feel at peace with the world, it is pretty liberating. I’m pretty sure this is why Iyengar uses the word subtle when describing this particular spiritual challenge.
This is my translation: Even the wisest sadhaka must conquer their fear of death before they can embrace a love of life.
In essence, reaching a state of zen requires you to accept mortality while simultaneously enjoying the present. Accepting As a major depressive, my mortality is not something I cling to fiercely. I have bouts of suicidal ideations and sometimes fantasize about how much attention I’d get from a terminal disease. Not proud moments. I’m not what I’d call “wise”. These are symptoms of my obstacles/afflictions.
I easily let go of my self-preservation instinct and accept how infinitesimally small I am. The challenge is keeping myself lifted above the actual depression. My mantra is “I love my life” because, on average, I need to remember how much worse I could feel. So when I find genuine happiness I struggle to keep my ego in check. In other words, I have stability issues occasionally.
To the casual observer, I seem a little ditzy. In reality, I’m experiencing wild emotional swings so fast they just look blurry. These are the periods where I get very introspective and generally lose touch with the outside world. This is when even basic human interactions are a struggle. My defense mechanism is to smile a lot.