Aparigraha - The constant practice of letting go....
“You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free.” / Thich Nhat Hanh
Aparigraha is the last Yama in Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga. It often translates to non-grasping, non-attachment, non- possessiveness or not holding on.
Graha- means; to take. to Seize, to grab.
Pari means; On all sides
A- is the prefix that negates the word itself. Meaning "Not” or " Non".
Thus, Aparigraha translates as NOT grasping, holding, attaching ourselves, our identity and our wellbeing to anything external or passing. Material possessions, spiritual possessions or achievements, relationships, and so on.
Clearly easier said than done.
As a cosmic joke, I sat down a couple of weeks ago and wrote this blog/ newsletter, only to lose it all to the mysterious world of “the net” just as I finished writing. I admit at first, I got annoyed. And then I laughed. How appropriate for such a thing to happen just as I analyze and explain my understanding of what Aparigraha is. Almost as if the universe was testing me and asking: Do you really get it? Really? Or is it just in your head?
So now I sit again and share whatever is here for me to share with you. It will not be the same blog or newsletter. How can it be? But the essence will be the same. And this time I am making sure I keep it also on a word doc… Just in case….
While I am not particularly attached to material possessions, I admit I can become attached to relationships. And when these changes, as they always do, I struggle. I often spend a lot of my energy trying to get it to the way " it was", resisting the movement and change, and creating myself, quite possibly, unnecessary suffering.
My son is now growing older and entering early teenagehood. As such he is moving further away from me in some matters, and I find it hard. I long for his company the same way we used to hang out when he was younger. While I KNOW it is a wonderful and essential stage for his own identity, there is a part of me that grieves this movement and change. While I want him, or at least a part of me wants him to be confident and independent, there is another part also that would rather he remained a little more dependent on me. A little more needy. This may seem like a contrast, a paradox, but these exist often in many aspects of our life.
The practice of yoga in its deepest essence, supported by the understanding of the philosophical foundations and guidelines, the values, can help us see more clearly what is happening as it is happening, and act accordingly, selfishly, and wholeheartedly. It allows us to feel all the feelings; The fear, grief, loss, shame, guilt and so on, without having to project these on others.
" Let your concern be with the action alone, and never with the fruits of action. Do not let the results of your action be your motive, and do not be attached to inaction" – Krishna / Bhgavad Gita
Aparigraha is one of the main lessons taught in the Bhagavad Gita, and personally one of my favorite ones.
Where Krishna teaches Arjuna to act for the sake of acting as needed at the time that an action is needed, and not being concerned or motivated by a specific end result.
This is contrary to the way most of us westerners are brought up or taught.
We act in a certain way to reach a certain point, a certain result, to gain something in exchange, and so on.
How different would everything be if we simply acted out of love, for the sake of doing the right thing at the right time, and not think again about an end result, a return, an outcome????
Ways to Practice Aparigraha off the Mat:
DECLUTTER - Letting go of Stuff- one of my favorite practices. I do this every couple of months or so. Go through your wardrobe, the kitchen cupboards, the kids’ games. We collect so much stuff we do not need and do not use. The bigger the house, the more space we must keep collecting, attaching, hoarding, things we do not need. We even have outdoor mobile storage units to make sure we do not throw anything away. So, allocate a day and go throw your clothing wardrobe. Put aside all the items you didn’t wear in the last 6 months. Donate these or sell them on Marketplace or eBay. It always amazes me how hard it can be to let go of a piece of clothing. So many memories can be attached to this piece. A moment in time. A cost we paid and we might feel we haven’t worn it enough to justify passing it on. I tend to put a lot of items in this pile, and somehow as I transfer these to a bag, some find their way back to my wardrobe….
Mari Kondo has a beautiful book called The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up. She also has a beautiful website filled with ideas and resources teaching us how to declutter and let go of stuff. Sounds amusing… Why would we need anyone to teach us this skill? But a quick look at most houses, wardrobes and drawers will show you that 99% of us have no idea how to attend to this need and as such, can benefit from her expertise and guidance.
The teaching sand message are clear: Attachment leads to unnecessary suffering. Non -Attachment / grasping allows more freedom and peace.
Aparigraha on the mat:
Try to arrive at class a few minutes before the class starts. Place your mat and props and sit down or lie down, close your eyes, and take a few moments to check in.
Ask yourself: Why am I here? What is my intention for this class? Is there an element / idea / ideal I am attached to?
Very often we are attached to physical results and progress. Ignoring the signs of pain and discomfort that our body is communicating to us, we pull and push our ways through the different shapes, in an attempt to achieve a specific result, shape or form. This is a pure form of attachment.
An advanced practice is not measured by the ability to perform advanced poses. The sooner we understand this, the better.
By taking the time at the beginning of the class, and with courage and honesty recognizing the agendas and attachments we brought into the room, we can start taking baby steps back. If we remain present through the class we will notice we dropped back into our old habit of pulling and striving, but as soon as we notice this, we can take a deep exhale, laugh a little, and return to a point of present moment awareness and actions.
Try to practice with your eyes closed. Notice the quality of the breath and the thoughts that are present through the different Asanas and stages of the practice.
If and when you notice you started looking outwards, comparing yourself with others, competing with others or with your “self”, then once again, smile, laugh, exhale deeply, and start again.
May we all let go of that which holds us back, that burdens us unnecessarily and open up to the possibilities that are available to us when we are free from attachments and hoarding.
“ Aparigraha offers us so much freedom – the freedom to work and do what we love without worrying about the outcome, the freedom to rely less on external and material possessions to bring us happiness, and the freedom to experience everything life has to offer, whatever that may be. See what happens when you apply this yama to your life, what happens when you just let go?” / Emma Newlyn