Aparigraha, or, Why I sold All My Shit
When my yoga teacher challenged the class to pick a Yama (Yamas are part of the ethical code of yoga) to work on, I picked Aparigraha instantly, because I felt I needed it the most. All my life, I have been that person who picks up things on the beach and takes them home or buys the dress that doesn’t fit…you know, for when I finally lose that weight. I knew the time had come to let that go.
“Freedom from wanting unlocks the real purpose of existence.”
–Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 2.39
Aparigraha can be defined as non-greed, non-hoarding, or non-coveting. But it also means non-attachment, which goes deeper than just those books I have that I know I will never read.
I read several articles on this concept (I’ll list the best ones at the end of this post) and one phrase really stuck in my head and became almost like a mantra:
Aparigraha is the unfurling of clenched fingers
I found so many instances in my day where I would stop what I was doing and mentally “unfurl” and sometimes literally unfurl my fists. I had a developing awareness of this clenched feeling in so many daily routines in my life. As I become aware of them, I work to unfurl them.
For example, my city is known for the horrendous habits of the drivers. We are known as the worst drivers in America and for good reason. Being a transplant, I dread getting into my car (which I used to love) and the entire time I drive, I am white-knuckled and on the edge of my seat. After 4 years of near misses, being rear-ended, my rearview mirror being taken off, being sideswiped by a teenager who tried to say that I was in that front blind spot that every car has (Yeah, right!), I was terrified of the other drivers on the road. I was holding onto the expectation of injury each time I turned the ignition.
Seriously, how do you cope with a daily anxiety trigger?
As I became aware of this anxiety in driving that I have created, I began to look for ways to release this. I found a really funny podcast that made me laugh constantly, and I downloaded several episodes so I wouldn’t run out while in the car. I also began to look for instances of good driving behavior, which I started to see in multitudes. My attitude about driving is starting to revert back to enjoyment, all because I wanted to let go of the anxiety. It is a practice which means daily effort, but the payoff is completely worth it!
This concept of non-attachment can be practiced in a lot of different ways. In the home, you can review your closets, your pantry, your entertainment center, your desk, your email inbox and let go of anything that no longer serves you. In your diet, you can ask yourself, “Do I need this 2 scoop sundae from Baskin Robbins? Will it really make me happy?” If the honest answer is yes, then dig in! Start to become aware of your eating habits. Do you stop when you are full or after? Do you waste food? Can you find ways to reduce the waste?
Stop side-eyeing people in class
On the yoga mat, you can practice aparigraha by releasing expectations. “Staying on your mat” is something we talk about in class often, which means, don’t worry about what other people are doing. Your practice is for you. In the mind, aparigraha can be used to release grudges, old agreements that no longer serve you, old mantras that are negative or have no meaning anymore. When you are in a situation where you feel out of control, imagine your fingers unfurling. Breath into it and see if you can let go of the outcome of the situation.
Other places to practice aparigraha
In this journey in Aparigraha, I have cleaned out my closet, my bookshelf, my fabrics and crafts, and my kitchen. I’ll be having a garage sale in June and post an update on the outcome of that endeavor.
What can you let go of? What are you holding onto that no longer makes you happy? Material or mental?