November Focus: Aparigraha: non-hoarding

Aparigraha :: Respect & Release

When Patanjali wrote about Aparigraha (non-covetousness / non-hoarding / non-grasping) in the Yoga Sutras, it is unlikely he could’ve imagined the abundance we currently experience in our daily lives. Even those of us with the most modest of means still find ourselves immersed in plenty on countless levels: food, shelter, water, garments, belongings, etc.

Despite this abundance, and maybe, in part, because of it, most of us still experience a kind of lack, a sense of incompleteness. We have the intelligence and experience to know that belongings are not all we require to live fulfilled lives, but this rarely discourages us from having and loving the next new gadget, gizmo, or widget.

It is in our relationships with ourselves, with others, and with our experiences that we most often find fulfillment, and when these relationships fail to meet our needs, we are tempted to grasp for substitutes. Interestingly, when we succeed in finding practices and relationships that bring us closer to wholeness, we will often unconsciously cling to them, too, out of an interest in preempting an imagined future scarcity.

Aparigraha asks us to see our grasping as a hindrance to receiving what we most hope to cultivate: fulfillment, wholeness, and worth. Aparigraha does not ask that we submit to asceticism or eschew the delights available to us through a thoughtfully appointed lifestyle. Practicing Aparigraha is about having ‘right relationship’ with objects, places, people, and experiences and allowing them to enrich our lives without our growing attached to them. The moment we burden any one of these blessings by attaching an expectation of future fulfillment, that gift becomes a thing we must maintain and control… thus creating a burden.

How can we practice Aparigraha on the mat?

-Look closely at poses and sequences with which you feel a strong connection:

Is that affinity about the experience of the present moment, or is your love for a favorite pose or sequence based on experiences of the past? What happens in your heart and mind when you come to that pose and it doesn’t bring you the same gifts it once did? Can you tap into the blessing it offers now? Can you free up your expectations for that pose or sequence and stay open to something new?

-Investigate your relationship with certain teachers and classes:

Will well-meaning loyalty to your favorite teacher or class mean you get cut-off from new classes and teachers and the blessings they have to share with you? Do your expectations of certain classes ever leave you disappointed? Is there any room to let go of the notion that a beloved teacher has talents or powers that connect you to something you cannot connect with on your own?

How can we practice Aparigraha off the mat?

-Discover the real need:

Our consumer culture invites us to believe that every new product and experience will bring us closer to joy, bliss, and happiness. In what ways are you most vulnerable to these influences? What might those vulnerabilities indicate? What lack really exists, and how can it be filled in a lasting and meaningful way?

-Respect and savor the bounty before you:

See the abundance in your life, and trust in its constancy. Stay in balanced relationship with people, places, and things that serve you without falling victim to a fear of future scarcity.

-Release the rest:

What no longer serves you? What items, experiences, practices, and relationships have already given you their gifts and can now be released? What things have you brought into your life that never even met a need but still remain as clutter in your heart or mind or space? Let them go. They have others to serve.

by: Sonya Kuropatwa