Aparigraha can be translated as non-posessiveness, non-grasping, or non-attachment and is one of the ethical principles of a yoga practice known as the yamas (self-constraints) and the niyamas (self-discipline). Non-attachment is probably one of the most challenging things to practice because in our world we’re conditioned to be possessive … “my car” “I did this” “me” ….I and me statements take ownership and it’s easy to get attached with ownership….like did you ever have a pair of shoes ate and you were so attached to them that after they were destroyed you were so upset? Or what about have you ever loved a car so much and then you get rear ended only to spirial into being upset…”how could someone do this to my car??” Or did you love a restaurant and hold on to the memories of you meal there only to go back and be royally disappointed?? Those may be simple or extreme examples, but if you’ve been in my yoga classes lately you know this is a theme we’ve been working with a lot. …and it’s something that we all need more practice with I think. So, I wanted to give you options to start practicing aparigraha, or non-attachment, non-possessiveness off the mat.
It is the nature of things to change and by failing to let them change or by failing to go with the flow, we begin to feel discontent and disappointment. However what we try to possess, possess us. Aparigraha asks us to trust life like we trust the breath….can we take in all the nourishment of the present moment and then fully let it go, trusting that more nourishment will come? Relationships, homes, food, routines that bring a sense of ease are all forms of nourishment until we unconsciously get attached to them and thoughts of criticisms, opinions, and judgments, and disappointments can sink in. We forget to trust life, to trust the exhale, and let go.
I went through a period where everyday I’d have an apple and peanut butter for a snack midafternoon. It was comforting, refreshing, routine, nourishing. It wasn’t until my husband ate the last apple and I experienced such disappointment to find an empty produce drawer in the fridge that I realized I was attached to the apple and was unwilling to have an alternative snack, instead letting it ruin my afternoon. Crazy, right? But it happens!
Early in my yoga practice I “only” set up my mat in the same corner of the room. I loved the comfort of my little magic carpet ride sanctuary. One day, I was so flustered to find “my” spot had been taken by a new student that I realized I was indeed too attached this spot and I let this flustered feeling ripple all into my practice.
I provide these momentary examples to help you start to think about what you may be holding on to ….it’s more than just physical clutter or physical possession…sometimes it’s as deep as belief systems and ideals. If we aren’t willing to let go and if we aren’t practicing aparigraha, we’re not fully living in the present moment (because we’re concerned about the past or future) and our capacity to be immersed in life is affected. So how do we practice aparigraha? I’m giving you 5 ways to start today plus some of my favorite quotes related to aparigraha. I hope you enjoy and I know it sounds simple, but practicing aparigraha is challenging and ever evolving. If you have questions, please comment below or reach out to me.
5 Ways to Practice Aparigraha, Non-Attachment
1. Look at your physical home space. Do the things that surround you make you feel light and free or do they make you feel heavy and weighed down. Move in the direction of light and free – clean out spaces or rearrange situations to feel more at ease. What you possess will possess you if you’re attached.
2. Close your eyes and enjoy several deep, full, expansive rounds of breath. Let this filling up action and letting go be a representation and reminder that in life, we can fill up and nourish but we also have to let go. We cannot hold our breath forever.
3. We’re really good at holding on, and not so great at letting go. For the next few days or week, make an intentional effort to notice when you’re attached to thoughts, or reliving an experience that already happened and consciously tell yourself to “let that go.”
4. Look at you routines, if something were to seriously disrupt your daily routine, how would you respond? Think on this and then consciously choose to acknowledge that you have no control over anything (even though our brain likes to tell us that we are). I encourage you to journal out your thoughts here as it can be very helpful.
5. What expectations have you placed on friendships or in relationships? Do you have a date night every Thursday but this Thursday your partner has to work late and it sends you into a tizzy? Are you expecting your friend to call back after you left a message and you feel disappointed when that doesn’t happen even though he/she messages you a few days later and apologizes for missing the message. Think on what expectations you are placing on other people and are these projections fair and do they allow the person to live fully present in the moment or do these expectations limit the degree in which he or she can experience the moment? This is another great one to journal about!
8 Aparigraha Quotes and Aparigraha Contemplations
1. Non-attachment doesn’t mean that we don’t care, it allows us to fully experience the present moment.
2. Either consume or be consumed
3. A bird can not hold it’s perch and fly and neither can we grasp anything and truly be free.
4. The more breath we let go up, the more room we create to fill up on our inhale.
5. Be content with the way things are. Rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you. – Lao Tzu
6. The root of suffering is attachment – Buddha
7. You can only lose what you cling to. – Buddha
8. Love is what is left when you’ve let go of all the things you love.