Non-attachment, non-clinging, non-hoarding is what we do when we practice aparigraha. Almost all of our attachments are brought on by fear-based thinking. We accumulate material objects in an effort to create security. We hold onto relationships that are toxic and jobs that are unfulfilling because we are insecure. What will happen if I leave my ________? “I’ll be alone, have no place to live, I’ll miss what we had, how will I pay my bills?” etc. Those thoughts and feelings are valid. I’m not suggesting we ignore those emotions when they arise, but rather to view them as the fear of loss of security that they are.
It is not just people and jobs that we cling to, but feelings, thoughts, and beliefs as well. These, I think, are more difficult to spot. I’m not proclaiming that ALL attachments to ALL things are “bad” and we need to move through life completely unattached to anything and everyone. We’re human, and we’re meant to be attached to our parents, and them to us when we’re infants, as it’s a means of survival. There are pets and family and fulfilling activities that we’re attached to, and that’s as it should be. It might be in our best interest to take a look at our attachments when the burden of keeping track of our possessions, our unhappiness surrounding unfulfilling work, our emotion pain at being in a relationship that doesn’t serve our highest good begins to interfere with how we live our lives.
Like all the yamas and niyamas, aparigraha is just an invitation to observe our habits, behaviors, and patterns and begin to question if they are taking us closer to or further from that quiet stillness inside us. What might be a burden to one person, owning a large house and keeping it up, is not to another. The practice of yoga includes living more artfully and ease-fully, and often this comes from releasing that which we cling to out of fear.
Just because it makes sense to do something in one person’s life doesn’t mean that it makes sense to do the same thing in another person’s life. I resigned from my formal teaching career because it was more distracting and less fulfilling and creating such extreme angst in my life that I decided I would be more at peace without it. There weren’t a whole lot of people who understood what I did and why. They cling to their careers, even if they were as unhappy as I was, because of the security it brought them. After some adjustment (it was not the most smooth transition, as I also let go of a home and a relationship at the same time, something I would never recommend to anyone!) and recognizing the fear of “what am I going to do for money, how will I survive” and all the “what if’s” that the fear-based ego perpetuates, at least in my experience, I’ve settled into a “new” me. One the outside, I’m still pretty much the same, but with longer hair and a few more wrinkles. On the inside, I recognize when my mind begins to travel down the path of clinging and fear, and I let go of those thoughts that produce nothing but frustration and pull me away from that part of me that takes deep breaths and observes without getting involved.
There are many thoughts, beliefs, ideas, people, experiences, and a few possessions that I continue to hold on to. However, when I’m presented with a clutching in my heart at the thought of losing that “thing” then I take a look at how or why I’m holding on to it as I am. In the study of the self that yoga presents to me, I inquire time and again not what I can do without, but where I am on that emotional continuum and how connected I am to the quietness that resides within. Some days are better than others. Some situations I handle with more skill than others. But yoga is a practice and every moment we’re given the opportunity to use a tool or technique to be at peace.
I’ve written poems for each of the yamas and niyamas, and they can be found in my project Yogis All: A Journey of Transformation, Volume I, available on my website. I have a few of the poems available to view if you visit: www.myjoyenterprises.com