I can't believe we're almost at the end of February already - it feels like January had about 94 days and February has about 15, or is that just me?
I want to finish my series on the Yamas with the final Yama, Aparigraha. Graha means 'to grasp' and pari means 'things', so in essence Aparigraha means 'not grasping things' or non-possessiveness. It's striving to achieve a balance with how we feel about things we call our own. You might also hear people refer to it as non-greed or non-attachment.
If you've ever read the Bhagavad Gita, you'll probably already be familiar with aparigraha. It is one of the central teachings in the Gita, and one of my favourite lessons in with from Krishna is ‘Let your concern be with action alone, and never with the fruits of action. Do not let the results of action be your motive, and do not be attached to inaction’. In other words, we should just concern ourselves with what we're doing right now, and not what the outcome of what we are doing will be. Obviously we have a preferred outcome to a situation, but we should focus on what we are doing to achieve that outcome, and not on the outcome itself.
I'm sure we can also think of a time (or many times!) where we have really worried about what the result of our efforts to something will be. Trying to cook an amazing meal for a dinner party, striving to achieve at a project in work, wanting to make a holiday we've booked the most memorable ever, the list goes on. Thinking back to those times, did you ever enjoy the activity/journey/tasks or just panic and stress about the outcome? Did that stress make the outcome any more likely to happen or did it ruin your enjoyment of the journey? If we spend so much time worrying about whether we are 'good enough' or if we'll be successful we forget why we are doing the thing in the first place.
If you are throwing a dinner party for friends, or go to a dinner party at a friends house, what do you remember and enjoy most about it? Not the stress of cooking or exactly what that main course tasted like. It's the fun and laughter, the company of our friends and the stories they tell. The in-jokes and the conversations about everything and nothing. The setting the world to rights or telling funny stories about work, bad dates, bad neighbours. Sure, the food plays a part but it is not the main part, despite it being a dinner party. Stressing about the food and how great it will taste can ruin the enjoyment and memories of the time spent with friends. Of course we want to produce something edible and that tastes nice, but your friends will still care about you if that risotto is a tiny bit under seasoned or the curry isn't quite spicy enough. Enjoying the cooking process for what it is, and the company of our friends provides more fulfilment.
I've found that more enjoyment of life, the situation, the activity, etc. comes from my letting go of the need for others to praise me, the need for success and perfection, and the worry of what others think. If I 'go with the flow' and enjoy the journey of life for what it is, perform that activity for the sheer enjoyment of it, then I get so much more fulfilment from it and actually do better at it. Letting go of that attachment to approval or success actually allows us to be better at whatever it is we are doing.
So how can we practice this non-attachment in a practical way? It's all very well me telling you how great it is, but what can you do today to change.
In a very practical way, how many things do you have in your house or your wardrobe that you don't wear or use? How many things do we have that we don't need? The more we hoard things, the more we clutter our house, our minds and our energy. We become concerned with thoughts of losing the possessions, or that buying another shirt/ornament/cushion/whatever will bring us happiness. This comes from a place of lack, in a sense of I'm not good enough unless I keep up with the neighbours, or have a bag for every outfit, or whatever it is. If we realise we are good enough as we are, we realise we don't need to buy all that 'stuff'. Every time you go to buy something, think about whether you really need it, whether it will bring you happiness or whether you are merely buying from a place of lack. Apart from saving money it is really freeing emotionally!
You can also give away a lot of the clutter you currently have as a kick start to decluttering your mind and energy and getting into the non-attachment mindset.
Another very practical way to practise is in terms of your diet. Not going on a diet, or whether we are vegetarian, gluten free or whatever, but what we eat on a daily basis. Do we overeat or eat just enough? Do we gorge on food or drink that we don't need and that doesn't nourish our bodies? Do we buy lots of food at the supermarket and throw a lot of it out? If we only buy what we need, apart from being better for the planet and our wallets, we are practising non-attachment. If we only eat what we need (most of the time anyway!) it is better for our health and we are practising non-attachment.
We can also practise non-attachments in a more mental or emotional way. One of these ways is non-judgement of ourselves when we practise something we enjoy. What I mean by this is that you enjoy playing an instrument, singing, dancing, photography, anything....practise it for the love of practising it. Don't judge your ability or progress against others, don't see progression as the only goal. Of course we like to progress but it is not the only, or even more important, reward. The enjoyment of the hobby or activity should be the main focus, which in turn actually helps us progress more than struggling to succeed.
The last way I want to mention is attachments to feelings, such as the butterflies in the stomach of a new relationship, or that warm glow when we get praised at work. As nice as these feelings are, it is the constant chasing and striving for them that creates the attachment and can mean that we are not fully enjoying the feeling even as we have it. We all want to be happy and there is nothing wrong with that, but if we constantly push for that feeling, we lose the ability to enjoy it when we have it. It's all about the journey!
So...I'm really interested in hearing your thoughts on this final Yama - what does non-attachment mean to you?
As always, namaste
I'm a yoga fanatic who been practising yoga for 22 years and teaching for almost 4. I'm quite spiritual, a bit of a hippy to be honest, and love discussing theoretical aspects of yoga as well as the practical elements. You'll find articles on how yoga benefits my life on both a physical, mental and emotional level, as well as how it can help you - as well as some non-yoga related articles just to keep you on your toes!