Aparigraha is Sanskrit for non-clinging, not-coveting or desiring after outward possessions. It is the concept of non-possessiveness, non-greediness and non-attachment. The opposite is Parigraha, which means “the focus on material gain.” So Aparigraha in Sanskrit breaks downs as – A means “non or against”; pari, means “on all sides”; and graha, means “to take,” “to grab” or “to seize.”
It is a restraint, not just to refrain from taking things, but from coveting things too. This non-attachment is to material possessions as well as other less tangible things like energy, respect, attention or love. We see how trying to control, possess and hold onto people, places and things increases discontentment, pain and suffering and can hurt people as well as ourselves. The trouble of getting things and keeping them, involves endless drama of holding on to them and preventing those things from changing. The bottom line is EVERYTHING is subject to change. This unfolds into us suffering, Dukkha and when that happens our Kleshas start to get triggered and motivates actions. So letting go of the hankering, yearning, jealousy, and greediness of possessing people, places and things is all a part of learning the art of surrendering, letting go and letting be.
Aparigraha is one of the main lessons in the Bhagavad Gita, which states that a Yogi should give up possessions that hinder the yogic path. Doing so frees the Yogi from dependence on things, allowing the experience of knowing the true Self at a deeper level. Krishna said to Arguna “Let your concern be with the action alone, and never with the fruits of action. Do not let the results of your action be your motive, and do not be attached to inaction.” Really this is pointing us to the famous quote “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey”
We learn through life experience that the search for happiness outside of ourselves, is only temporary. Everything has a beginning, middle and end.
Just allow the idea of impermanence to sink in. What are you holding onto? Are you holding onto relationships? Are you holding onto core false beliefs, opinions, criticisms and judgments? Does it still serve you or could it be time to let it go? What outcome are you attached to? The teachings point us to realise that when we let go, we grow. There is more love in freedom than in possession. Receiving and letting go, go hand and hand.
Butterfly story…Your hand is open and a beautiful butterfly lands in your palm. You are enchanted by it’s colours, shape and movement. You study and absorb as much as you can. You get excited to show others. You sense it leaving your hand and you close it to prevent it from leaving. Doing so you damage and even kill it. This analogy is to show the potent teaching to ‘be here now’ for whatever is in your life. Knowing that it will change and end.
The Buddha taught that at the end of your life you ask three questions:
- How well did you live your life?
- How deep did you love?
- How well did you learn how to let go?
We practice the little let go’s for the BIG let go. Releasing attachments frees us up to immerse ourselves in the relationship to the God head of our understanding. Through practice we build trust, faith and resilience.
There are a few ways we can practice Aparigraha:
In Asana, we try to accept what the body is capable of doing while practicing TODAY, rather than the desire to do the “perfect pose” or one as someone else has done or even what you did yesterday. Injuries, ageing and natural limitations should be respected. The Asana is just a tool to improve your quality of breath, therefore your quality of Prana. The breath is what bridges the gap to reunite (Yoga) it with the body. Remain humble, open and willing to accept the challenge of being present when attachment and coveting arises. Focus on your breathe. When you get stressed out, you tend to hold your breath creating an anxiety or holding response. Focus on the out flow of the breath and create the space to learn how to let go of what is causing the stress. This inhale is the birth of life force, the transition is the celebration of life and the exhale is the little death. Then there is the transition to re-birth. The breathe cycle teaches us about imperemanence, just as seasons, time of day or watching flowers grow, bloom and decay.
This observation of each moment reveals what is motivating our actions, emotions and thoughts. Spot it when you are fearful, insecure and gripped with self-doubt. This usually influences the need to cling to and control those who are closest to us. Yoga gives us the tools to self-regulate your thoughts and emotions where you feel safe, loved, belonging and connected to. In this space we can allow ourselves to be as we need to be and others to be who they need to be. Forgive yourself for being human when you find yourself looped to negative thoughts, emotions or memories that spiral into destructive habit patterns of behaviour. Try consciously, pausing, looking into it asking what need is asking to be met, use an intention, prayer or mantra to loosen the hold of the mental loop.
We will use the Ganesh Mudra and Mantra in this practice. OM Gam Ganapataye Namaha
This is to influence you to live open handed, hearted, minded and be generous. Expand your capacity to stretch yourself into uncomfortable places where you recognise how to work with Aparigraha. Consciously share your time, energy, knowledge, attention and possession with others.