Mar 15, 2021
This is the final post of the series on the yamas, the first limb of the 8-Limbed Path of Yoga. This path is a life-long journey into the Self. It continues to invite us to grow and learn about how we can lean into a way of living that is in alignment with our core values and in integrity with our truest self.
The Yamas are primarily concerned with our relationship with the world around us and how we interact with others. When we do the continuous self-inquiry into our practice of these 5 ethical principles in our daily lives we become more consious, more aware. Our thoughts, words, and actions begin to align with our core values and it allows us to become more authentic towards ourselves and others. To love more, to give more and to cause less harm to ourselves and the collective. The yamas are an invitation to be a better human.
The final yama is Aparigraha: Non-attachment, non-greediness.
This one always feels tricky for me. It’s simple, straightforward. But, really counter-culture. The very water we swim in is greed, accumulation, possessiveness. The individualist, consumer culture is about accumulating wealth, degrees, stuff. This is so deeply rooted in the culture we live in. At least here in the United States.
Nearly once a week I look around my house and feel anxious. There is so much stuff. It feels cluttered, overwhelming and unnecessary to have so much stuff. And yet, when I take the time to go through everything I let very little go. Hundreds of books, way too many yoga pants (that I never wear), and bins full of toys that Luisa rarely plays with.
I think that Marie Kondo might be a wonderful teacher of aparigraha.
But, it’s more than just our attachment to stuff that causes us suffering according to yogic philosophy. When we become obsessed with achievement and consumption or attached to success based on our accumulation of wealth and material things we are not practicing aparigraha. And this causes us, and others suffering.
Aparigraha invites us to let go of the our attachments to things, to people, to outdated beliefs, ideologies, and patterns of conditioning.
Consider this from a collective perspective for a moment. The 50 richest people in the U.S. (multi-billionares) have accumulated more wealth than roughly 165 million U.S. Americans. Nearly 1 in 6 children in the richest country in the world live in poverty. Over 5 million U.S. families are food insecure. The United Way is donating money to my daughter's school, located in one of the wealthiest counties in the U.S. because we can't pass a referendum to adequately fund our schools. There are many, many more statistics that show how the uneccessary accumulation of wealth creates suffering. And we know that many of these disparaties are directly correlated to race and gender.
It’s helpful to consider our relationships, our job or career, our politics, our identity. Are each of these serving our highest values and the collective? If not, what keeps us in a place of grasping?
Our conditioning. Our fear of losing status. Our fear of not belonging.
Untangling from this conditioning is the path of yoga.
One practice I am working with is to take a moment to check in before I accumulate more material stuff. It is possible to do so more consciously. Do I really need this? What is the purpose for buying another pair of yoga pants? Or another surfboard? Or more books?
And, of course, in this inquiry always come back to both ahimsa and satya. Practice self-compassion and profound honesty.
Here are a few practical ways to bring aparigraha into your daily life:
- Practice gratitude.
- Regularly take a moment to assess your life and check in. Then let go of what is not serving your highest self.
- Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Let go of resentments.
- Give generously.
- Advocate for policies that close the wealth gap and pay people a fair wage.
- De-clutter your home, office, etc
- Self-care practices can help us let go. When we are feeling overwhelmed and anxious we are more likely to grasp onto things that don’t serve us.
- Let go of the need for perfection.
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Aparigraha invites us to let go of the our attachments to things, to people, to outdated beliefs and old ideas. It’s helpful to consider our relationships, our job or career, our politics, our identity. Are each of these serving our highest values? If not, what keeps us in a place of grasping?
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When we are practicing Brahmacharya we are less likely to make impulsive decisions. We are less likely to behave in ways that are self-indulgent and more likely to make mindful decisions based on how our behavior impacts not just ourselves, but the collective.