Aparigraha April 101: introduction to the how and why of life.
“You know,” Eric confided in me the other day, “I sorta wish my family wasn’t used to the lifestyle we live… my kids have so many toys that they are constantly bored. We are constantly stressed about cleaning our house and maintaining everything. I get up every day and go to my J-O-B, but that’s all it is: a job to keep the money rolling in.” Eric told me he wished that he could do something different with his days, perhaps become a personal trainer or a physical therapist, but he felt like there was too much baggage holding him back. I told him: be patient, go for it when the time is right, and take the Aparigraha Challenge… maybe he’d discover that he didn’t have to hold on to all the things holding him back.
Aparigraha is the Sanskrit word for the yama commonly translated as non-hoarding. (Side note: I’m not talking about obsessive hoarders like that TV show…. I know Eric’s wife and she keeps a clean house; I’m talking about the simple non-relinquishment of all the ‘excess stuff’ in your life that magnifies discontent). I’m challenging all my students and readers, for the month of April, to take my weekly Aparigraha Challenges. Every week, I’ll post one 5 point challenge. Read the post, (feel free to commiserate with my failures and celebrate with my successes when appropriate), reflect on your current lifestyle, and then follow the directions for one week.
Ok, so what does aparigraha look like and why would the yoga sages even care about how disorganized my closet is?
First is the obvious: having more ‘stuff’ in your life requires more energy to take care of that ‘stuff.’ Do you need one car? Possibly, probably. In Kansas City, Missouri, the answer is probably yes, because this is a geographically expansive city and distances between work and home are likely to be too far to bike or bus for most people. But, do you need three cars? Probably, no. If you own three cars, you spend an exorbitant amount of time and resources taking care of those cars, licensing those cars, changing the oil in those cars, etc. Time that could instead be spent loving your family, engaging in acts of personal healing such as yoga and meditation, or in service to others. All actions that will, undoubtedly, enhance the quality of your lived experience and your community. With the money you are not using to take care of three cars, you could save someone’s life (countless national organizations are looking for cures to chronic diseases like the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society) or create a more just and sacred community where all children are embraced as people of worth (check out The Children’s Place KC and Operation Breakthrough, which are outstanding local non-profits providing children a safe place be loved).
Have you ever heard the motto, attributed to Mother Theresa, “Live simply so that others can simply live”? That’s what we are going for here.
The second perspective of aparigraha is internal. Practicing aparigraha, at its finest, is practicing letting go of everything that is no longer serving you. This means abandoning anger, righteousness, egotistical desires, frustration, and complaining. It means letting go of worn out beliefs, deserting societal structures that you feel are unethical, and maturing your spiritual understandings.
This month, we will delve into the nuances of aparigraha. Aparigraha doesn’t necessitate total renunciation of material items. (I happen to think that, yes, I do need all four tubs of Christmas decorations that are stored in the basement, Mike. And yes, I do need an entire set of Pyrex dishes, not just one bowl. I’ll hold on to those, thank you.) Instead, aparigraha is about letting go of things accumulated in our spiritual lives, emotional lives, and physical lives that no longer bring joy.
The Yoga Sutras say: “If you persevere in overcoming possessiveness, you will wake up to the how and why of life.” (adapted, II.39)
When my life is overrun by ‘stuff,’ I can’t see clearly in my busy, hurried, overwhelmed life. It’s like looking for my missing sock in the depths of my sock drawer and realizing that my sock drawer has been invaded by scarves. I can’t see to the back of the drawer to find the object of my desire (my REI merino wool socks, as it turns out) until the scarves are removed, re-folded, re-considered, and returned to their rightful place. Overcoming possessiveness means learning through your yoga practice (that you don’t need socks? … we practice barefoot, after all) that the bigger picture in life is much less complicated than it seems:
You are perfect, whole and complete. You are nothing less than a manifestation of Divine goodness and are created to exist in a state of authentic love. You are meant for health, happiness, and wholeness at your Soul’s level. That is the promise of yoga.
Everything else is just stuff.
Time to wake up to the how and why of life. Take the Aparigraha April Challenge:
- Read. Each week, I will post actions YOU can take to live a simpler, aparigraha-inspired lifestyle.
- Try. Follow my recommendations. At least try one.
- Share. Tell me how it’s going. Individuals succeed at a higher rate when we are accountable to a community. Share your successes, frustrations, failures and ‘aha moments’ with me through the comment section of this site, or email me at ash.lisamarie at gmail.com
- Breathe. Making a lifestyle change takes longer than one week, and often longer than the required habit-changing 21 days. Give yourself time. Be Patient. But go for it. (Even you, Eric.)
The challenges will include everything from cleaning out your closet, healing your heart, reducing waste in your home, conserving the Earth’s precious resources, and relinquishing habits that no longer serve you. Challenge yourself to live simply and tell me all about it. I double-dog dare you.
“If you persevere in overcoming possessiveness, you will wake up to the how and why of life.” (adapted, II.39)