Practicing Aparigraha

The theme of the month at my home studio, Sacred Sounds Yoga, is Aparigraha. I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this concept and how we can apply its meaning(s) to our lives. 

Aparigraha, which translates to non-possessiveness / non-grasping / non-greed (an a-word is the “non” version of the word), is the fifth Yama in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. The Yamas are codes of (suggested) social conduct and comprise the first of eight limbs. 

On a materialistic level, Aparigraha means that we shouldn’t greedy with Stuff and Things. This is highly relevant as we approach the holiday season. Be grateful for what you already have. Another way to practice Aparigraha in this context is to be generous to the extent that you’re able to. 

On an emotional level, we can work on letting go of past experiences or feelings that aren’t serving us in a positive (or at least neutral) way. Our expectations and desires for positive experiences are examples of grasping — we can get caught up in what we want to have happen instead of being in the experience for what it is. I’m not yet hanging out in the present moment at all times (or any times, really), but I have found it very helpful to retroactively examine my expectations and notice my reactions when they are not met. Acknowledging what experiences and emotional states we’re holding on to is the foundational step to being able to move forward.  

On an ideological level, holding on to what we believe in makes us feel safe, but by being open to new ideas, opinions, and world views we begin to expand our knowledge and build empathy for those around us. Becoming more fluid with experiences and how they can shape a moment is also a form of Aparigraha. 

On a spiritual level, each of us will hopefully one day experience some type of transcendent joy, bliss, or stillness (pretty sure I’m still waiting). Not clinging to this as an outcome of practice and focusing on the process instead is a way to practice Aparigraha when working with higher states of consciousness. [See also: Spiritual Materialism. More on that later.]

While there were a lot of Should Nots mentioned here, the goal isn’t to focus on perfection for Aparigraha or anything in yoga land. It’s about how each of us interpret these concepts into our lives, the ways in which we become aware of these situations, and the attitude that we take when contemplating our actions.