Aparigraha: Non-possessiveness/ attachment. Letting go of all attachment to one’s possessions, including one’s body, and being willing to relinquish them all at a moment’s notice.
This is the fifth and final of the Yamas (restraints), and if there were a more appropriate one to look at during our current circumstances, I’d be hard pressed to think of it. There’s been a lot of discussion on social media about what is going on in the world being an opportunity to be kinder, to think of others, to reflect on what is really essential in our lives. I agree. What do we really need? What is essential? I have witnessed many kindnesses based on selflessness impulse and non-attachment over the last few months. A greater sense of sharing and wanting to share as a result of this crisis. The opposite is also true.
Let’s face it, this pandemic sucks. It wreaking havoc on the way we do things. Ask anyone who is sick and suffering to practice non-attachment to their body and life, or who is watching a loved one suffer to let go of them and their pain, just like that, and in the moment, I doubt they would thank you for it. It would be cruel and highly lacking in compassion. It’s worth remembering that the Yamas work together and we must also bring the others into play: kindness (Ahimsa) – give comfort where you can; truthfulness (Satya) – be honest, but temper it with kindness; non-stealing (Asteya) – including someone’s peace of mind; and right use of energy (Brahmacharya) – focus on what is productive and useful for growth and health.
Rather than focus on the sacrifice that Aparigraha seems to require, through a combination of these principles we can focus on bringing positive energy to a horrible circumstance. Perhaps we can try let go of the need to blame, to change anything and find some acceptance. Aparigraha encourages us to be softer and less demanding in life. It asks us to confront our own mortality for sure, but as a natural fact of life and not as something to be fearful of. What we can do through the practice of Aparigraha is find a space to let go of the fear around that fact, and be conscious of it, so that we can carry on living as best we can rather than in a state of permanent fear or anger. Resist the urge to lash out in anger on that social media post!
As humans we have a natural tendency to want to control what we can and make ourselves feel secure in the process. This is our biological drive to survive in action. Witness the toilet paper hoarding. It may seem ridiculous, but when in fear of the unknown we sometimes behave in very strange ways. And if toilet paper is an easy win, voila. I think we seriously need to question whether this drive is actually that helpful in our current age (that’s a whole other discussion really….). Some will disagree – survival of the fittest. Again, its a question of what values inform your life, but the ancient yogis would say we are all one anyway. There’s enough toilet paper (and everything else) for everyone who needs it, if we can learn to be less attached and fearful and to share.
This pandemic will leave its mark and cause much suffering. I am very sad for the suffering and the pain. It can’t be denied though that it is certainly shining a spotlight on all of our values and priorities in the face of that. I pass no judgment on people; it is what it is. We do, however, have an opportunity like none seen before in this generation to really assess and let go of what is not serving us as individuals, as families, as communities, nations and a species, if we can but take it, although it is very hard to say at the moment which way we will go. We will just have to wait and see.
As with all these matters, it starts with the individual and the yoga mat can be a crucible for change at the level of self. Come join us :)
May you be safe & well and may you find peace in troubled times. Namaste and love to all.