Yamas in the 21st Century. Yama #5 Aparigraha: Non-Greed
Look around you right now. How much stuff is around you? Is it creating mess, is it adding value, does it provide a purpose? We inherently have a habit of collecting and coveting things. Stuff. Belongings. Collectables. Dust gathering devices.
We have probably all collected things when we were kids and maybe even still carry on doing so as adults; records, smelly candles, miniature soaps and shampoos. When these things are physical belongings we can quite easily notice when our collecting and hoarding is getting out of control, some better than others.
But in the 21st century we have started a digital collecting habit and this has reached a whole new level of out of control. If the show Hoarders could get a look at our laptops and phones they would have a field day. One of my favourite bits of gossip (I cannot guarantee this is true but it makes me happy so don’t pop my bubble) is that Beyonce was at a party and got out her laptop to show her new video – wait for it – Her desktop was a COMPLETE MESS. Proper disorganised. Files all over the place, you know when they even start overlapping each other? What I love about this story is that mess, hoarding and disorganisation can happen to even the most perfect people in the world. We are all really the same!
This collecting and hoarding happens on the mat too. Before we even get to practice think about your exercise clothing drawer in your house, or 2/3 if your me! The sports bra you’ve had for almost 10 years that’s elastic has completely worn out. BUT you keep holding onto it for nostalgic reasons. For the memory of when your boobs didn’t need the elastic but they sure as hell do now and it’s no where to be seen! How you rush to the same yoga space every class and collect every prop, strap and bolster you can get your hands on even if you don’t use them and haven’t in the last 3 classes you’ve been to. Truth is we get attached to objects, to things and to places. They somehow become part of our identity and we fear the loss of them because of how it might make us less. If we continue to have this relationship with ‘things’ and continue to collect more stuff as we get older, more wealthy and collected experiences than this anxiety about protecting and keeping it all will only continue to become worse.
About 2 years after moving to London my flat was broken into and all of my worldly possessions were taken from me. My Mac, my DSLR Camera, some jewellery, my CD’s (funny to think of that now) and worst of all the burglars used my backpack, that I had travelled all over the world with patches to mark my journeys, to pack up my stuff and steal. I remember sitting in my room looking around my belongings having been moved, drawers opened and holes where my greatest possessions used to live wondering how I would ever get past it. I didn’t replace many of the things that were taken for a long time, I lived a year without a laptop and weirdly felt extremely free and happy. Like the shackles of my self imposed stuff had been removed. Could we all look around at the handcuffs of our belongings and free ourselves of some it it?
What else do we hoard? People? Phone numbers? Old texts? Plans? When is the last time you allowed yourself to have zero plans for a whole weekend? What about trends and fads? Think about the overwhelming urge to get the newest or coolest whatever it is at the moment, the rush to the shop or purchase online, the obsessive use for maybe a week or two but then the thrill fades away and all you’re left with is another thing. And that thing is probably now collecting dust and remaining unused. What I have found over the years is that this need to collect and have things doesn’t bring me real joy. The thing that I seem to hang onto and never collects dust are experiences. I realise an experience that exists in the mind only is going to be pretty hard to collect dust BUT it lives a dust free existence in my mind and in the way it comes out in stories. The best experiences come out with great laughter and joy many times a year with friends and family.
I have recently stopped asking for birthday presents and Christmas presents and instead asked for experiences with those I love. My family live in Canada and I don’t get to see them this often. The last thing I want from them is more stuff but what I want more than anything in the world is to get to see them and spend more time with them. Presents now are easy. A contribution to a flight to Canada. Harriet knows I LOVE trying new restaurants. Easy we go on a beautiful date, where I get to dress up-this is rare as I live in lycra now, and eat yummy food. For Christmas this year we said we could get each other 5 things. However these 5 things had to be experiences. On Christmas morning we exchanged 5 vouchers for dates and experiences to each other which included; a massage, a long dog walk in Blean woods, a trip to the Turner gallery and lunch and a tasting menu cooked by ME!
In yoga aparigraha can link to the ego. We see this in the greed to achieve more postures and harder variations all done with grace and poise. For some of us there are just poses that we won’t ever achieve. Why do we always need to be ticking more boxes, progressing at a rapid rate and never feeling content with where we are? Notice the next time you go to practice if you are racing ahead of the teacher, going straight to the hardest variation right away and never allowing yourself a moment to be still. How can you use aparigraha to help control and guide you through your yoga? When you go to the mat practice like it was the first time. Focus on the breath. Hand out in the first position the teacher offers rather than moving 6 steps ahead, it might even feel really good! There is always a benefit to every yoga pose, no matter the difficulty, we just have to stay there long enough to be able to absorb it.
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