To have or have not? Aparigraha: Non-possessiveness, Non-attachment
By Elizabeth Sostre
“Detachment is not that you should own nothing. But that nothing should own you.”
–Ali ibn abi Talib
It’s ironic how as youngsters all one wants to do is play with their toys. Children must learn to share at home with their siblings and at school with their schoolmates. They become possessive with their toys, but the moment a loved one arrives home from work, chances are the child drops the toy and the parent becomes their new focus for their undivided attention. Children then become curious explorers of the adolescent world, as their toys change from dolls, dinosaurs, and Legos, to discovering new friendships, romantic interests, make-up, video games, skateboards accessories, clothes, etc., they become more possessive about their friendships, relationships, and material goods.
As they continue their growth journey some of their patterns of behavior may remain the same, and though their experiences take another form, they continue to feel the attraction and need for new and different possessions, iPhones, cosmetic enhancements, cars, motorcycles, boats, shoes, handbags, etc. With these patterns of behavior, people may become easy targets for developing a co-dependency not only with their material possessions, but with other humans. It may become a way of filling any void(s). When expectations are placed on others, this too is a form of attachment that weighs one down, keeping them from showing up.
Aparigraha invites us to let go and be rid of possessions that possess us. There is truth to the cliché, “a cluttered home leads to a cluttered mind.” For example, if one enjoys shopping and finds themselves doing a little extra shopping when they are feeling a little blue or angry about something, they may begin connecting shopping to something like comfort food. This type of action can become precarious since it may lead one to cluttering their space, keeping them from living fully and making time for a spiritual connection with the Divine.
What may make this yoga ethical practice more challenging for people is how habitual routines or patterns may easily turn into relentless possessiveness. Something as simple as going to your favorite restaurant and having the same entrée each time becomes an attachment to that place and food. I used to be that person that went to the same restaurant and had the same entrée every single time for decades!! Did I feel an attachment to that meal? Yes, I did. I was reluctant to try a different dish since my palate was set on what I always ate and the flavors I enjoyed. Noticing my attachment to that meal began to make me feel uncomfortable. I told myself that I would try something different and so I did! It was a nice experience to step out of my comfort zone. As simple of an example as this is, an attachment is an attachment.
Another personal example is my former attachment to the furniture and home decorations in my house. I wasn’t cognizant of how my possessions possessed me. I used to shop for things I didn’t need, but bought things because they were so nice; I felt a want to have things, and at times it felt a little greedy. Before I knew it, my sacred space was cluttered more than ever! I then understood why I felt a heaviness around me. My mind felt cluttered and scattered. I did not breathe so easily. The good news is that I got to learn how to move through life knowing and feeling a sense of satisfaction for my blessings and this made it easier for me to commence the process of letting go and ridding myself of material goods. I was not a hoarder but had too many things I did not need and was not using. I offered them to others who needed clothes, furniture, glassware, dinnerware, perfume, makeup, shoes, etc. The feeling of lightness replaced the heaviness, and decluttering my physical space also decluttered my mind. What a win!
Living unattached to things, people, and patterns, is living in the moment. Moments are fleeting and change is constant. Being present is being able to remain in the “now”, being able to flow with change despite how uncomfortable it may feel at times. Our mind, body, and spirit are not sanitation departments, yet we keep dumping on ourselves loads of stories and untruths that devalue us as human beings causing us to possess more, causing the pile to grow higher and higher, depleting our body of oxygen, energy, and vibrancy.
Aparigraha invites us to experience the freedom of surrendering—giving ourselves the gift of uninterrupted presence, participating in being, rather than nullifying our existence. It is understanding that living with non-attachment is a state of mind and position. It is knowing that our needs are provided for and that choosing not to trust that we are cared for means creating a life of constant maintenance… the kind that continues to grow and spread like wildfire. The practice of Aparigraha leads to a liberation that makes room for true contentment and satisfaction in that you can appreciate and live life fully without the imprisonment of attachment. After all, what is revealed when one chooses freedom is the ability to love oneself and others unconditionally and with much freedom to be yourself.