Aparigraha – The 5th yama

Aparigraha – The 5th yama

Posted by Wellspring, Category: On the Yoga/Meditation Mat,

We come to our 5th and last yama of yoga philosophy.  Aparigraha is generally understood to mean an absence of greed.  A literal translation of the word aparigraha is "not grasping all around," so some scholars think that non-attachment is a closer to the original intent.

We've just come off our top season of getting more stuff.  While many complain about the consumer-nature of the holidays, few of us are immune to the expectations of giving and receiving gifts, the indulgences of parties and the general frenzy of shopping, decorating, entertaining and the like.  It's the perfect backdrop to the discussion of greed or non-attachment, whichever!  How attached are we to things - having them, getting them, giving them, dreaming about them.  Can we take a moment to discover what it is we really need?  When we get something we're sure we needed, are we satisfied?  Or are we soon "needing" something else?  Sometimes surrounding ourselves with stuff only barely hides a deeper, truer need.

Non-attachment and simplicity are ideas that go beyond physical stuff, however.  We can be very attached and cling to ideas that hinder our peace of mind and connection to others.  Religious, political and ethical beliefs can be isolating or all-consuming.  Ideas about our health, our personalities, who we are or should be can be stifling.  We tend to crave continuity - we want things to be the same and familiar and safe - and most of us are very attached to the things that keep our worldview in this way.

But the flow of life is a FLOW!  Movement.  Change.  Yoga asks us to be part of this flow of life, every moment as it arises.  It is much easier to greet a new moment when we are not attached and clinging to a previous one.  It is fine to have stuff, to have ideas and beliefs.  Aparigraha asks us to not be dependent on these things, to not be controlled by them.  We are asked to know ourselves, be true to ourselves and know what we really need.  This often leads to a greater simplicity in life all by itself.  Greater simplicity often leads to more freedom and peace, and a sense of gratitude and fulfillment.

What might you consider letting go of this year?  What would it mean to be free of something that hangs heavy on your heart?  What would you have room for in your life if you emptied out one thing, one thought, one habit?