We finished our group study of the yamas before the holiday with the fifth of the restraints. There’s always a lot to think and talk about when it comes to aparigraha, and the timing was ideal to consider the ways we grasp at everything, everywhere, all the time. Breaking it down:
pari– on all sides
graha– to take or grab
Aparigraha is the practice of non-hoarding, non-attachment, of taking no more than you need. It is the practice of choosing faith. It is the practice of letting go.
2020 has provided no shortage of opportunities to practice this foundational principle of yoga. So many of us have had to let go of businesses, jobs, identities; we’ve had to release habits and routines, freedoms, preferences and choices. This year has been the mother-of-all-reminders that we are not in control, and our vain attempts at trying to hold on to the reins of this wild beast called Life will only result in getting thrown and, likely, trampled in the process. The holding on creates suffering. Period.
We know this and yet still we cling. To what? Well, pretty much everything. Our stuff and our stations— the illusion of security. Our relationships and positions— the illusion of stability. Our perceptions of ourselves and our attempts to manage how others perceive us— the illusion of control. We hold tightly to our expectations and resentments in equal measure. We are overly attached to the behavior and choices of others; and even when it doesn’t serve us at all, we desperately hold fast to the past, grudges, and outdated, limiting beliefs.
We know this and yet we continue to grasp from every side. Why? What is at the root of these attachments? I think it all boils down to fear. We are afraid that we won’t have enough or be enough, as though there is a limited supply of goodness in this life. We are afraid that we won’t be seen, heard, cared for. Again and again we erroneously identify with the material elements in our ever-changing physical world rather than the eternal perfection of spirit that we are at core. We lose our connection to shraddha, faith, the knowing that everything we have is everything we need. We forget that abundance is constant, more will always come— and at just the right time. We lose sight that we, also, are part of the divine coming and going of all things.
We are meant to live in the flow of life, not some stagnant, collecting pool of life. This gift includes an agreement: everything that comes must and eventually will go. Our work is to gratefully receive what comes and just as gratefully release it when its purpose has been served and the time has come for it to move on— whether or not we think we are ready or we can see the next thing coming down the pike. We are tasked with remembering that nothing— the job, the house, relationships, a phase of life, an identity, all the stuff— nothing is permanent. It is not possible to hold on, and we will suffer greatly in trying.
This year taught me how to let go. Or perhaps this year showed me the capacity I have to do so. It certainly gave me more opportunities than I care to count to practice. As we approach the last few weeks of the year, I am taking a look at what remains. Where am I still grasping, what am I collecting, what am I still attached to? If I want to walk into the new year with open hands, it is up to me to decide to unclench my greedy little fists and let go— or not. If total liberation is desired, total surrender is required. And so as I gather and gently release what I find squirreled away in the corners of my home and my heart, I whisper a silent prayer of thanks for the blessings and lessons brought to me and bid them a fair adieu.
Let us finish this year lighter and more free than we began. Let us make space for the goodness that is coming, which cannot arrive if our hands and minds are full, our attention directed to managing and maintaining all that to which we have been clinging. Let us end the year with open hands, open hearts, open space preparing for that which is, in perfect timing, about to enter in.