As we finish up the last of the 5 Yamas in Patanjali’s “Eight Limbs of Yoga,” let’s do this quick breathing exercise together:
Keep your shoulders relaxed, sitting with spine in neutral.
Take a deep breath in.
Let the breath out.
Now, breathe in again; but this time,
notice how the breath feels as you fill up your lungs with air.
Then breathe out, letting that breath go.
How did that feel? Pretty good, I’m sure. 🙂
Aparigraha is sanskrit for Non-Possessiveness. This covers everything from materialism, hoarding, unhealthy habits… basically, anything that causes attachments outside of God. Why is practicing Aparigraha so important? I will break my response into two parts: During and After.
During the Practice of Aparigraha
One of the greatest challenges of practicing non-possessiveness during this COVID-19 Pandemic is all the online shopping that is practically being shoved in front of our faces. When I checked my e-mail yesterday afternoon, I had 73 Unread messages, and almost all of them were e-mails from retailers notifying me of a sale, a coupon code, or a new promotional item. I think I’ve only shopped from maybe 7-8 of those retailers, and I generally delete those e-mails; but once in a while, an e-mail subject line will catch my eye if it mentions a 50%-75% off sale. I will click on the e-mail and start browsing on their online store, feeling the temptation to buy the leggings or the eyeshadow palette just because they’re on sale. I may even add them to my cart, but in the end, I delete them out of the cart because I know that I don’t really need another pair of leggings or another palette of eyeshadow. Part of what helps me is going back to what the logic part of my brain — the frontal lobe — is telling me.
When we’re practicing non-possessiveness, we allow ourselves to receive the enjoyment and the nourishment of the object/people/situations but we don’t become attached and/or addicted to it. We begin to understand that we can not look at tangible things the same way that we look at non-tangible things. Tangible things are temporary, whereas non-tangible things are eternal.
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,
since what is seen is temporary,
but what is unseen is eternal.”
2 Corinthian 4:18
After the Practice of Aparigraha
Another thing I’ve been seeing a lot online is ads for weight-loss and fitness programs. Most of these ads show the “Before” and “After” photos of people that have successfully lost weight or gained muscle-definition using their program. Just like how the “After” photos show the benefits of the program, you see the benefits of practicing non-possessiveness after you actually practice it. By not buying things that you don’t really need, you will have money in your bank account, you won’t have a credit card bill at the end of the month (which would included a monthly interest rate that you will have to pay), you will actually enjoy the things that you already have, and you won’t have to worry about somehow making more room in your home for the things you just bought. You may even notice that you feel happier from not being ruled by a life of excess. You’re able to make space in your heart and your soul for more experiences, more freedom, and more joy. This brings about a sense of empowerment to move forward without dragging a big, heavy load of things that will only slow you down from your ultimate, divine purpose in your life.
In the beginning this blog, I invited you to do a breathing exercise. The air that you breathed in nourished your body and kept you alive; but what would’ve happened if you held on to that breath and not let it out? That very breath which was meant to nourish you would have become toxic to your body. Just like the breath, the tangible things in this world are not necessarily bad; but if we don’t learn to enjoy them and then let them go, they will end up become toxic to our spiritual growths.
Each of the five Yamas that I have spoken in these past five weeks — Ahimsa (Non-Violence), Satya (Truthfulness), Asteya (Non-Stealing), Brahmachaya (Non-Excess), and Aparigraha (Non-Possessiveness) — make up the restraints and moral codes that build on the previous Yama. Next week, I will begin the topic of the second limb of Yoga which is Niyamas.