Sunday, January 27, 2013

Yama 5 - Apirigraha

The last in our series of Yamas is Apirigraha, which means "non-attachment", "non-hoarding" or "non-possessiveness". This is one of the hardest yamas to practice as attachment is a slippery devil! Also, in a way Apirigraha goes against everything we are encouraged to do, or are told is the key to 'happiness' in this modern consumerist world. So disentangling ourselves from the belief that happiness lies in buying more things, having more money, or owning a fancier phone can be a real challenge for us modern day brogis :)

Not only that, Apirigraha does not include only our relationship to material possessions (told you it was a slippery one) it also includes our attachment to ideas, relationships, people and beliefs (like the belief that a fancy phone does make you happy :P)

At the heart of Apirigraha is the notion of letting go of our feelings of not having enough and the need to "possess" more, enabling us to move from a state of grasping into one of gratitude and abundance.

Or, in the words of renowned philosophers Mick Jagger and Keith Richards...

"You can't always get what you want,
But if you try sometimes well you might find,
You get what you need"

"What you need" being a sense of gratitude and contentment with what is actually around you, not those things you don't have but you think you do "need" in order to be happy. Which is not to say we don't need certain things - of course shelter, food and comfort are important - as is having enough to be able to meet our own specific genuine needs. The act of practicing Apirigraha helps give us the discernment to figure out what these needs are; and to get rid of the superfluous desiring and "needing" that is actually taking us further away from what is truly important.

This quote from instantgoodkarma, has a beautiful explanation of the what some of those truly important things could be:

"Instead of focusing on things that can be lost we should focus our energy and our life on the things that cannot be lost. What cannot be lost, you ask? If your actions are from good intentions, if you act from love, if you always try to put good energy into the world, this is something that cannot be lost. The work you put into improving yourself, quieting your mind, learning how to behave in a moral and ethical manner, and learning how to act in accordance with your true inner self is something that can never be lost. Even the poorest person in the most difficult circumstance can still give a kind word, can show compassion, and can help others. These are the things that can never be taken from us, and they are the things we should focus on. Thus, aparigraha also implies that we should focus on what cannot be lost... finding our inner true self, and on what we give to others and the world."

So inspiring! Goosebumps!

The best and easiest way to bring a bit of Apirigraha into our lives is simply to observe our own behaviour, to question our own motivations (gently of course; don't forget Ahimsa!) Do you really "need" all the things you think you do? Are you expecting happiness from external objects or people? Are you giving with the hopes of getting something in return? Or genuinely, without expectation? 

Relationships are often where grasping can creep in. We often treat people like possessions, believing them to be able to "give" us the happiness we desire. As the buddhists would say, this is like "licking honey from a razor blade" (visceral!) If we look to other to supply happiness for us we will always be grasping and needy. If we learn to supply this to ourselves, by being conscious of and grateful for all that we already have, we will be free to live and love genuinely without ulterior motives or expectation.

So just so we are clear, it not the possessions or thoughts in themselves that are the problem, it's the tightness of our grip. It is fine to want things, or to be in relationship, or even to have a fancy phone (KNOCK YOURSELF OUT!) Just check how tightly you are attached to those things. Loosen it up a little and see how things go.

Along with this, try practicing gratitude for the things you already possess and the abundance you have around you. Adopt a "glass half full" attitude in other words! Stop focusing on what you don't have and notice what you do. Before you go to sleep at night think of three things you are grateful for. Even if one of them is your doona and the other two are your pillows! I don't care :)

If we choose to acknowledge abundance and blessings even if things aren't exactly as you would like them to be we become more open to the good things that are all around us in life. Even if they aren't the ones we specifically asked for. That's life brogis... Remember the song!



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