Today I took a stack of books down to one of the little free libraries about a mile from my house, freeing myself of the requirement of dusting them. As I locked the little door back on the library and walked away, I felt a bit freer but also as though, somehow, my generous contribution was making an impact on the entire Universe. A little over the top, I’m sure, but hey. Whatever gets me through the ‘unloading process’, right?
And what a great segue into the last of the Yamas in Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga: Aparigraha. Aparigraha is, essentially, the art of practicing non-attachment. When translated, we often see it as the practice of non-greed or non-possessiveness. Recently I had experienced a little bit of jealousy – something I’m not necessarily prone to, so when this was introduced to me, that’s the spot in my psyche where it landed.
This Yama instructs us to only take what we need, keep only what serves us in the moment, and to let go when the time is right. The letting go part was hard for me -,one I’m working through by trusting the Universe with the process.
Aparigrahpa introduces the art of ‘having no attachment to the outcome’. This can be misleading if you aren’t familiar with Buddhist tradition – which I’m not – but (and I could be so far off base here…) I gather that it means that you aren’t hoping for an outcome – it’s just that you have let go of the emotional attachment to the outcome. In other words, sometimes the Universe is smarter than we are. Sometimes It delivers what we want in a different time or different place – like ten years later – or maybe…maybe it delivers something so completely different, but better for us, despite our longings leading up to that.
I’m extremely good at letting go of material items but absolutely fucking awful at letting go of emotional pain. I’m working through it, which I guess is the point, but to sit here and tell you that after one yoga class on Aparigrahpa and a few weeks of trying new things that I’m all better? Well, that would be untruthful – which is the second of the Yamas.
So, I did easy stuff to work on my practice of Aparigrahpa in the weeks that followed the class. I did these minor – but important – things. I hope they can help you consider what you can do:
Purge and then purge some more. I had a garage sale. (That’s the same as a tag sale for my New England readers.) I’ve done this a million times in my lifetime and written about it here. But most of my big sales came prior to a move to another state, so this time I really focused on what was no longer serving me. There were some things I had hung onto for years, moving from place to place, because I thought I might need it someday. Graham Hill has a great TedTalk about this very thing, and when I went through my closets and drawers and boxes and bins, I simply asked myself if this was serving me and the life I wanted to have. Additionally, while I was just sitting out there in my garage, I started going through totes I had packed there. This was an interesting endeavor to say the least. I won’t go into any details, but let’s just say this: About $2000 worth of wedding photos, a wedding video and follow up photographs got shipped off to the Springfield landfill. And I am not sorry one little bit about it.
Give to others. I made an anonymous gift. Don’t get too excited. It wasn’t huge and it wasn’t the first time. But, I get a kick out of being the infamous anonymous donor. I don’t give for the recognition and I don’t expect anything in return. My concern is in the action alone – never the fruits of that action. I never want the results of the action to be my motive for giving and I’m not attached to the inaction, either. I was called to give so I gave.
Let go of the attachment. We already touched on how this affects me in relationships, so I’ll go for an explanation a little less ‘charged’. For years I didn’t write because I didn’t think I was good enough. When I stopped focusing on whether or not I was any good at it, and simply started doing it again, I was able to expand. Many great poets like Thoreu and Whitman or painters like Corot weren’t sure of what would come of their art. They simply enjoyed the process of it. I let go of the idea that my happiness was determined by what others thought and simply started writing as therapy. Therapy turned into a blog. A blog is turning into a story. A story is turning into a novel. If people read my work and like it – great. If it inspires you – even better! But, as part of Aparigraha, I am not tying my self worth to the opinions of others. I have let go of the attachment to the outcome.
So as I leave you today, I leave you with a Jason Isbell song which is one of my favorites though it sounds a bit melancholy.
I also want to ask you these things:
What are you hanging on to that no longer serves you? Is it ‘stuff’ or emotions? People? I know that letting go isn’t always simple, but sometimes it is necessary.
How are you generous – or can be more generous to those around you? When we offer the truth (like I do here in my blog to you) then we are also being generous. Let’s not forget how powerful the truth can really be. It can make all the difference in the world even if it isn’t bedazzled and perfect.
Are you attached to an outcome? Are you betraying your natural talent because of fear? If so, how can you push yourself through this and live in the beauty that is you?
I really do love to hear from you, if you are out there reading. I may not be attached to an outcome, but I do like to communicate!