Thursday, May 12, 2011

Aparigraha: What We Possess, Possesses Us

The nature of all things is change. One could even say that the only constant in this life is change. And yet there always seems to be the impetus towards attachment and clinging.

I have had many exhilarating experiences-such as listening to the Dalai Lama speak in person, long hikes into the wilderness, dancing around drum circles, heartfelt conversations with friends and sitting next to a campfire on a starry night. I have savored glasses of deep red wine, floated in the surf on tropical beaches, collected a variety of oddities at thrift stores and experienced a variety of different relationships.

What makes all of these experiences similar is that they ended, shifted, or morphed in some way. The oddities began to take up too much space. Friends moved away. The drums stopped. I moved far away from my favorite hiking trail. The campfire went out. The starry night became covered by clouds. The wine bottle emptied. Relationships ended.

At times I was able to let go and move on to the next moment, the next new experience. Other times I became fixated, hoping, wishing, and longing to repeat the same experience again. And in this holding pattern, I became trapped, holding on to something that had passed, unwittingly closing myself off to the flow of life. I would wager that this is relatively normal for many of us.

Aparigraha, which means non-possessiveness, is a call to come alive in the moment, to move on, to change, to become present to the natural unfolding of our lives by not clinging.

In the "Yamas and Niyamas," Deborah describes Aparigraha this way, "Just like the breath gives us nourishment, so does life in the form of homes, work, relationships, routines that bring us ease, beliefs, stances, and images of ourselves. There is nourishment until we get attached to these things, often unconsciously, and then disturb ourselves with expectations, opinions, criticisms, disappointments, all because we forget to trust life, exhale and let go. Like the breath when it is held too long, the things that nourish us can become toxic." (p.92)

This lovely May morning, I sit trusting the uncertainty of life, experiencing the difference between enjoyment and attachment, exhaling and letting go. Aparigraha is the emobodiment of a beautiful practice in living life fully, free from disappointment and boredom.

"A bird cannot grasp it's perch and fly. Neither can we grasp anything and be free." -Deborah Adele

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