Posts Tagged ‘yamas and niyamas’
Last year I wrote an article, Retail Therapy For The Economically Recessed, which touched on the yogic restraint of aparigraha (non-hoarding, non-grasping). At the time, I approached it from the angle that most do; one of resisting the urge to consume ever more stuff and not taking more than you need.
While this is an important perspective to consider as the annual American orgy of consumption (aka the “holiday season”) approaches, I believe it only scratches the surface of how we can apply this yama (self-restraint) in our everyday lives. By observing other aspects of aparigraha, we can make the world a more civil and happy place to live. Isn’t that what the yamas are all about anyway?
It seems we’re always grasping for something we think we don’t have enough of; possessions, people’s attention, a great looking pincha mayrasana, or the accolades of others. One aspect on non-hoarding that comes to mind is the need for us to apply it to everyday conversations. You can live a most frugal and materially unselfish life but if you tend to dominate every conversation you’re in, you’re probably not living with aparigraha.
Sure, we all have something to say and want to be heard, but not hoarding the conversation and leaving space for others to offer their thoughts makes for more harmonious interactions. Besdies, we do learn more by listening!
I’m not saying you shouldn’t speak your truth – far from it. What I am saying is that in speaking your truth, explore your own intentions and ask yourself if you are allowing space for others to speak theirs as well. This also means taking the time to listen. not just finding someplace else to be (mentally or physically) when its someone else’s turn to speak.
What about other ways we interact with those around us, like the way we occupy space on the sidewalk, the studio, or the grocery store? After over a decade of living abroad I’m often still in culture shock when I see the way Americans physically occupy space, with little awareness or regard for how it affects others. Yes, I believe aparigraha applies here as well.
Sure, this hoarding of space can take the form of trying to have the biggest house, the biggest car or staking out your own 2 acres of space at the beach but its often much simpler than that.
It doesn’t matter whether its a group of friends walking five abreast on the sidewalk (and expecting everyone else to move out of the way) or the ones who block an entire grocery aisle with their cart while standing with their hands on their hips looking at an item – we Americans are space-hoarders.
As a tall guy with long arms and legs, I’ve always been hyper-sensitive about not taking up too much space since if I’m not mindful about it, its just going to happen – especially in a crowded yoga studio. I often joke that the reason I wanted to teach yoga was because it seemed that only at the front of the room could I fully stretch out my arms…but I digress.
Sure, we’re a country with a low population density and a cultural need for “personal space”, so we do seem to come by this one honestly. But, as our public spaces become more crowded, a little less space-hoarding and more personal awareness could go a long way to improving everyone’s quality of life.
Of course being mindful all the time that we’re not monopolizing a conversation, taking up too much space or too much of someone’s time can seem like it would require a lot of effort. Luckily, there is an easier way; living in abundance. As studio owner and author Meta Hirschl says in her book Vital Yoga: A Sourcebook For Students and Teachers; “Aparigraha also means gaining awareness and focusing on our inherent sufficiency instead of deprivation.”
So, instead of feeling the need to say everything you want to say in every conversation, living in abundance reminds us of the richness of thoughts and ideas someone else may have – which helps us to actively listen and engage others in real conversations, not a series of monologues. It also releases us from the feeling of insecurity that we need to grab space and attention while we can, lest an opportunity be lost.
And finally, living in abundance makes us aware of just how fulfilling our lives can be. If we practice this each day with a sense of gratitude, it won’t be long before we’re living with aparigraha without having to think about it.
So, in the coming weeks as the deluge of advertisements bombard us with messages designed to tell us what we lack, by living in abundance and gratitude we can blissfully smile and breathe our way through the season.
Plus, the space we’ll be leaving in the aisles of those stores by our absence will make it easier for others to embrace aparigraha in some way as well.
This article originally appeared in Elephant Journal, November 2010.