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YAMAS: YOGA’S ETHICAL GUIDELINES FOR SELF-REGULATING

This week, we go deeper into the practice of freedom from desire, or aparigraha

About two weeks ago, I heard that people were again hoarding toilet paper in New Mexico. The local Costco had run out as had several other retail stores. 

I decided to not join in the rush to hoard. Instead, I practiced letting go. 

A week later, I went to Costco, having forgotten about the rush for toilet paper. I went to pick the brand of toilet paper on my list. There was a sign announcing customers could only purchase one package of toilet paper. 

On the pallet were several stacks. I took the one allotted. 

When I proceeded to pay, I offered gratitude to the clerk. She then informed me that they had just received the shipment an hour before I had arrived.

I realized that I had let go of the issue and did not worry about whether there was enough or not. In doing so, I was blessed with what I needed at the right time. 

Though this is a small example, it does illustrate the possibility of how one’s needs may be supported from a place of not worrying or hoarding.

For me, this is a small way that I’m practicing aparigraha, which is about freedom from desire.

This week, we’ll continue a series that takes a closer look at yoga’s ethical guidelines for living. These are called yamas, and they fall under Raja Yoga, the branch that governs the disciplines about controlling the mind and senses. The first two branches on Patanjali’s eightfold path are yamas and niyamas.

Simply put, yamas are things not to do, niyamas are things to do. Yamas can be thought of as practices of self-restraint, while niyamas are virtues to cultivate, or observances.

FREEDOM FROM DESIRE

Aparigraha is the last of the yamas, and it is about freedom from desire. Aparigraha can be interpreted to be the non-hoarding of things, not being greedy, non-coveting. 

Our acquiring of possessions leads to a need to hold on to them and protect them. This can create a sense of fear and unhappiness. 

Our possessions cannot give us happiness. We would like to think so. Many of us attempt to find happiness in the latest, greatest possession, finding the feeling created to be momentary. Soon after, there can be an emptiness present where the happiness was supposed to be. Buying more things will never truly fill the void.

Many wise ones have emphasized this concept from Jesus to Thoreau to Gandhi.

TAKING INVENTORY OF THE HEART

Another approach would be to do an inventory of your heart. The wounded heart is often a place of hoarding past injuries. This creates an attachment to being a victim and limiting the richness that a healed heart can experience. 

What hurts, angers, fears, jealousies remain attached in your heart? 

Our internal life is reflected in our life and our possessions we hang on to. Be aware of this as you explore this yama. 

MIDDLE OF THE ROAD WITH OUR APPROACH TO LIFE

With this awareness, it is to know that nothing belongs to us. At birth, we arrive with nothing and at death, we leave with nothing. A life based on using only what we need from a place of moderation allows us to  share in the wealth this world has to offer to all of us. Not just a few. 

This middle-of-the-road approach can be applied to almost every part of our lives. To master this way allows for non-attachment to be present in an outcome in our lives.

This would be true for projects and our desired outcomes. This freedom from greed helps you to be aware of the abundance present in the Universe. 

Not grasping for your expected outcome is a way to surrender to the Divine. 

QUESTIONS FOR ENGAGEMENT

What attachments do I have to my things? Is there something that can be let go, donated or shared? 

Can I give from a humble place? 

How do I feel after sharing the wealth that you possess? 

What hurts, angers, fears, jealousies remain attached in my heart? Closing me off from life? 

How can I practice forgiveness to release these emotional attachments? 

MANTRA FOR APARIGRAHA

Within your own faith, you can find words to release the need to hold on. 

Finding keywords you connect with to do so is important to do. It can be as simple as: “I have enough. My needs are always taken care of. I share with those who are in need.”

Another approach is to connect with Ganesha, who is the deity in the Hindu tradition to aid in removing obstacles to support your journey to get creative in ways to release the attachments I have mentioned. This mantra can support you on this journey. It is said to be more supportive and auspicious to repeat the mantra 108 times. 

OM GAM GANAPATAYE NAMAH 

YOUR YOGA PRACTICE

Bringing aparigraha into whatever yoga practice you have can start from a place of non-grasping toward the outcome of the practice. 

Simply be present with your body and breathe for each move—it can change your practice. 

Notice what areas of your body need more attention than others. Spend time with areas of tightness or soreness. These areas often are negative emotions stuck in those places. When you breathe into them, a softness or a release is often possible. 

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