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Aparigraha: Balancing Matter

materialism meditationOkay, so we all aim to bend and stretch and breathe in a conscious manner. But does that constitute the entirety of our yoga practice?

Actually the yogic way of life is founded on the 10 principles collectively known as yama and niyama. These principles address topics like cleanliness, truth, tranquility and more.

In this gotta have it now era one of the principles that truly suits us is called aparigraha. This is the 5th aspect of yama sadhana.

Aparigraha essentially means non-indulgence in materialistic amenities and comforts that are superfluous for the preservation of life. Or in short: Not chasing after stuff we don’t need – like that 50th wool sweater, the latest electronic gizmos when we already have 6 other gadgets that will do the same thing & so on.

materialism-2Like it or not, America is the cradle of materialism. This affects us in two ways. Our minds get channelized towards objects instead of more subtle pursuits such as poetry, painting, discussions and meditation etc, and our life becomes totally full of stuff, i.e. things we don’t need or have little use for. This leads to financial stress if not duress.

So where are we are? How about here: What are ways we can simplify our lives from a materialistic perspective? How are we able to shift our thinking away from matter and money and goad our life activities towards higher ideals?

Remember, aparigraha does not mean renouncing the material world. It just means not getting devoured by it. When we have mental space to contemplate greater pursuits and are not riddled by debt, then our human experience can be much richer.

It can be as easy as using our technology for an extra year before replacing it, talking with a friend as opposed to going to the movies, or spending an afternoon at the local food bank instead of the shopping mall.

In plain, simple language – or in philosophical terms – share with us how you practice or would like to practice aparigraha in your day to day life.

  1. This could not have come at a more appropriate time, as I spend days, weeks, and months dispersing my folks’ (who both died this last year) household. I’m astonished at just how much ‘stuff’ accumulates over 60 years of marriage…how much of a collector my mother was (apparently ONE of something was never enough), how much she apparently loved monograms…but also, about how much love and memory one small object can hold…a piece of paper on which my father had written notes about the bouquets he was buying all his girls on Valentine’s Day, the old corny tshirts he wore just to the beach…it has been such an ambivalent undertaking…declaring that I will never have so much ‘stuff’, but treasuring each small piece that they have left behind…and feeling like I’m losing them each time I consign an item to the recycle bin or the trash…and feeling so grateful for family that will take these things, so I’ve found them a good home…so much more complicated than I thought…

  2. Sorry to hear about your folks, Annie. Sounds like they had a wonderful life, though! Some years ago, after my mom died and my dad remarried, I got/claimed/ended up with a lot of stuff of my mom’s, some of which had come from her childhood. I was 20 when she died. It was hard on me and my little sister. But I had the things…the stuff. Then, a few years later, my house was robbed. All the “stuff”, the things I thought were important, were gone. It took a while to realize that I’ll never lose her. I may have lost the “stuff”, but, in the larger scheme of things (or more intimate scheme of things) I lost very little. Good luck with all this.

  3. Just as Annie said, unbelievable timing as I just completed an exercise on materialism for a religious education class I’m taking! I had to list everything I spent money on during the last two weeks and then assign either “needed” or “wanted” to each expenditure-somewhat painful and embarrassing effort. Sometimes the lines are blurred so you really have to look inward and choose which you think it is…is taking shirts to the dry cleaners something I really NEED or is it something I WANT to do because I’m too lazy to iron all those shirts? Hmmmmm Definitely something we should assess/monitor constantly. I seriously do want to downsize because I don’t want my poor daughters to go through what Annie just did…and who wants to think they’re being cursed at after they’re gone!!!???

  4. Thanks, Patti and Cheryl, for the kind words sent my way…Patti, I really appreciate hearing your story: I think I feel so much attachment to my folks’ stuff because they are so recently gone…in my heart I think I’ve found that realization that you did after the robbery, but their ‘stuff’ gives me one last physical connection to them that I just am having trouble giving up…my poor husband! I don’t know how many times he has gently said, “Annie, I know it was your Dad’s but I don’t think anyone wants his sweater with 4 holes in it and as many stains!” I can’t imagine how painful the robbery must have been for you…a bit like losing your Mom again…and Cheryl, I had to laugh at your vow! Those words have crossed my lips many times in the last few months! Anyway, didn’t mean to divert the conversation, but I do so appreciate your viewpoints on this particular bout I’m having with materialism…it helps!

  5. Annie, I appreciate your heartfelt words. It brought back memories of my own parents. I lost my Mother 21 years ago and my Father 5 years ago. I remember feeling the same way. I wanted to keep little pieces of them with me to touch and hold when I needed to. I really think it did help me with the grieving process. As time passes it became easier to let some of these things go. I now have a few momentos I keep as a loving remembrance. Cheryl you are right, I may not have all those things anymore but my Mom and Dad both are still very much with me in my heart.

    As for my practice of aparigraha I think of my plants.
    This time of year I am up to my neck in seedlings! I love it!! My plants and gardens help keep me balanced. I try to cut down on material costs in a number of ways. I often give plants as a gift instead of buying something. I try to save some seeds year to year and plant them myself. You don’t need to buy expensive pots, you can plant seeds in recycled containers and even make pots from newspaper that you put straight into the ground. I also can and freeze some of the food I grow and eat it all year long.
    The sunshine, fresh air, excercise, fresh food, herbs and flowers help keep me healthy, happy and connected with mother earth!

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