Aparigraha: The Practice of Non-Attachment
When I think of Aparigraha, the practice of non-attachment, I usually think of two things - stuff and people. I rarely think of outcomes. As I continue to study this fifth yama, or moral code for the relationship yogis have with themselves, I’m beginning to think beyond that. When I walk into a yoga class, I have to try to practice in a different place in the room at all times. I always try to be in the front row so that I can be “attached” to the wall in handstand, but what if I moved to the back or the middle of the room instead? What if I just moved into handstand without a wall? I would imagine that eventually, I would be able to practice my inversions without support. Maybe I wouldn’t. Even the desire to go up, and stay up, in a handstand is an attachment to an outcome. We shouldn’t be practicing yoga with the desire for an outcome. We should be practicing with the desire for presence. We shouldn’t be attached to a place in the room because our only attachment should be with our breath and our souls. This makes me think about all of the other attachments I practice with.
I know that I have attachments to people, who may or may not be good for my spirit, but they’ve been with me for so long that I can’t imagine a life without them. I have attachments to possessions, because I've been trained to believe that my worth is determined by the worth of my stuff. This isn’t revelatory information - it’s not the first time we are thinking about the fact that things and people do not determine our worth. This is the first time, though, that I’m considering getting rid of some really toxic things and people and experiences. There is an internal conflict between forgiveness, (kshama), and ridding ourselves of those things that don’t serve us through Aparigraha. Both of these are yogic practices, but I often find them to be in conflict with one another. I am struggling to understand how to forgive people in spite of their desire to harm, and also practice non-attachment. I think in order to forgive someone, you must recognize an attachment to their actions, otherwise forgiveness wouldn’t be required.
Is the goal of Aparigraha to rid yourself of all attachments to all things, or is it to rid yourself of that which doesn’t serve you? Should you forgive everyone for the errors of their ways, or should you instead rid yourself of all people who deplete your energy and fail to support you in the ways that you need? Should you do neither, and just worry about where you are in this moment, and all of the material possessions and people around you are irrelevant, and should be neither sought after nor ignored, as long as you do not allow them to impact your decisions or emotions in any given moment. Forgiveness requires recognition. Non-attachment does not. Can aparigraha live in harmony with kshama?