In this series, we’ve been exploring the basic principles of yoga philosophy – the yamas and niyamas – and how we can apply them to everyday life. The fifth and final yama is aparigraha, or non-grasping.
Some examples of grasping behaviours are jealousy at another’s success; bitterness when someone has material possessions, talents or relationships which we covet; taking more than is freely offered, and becoming attached to expectations and outcomes.
Grasping is closely tied up with greed, jealousy, and control, all of which arise from a sense of lack – a sense of not being enough or having enough. In its most extreme expression, grasping can take the form of hoarding, stalking, and trying to control others.
Of course, most of us never go that far, but a touch of grasping is a very common thing. We get attached to the idea of how a holiday is going to be – and then come crashing down with disappointment when it falls short. We take a little more food than we need – and then feel over-stuffed and guilty. We experience retail-lust and have to have the shiny new bauble – then avoid opening our bank statements. We envy a friend’s seemingly perfect relationship with their partner – knowing little of their private struggles. And of course, in these days of social media, we compare ourselves with idealised images of beautiful people in dream locations – and inevitably find ourselves failing to measure up.
How much do we need?
If only we realised just how little we need, how perfect we are just the way we are, and how much the world needs our unique expressions of ourselves. If only we realised that expectation will almost always be better than reality, and that comparison is the thief of joy. If only we could relax and enjoy what’s in front of us, without measuring it up against an imagined ideal. If only we realised that we already have what we need, right here inside us.
The realisation that we have all we need, and that it’s all around us, is called living in abundance. Feeling gratitude for the things which we ordinarily take for granted is a simple but profound practice. Living with a sense of abundance and gratitude means that we rarely feel poor, or jealous, or bitter. When we focus, regularly, on all that we are grateful for, it matters less what someone else has, and we realise how full of reasons to be happy our own lives are. When we come from a mindset of abundance – that we have enough and are enough, it takes greed out at the knees.
Keeping a gratitude journal is a fantastic way to get started in cultivating aparigraha. Each day, write down three things which you’re grateful for. There are plenty – you’re reading this, so you have a level of education, access to the internet, and a computer device. I’m guessing that you didn’t sleep on the street last night, that you have access to safe drinking water and sanitation, and that you know where your next meal is coming from. What else? Are you healthy? Do you live a relatively safe country? Is there someone in your life who you love? There are so many things to be grateful for when we look, and the lovely thing is that once you start becoming aware of them the effect snowballs!
It’s ok to want things in life
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying nice things and wanting life’s comforts, just as long as we don’t become so attached to them that we suffer when they’re not around or feel painfully jealous when someone else has what we want. There’s nothing wrong with admiring others and finding inspiration in them, as long as we don’t get caught up in comparison and lose ourselves in the process. It’s all about becoming aware of how much we already have and celebrating that! And when we generously celebrate the good fortune of others too and feel happy for them, then we get to multiply the joy we experience many times over!
There is enough to go around. A candle flame which lights another candle is in no way diminished by sharing its light. That single tiny flame can light a million other flames and never suffer from the process.
You have enough. You do enough. You are enough.