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Working with Non-attachment - Aparigraha - and living more minimalistically

Updated: Jan 22, 2023

Since moving out of my parents house when I was 18, as you would expect, I began to accumulate more and more stuff. Some of it was useful, like clothes, cutlery, kitchen utensils, you know, things with an actual purpose. It seemed like stuff would just pile up in corners, in closets or even on the floor, just to get stepped over time and time again.

Now, since moving out, only 7 years ago. I’ve moved 8 times, and believe it or not, its not something that I enjoy, I haven’t even got it down to a good tactic other than try and get it all done and over with as soon as possible.

The last time I moved, which was in January this year, I moved back into my parents house. This was to re calibrate, find my footing again and for many, many other reasons to be truthful. This flat I had been in before, only for a few months before making the decision to move again. (maybe one day i’ll settle on somewhere). Upon making the decision to move though, I became exceedingly aware of how much stuff I actually had, just like normal when I was moving, but this time I took notice of this one box.

There was one box, that believe it or not had remained unpacked from when I first packed it and moved into my first flat when I was 18. Since then it had just gotten fuller and fuller over the years of what can only be described as miscellaneous rubbish.. and a screwdriver.. worth keeping then I guess. This box, gave me the fear. How could I just keep carrying it around with me, what was the reason?

With having to pack up all of this “stuff” over and over again, I found it got a bit sickening, and to be honest, extremely draining. This time when I moved, I decided that if i hadn’t used it in two months, then it was going to get recycled or given away to someone or a charity. This applied for everything, from clothes, to furniture, or even plants I wasn’t going to have room for.

That one box triggered something and made me just think, why? why do I have all this stuff? do I actually need it? and honestly.. the answer for 90% of my things, was no, I did not need it. There was literally no need for me to keep boxing items up and moving them from place to place. Literally, no reason other than this stuff was “mine”. This is where I discovered the problem was, not that its necessarily a problem, having “stuff”..but.. if i didn’t need it or use it, then i’m sure someone else could make better use of it.

This came at a time when throughout my yoga practice I was focusing a lot on attachment. Releasing attachment to outcomes such as standing on my hands or how long I could sit with myself in meditation, and instead just doing them because I know I should be doing them, without focusing on the rewards that might unfold. Clearly to me now, this had obviously over spilled into different areas of my life without me being aware at the time, and just thinking I was needing a clear out. It worked on my attachment to things I can describe as “mine”, and this possessiveness over material objects that hold no purpose, except to be kept as “mine”. For what? for bragging rights? Really? hey, look at this fancy mug i’ve got, cool right? well, no, not really. Especially not when theres about 14 others that all serve the same purpose in the cupboard.

Before I tried to cram 7 years worth of rubbish back into my parents home again, I had a serious look at all of my things and boiled it down to, needs, wants, and helpfulness. Now this is where it gets interesting, and bit daunting. When you start to look into wants and needs, it begins to boil down to very very little. Our human needs, at the very basic level, are shelter, food and water. Wants, well, that categorises pretty much everything else like new clothes, fancy furniture, decorations.. etc etc.

What was scary was the attachment to these things I had accumulated. There was resistance to discarding with these items that I had no real need, or want for, and they weren’t even that helpful either. There was of course some space for things that held quite a significant sentimental value, things like watches my Granddad had gave me, or some seriously thoughtful gifts from friends and family. The only real reason I’d kept the rest of my stuff was because I could tarnish it with this brush that painted “Gareth’s property” on it all. This got me of thinking, why do we become so possessive? Why are we so closed off to the idea of sharing and giving, yet so welcoming of this idea of possessing and hoarding? Why the hell am I so attached to this one mug?

Maybe its all to do with the society we live in. Maybe its just how the little bubble of our world exists, i’m not sure. One thing I know, is that for myself, it feels wrong to have all of these things, that serve no purpose, that just seem to fill up space. It seems odd that we as humans, who used to live naturally and sustainably, build these massive houses and mansions in order to store more of our stuff, so.. what, we can spend more time indoors.. looking at our stuff that is labelled as “mine”? Bizarre.

“It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents us from living freely and nobly” - Henry David Thoreau.

It seems that it is our ego, that feeds upon this grasping and hoarding of things. Almost making them into material hostages to our being. The more we feed into this materialistic mindset, it seems the more that the ego will grow. When we actually take a big step back and look at this from a different perspective, it is then we realise how shallow these identifications are, based on outer qualities and things, instead of our own inner qualities. It’s all just a tad superficial. It creates this energy that worth and success is valued not by our inner qualities and happiness, but instead by our possessions and career.

Now, how does this all relate to yoga? Aparigraha - Non-hoarding. This is the fifth of the five yamas (ethical practices) which is a part of the eight limbs of yoga outlined in the yoga sutras. This teaches us, simply yet also subtly, to reject the concept of “mine”, something that is very difficult, especially for our egos. Aparigraha also means not holding onto rigid opinions and not being possessive over ideas as our own. It is also important to state that when we come up with something we think is new and exciting, we are simply tapping into knowledge that already exists (Īśvara).

There is a lot more to the understanding of Aparigraha, and I’m sure I will have more to share on this subject as time goes on. For now, this is simply my experience of how it has manifested in recent months, leading me on a journey to feeding that ego less and less, and living a bit more consciously and minimalist.

Hopefully this will provide you with a bit of food for thought regarding this idea of “mine” and possessiveness. Maybe it will, maybe it will not. Maybe you also have a box that you’ve carted around and hasn’t been unpacked for 7 years?

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