Mindfulness Via Yoga

align. renew. transform.

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The Epigraph

This blog was first a thought that would fit under Julian Barnes’ nostalgic title, The Sense of An Ending. His wonderful novella tells of a middle-aged man who has never dealt with his past until presented with an odd situation that obliges him to consider a variety of events he had not thought deeply enough to understand in their time.

And then, my own sequence of events that brought me here, to write on this page, was influenced again by a delightful Cowboy book with a preface extolling the seductive role of an epigraph. (In literature, an epigraph is a phrase, a quotation or a poem that is set at the beginning of a document. The epigraph may serve as preface, summary, a counter-example, or a link to suggest context. The best example of epigraph, she suggests, is Renee Zellweger’s line to Tom Cruise in the movie Jerry Maguire: “You had me at hello.”)

Hold on, I’m getting there.

Here’s the epigram, paraphrased (and altered with my own examples) from Julian Barnes:

You get towards the end of life–no not life itself, but of something else: the end of any likelihood of change in that life. You  are allowed a long moment of pause, time enough to ask the question: what else have I done wrong?…I thought of a wide-eyed woman tasting an orange peel for the first time… I thought of a cresting wave of storm-sent ocean, lit by a full moon…I thought of another cowboy fashioning a toothbrush from a soft branch of tree, around a remote campfire.IMG_0239

There is accumulation. There is responsibility. And beyond these, there is unrest. There is great unrest.

And then there is transition. There is space and time and within it emerges wordless insight. There is knowing that in the end of a long string of events called life change does happen. Whether it comes at the end of life or the end of a chapter of life, the accumulation sorts itself. And there is knowing the meaning of that life -or that chapter – for the first time.


Grasping Aparigraha

How freeing it is – not being greedy, not clinging – to things, to people, to possessions.

Among the yamas, Patanjali’s five abstentions, we come to the last one, to Aparigraha. Square in Solefino October 2012 157 In one sense, this final admonition is so valuable in the world of the “material girl”.  We wonder how to go about letting go of “all our stuff” – thoughts, bottles of water, more than one winter coat, the compost of life that gets in our way when we want to loosen up in our relationships to other people and to the world around us. To be free of the pursuit of things, with time for the pursuit of meanings.

Patanjali says (II:30) that not being greedy, not hoarding, is about our capacity to use things in the proper way. But he goes on to say that Aparigraha is not accepting gifts.  Hmmmm. What does that mean?Satchidananda suggests that accepting gifts creates an atmosphere of obligation . Think House of Cards, think political swapping, think payola.

Donna Farhi  suggests that we hold onto material things to reinforce a sense of identity: an executive ego with foot soldiers called the right clothes, the better house, the impressive car, the job, the image required to maintain an illusion of power. Begin a practise of not grasping, withdrawing our hand to reach for material things, she says, and eventually the need to reach outward is diminished until there is recognition :

That which is essential to us is already at hand.