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. 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.