Aparigraha: Inspiration From Max Strom On Emptying Out To Live More Fully

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Before we begin; practicing Aparigraha is difficult. It requires the ability to realise that you are already enough, you are perfect, you are whole, and you have everything you need. But we are a society that wants more, better, bigger, etc…. The idea of actually liking yourself as you are and not needing to add anything – especially material possessions or status – is pretty much unheard of…. So yes, it’s hard, but this yoga stuff isn’t meant to be easy….

Having written on this subject not long ago for Ekhart Yoga, this 5th Yama of the Yoga sutras – which represents ‘non greed’ or ‘non hoarding’ and really the ability to let go – has been on my mind ever since.

Perhaps an apt time to be writing this (or not, actually) as Christmas is fast approaching, and with it comes huge amounts of money spent on a lot of things we really don’t need…. ‘Hoarding’ and ‘greed’ can indeed be a pretty good way to describe the heavy bags laden with gifts that will eventually go forgotten, which will be wrapped with paper that will be used once and – for the most part – not recycled or used again.

I have to admit, the practice of Aparigraha isn’t one that comes naturally to me; I am a self-confessed hoarder of ‘stuff’, and as I’m writing this, I’m sitting on a transfer flight to Goa, India, with 26kg of luggage that could probably have been less than half of that weight if I had considered what I actually needed instead of lugging my entire wardrobe and about 12 pairs of yoga leggings, because ‘what if’….

Listening to Max Strom’s audio book ‘A Life Worth Breathing’ on the journey (which is definitely worth reading or listening to!) also confirmed that this particular sutra is more important now than ever…. (Plus, you have a lot of time to think as I have discovered on this endlessly long time of sitting in aeroplane seats) To paraphrase Max Strom:
“As technology is evolving at an increasing speed, it seems mankind it seems is not maturing nearly fast enough to adapt….

As materially well-off as the West is, we are also chronically living what Henry David Theroux coined ‘a life of quiet desperation’. Over 40 million people in the US – rich by the rest of the world’s standards – exist on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs, while over 80 million people use sleep aid drugs. If the remaining nations merged to acquire the same amounts of technology and material possessions, they would likely discover the shocking revelations that we in the West already know…. We are still not happy. In the Western world, we have more time-saving devices than any other culture in history, yet how many of us have any extra time to show for it? We are (it seems) depressed and stressed out – how could this be amongst the most materially rich society on earth? What can be deduced from this is that our careers, cars, computers, and even our flat-screen TVs will not ultimately make us happy, healthy or safe….”

The more we accumulate – and thus feel the need to accumulate to satisfy that initial burst of temporary fulfilment – the more we tie ourselves down and narrow our world. Dependency upon relationships, hoarding of material possessions, and the need to maintain a certain social status, means we’re never free to explore our true potential. I’m of course not saying ‘quit your job, throw away all of your stuff, and go find yourself’ (although others tried this and it worked put pretty well….) just perhaps contemplate what it is that really makes you happy – not temporarily satisfied – but truly, honestly content, at peace and OK in the skin you’re in…. And it probably isn’t the new shoes, iPad, new car, or even job promotion (but if it is, then enlightenment is going to be a hell of a lot easier for you….)

To continue sharing some of Strom’s ingenuously simple way of phrasing such profound teachings:  “One of yoga’s seminal messages is that ‘we do not need a bunch of stuff to make us happy, we already possess everything we need to be happy within ourselves’.

So maybe (just maybe) as 2014 comes to an end and we consider setting our intentions for next year, give some thought not to what you should change, obtain or gain (or lose, if it’s been a bit of an over-indulgent Christmas), but how you can learn to meet yourself exactly where you are, how you are and as you are – already perfect and whole – without the need to add anything else; To let go and make space to ultimately receive more; less gluttony and more gratitude; you get the picture by now…. How can we empty out to live a more full and engaged life?

One more from Strom (seriously, this is worth putting on the Christmas list….)
“If I have no appetite, then I am already full. If I have no desire to travel, then I have already arrived.”

You are enough.

Blog posts will have to be a little less frequent while I’m here in India, but I’m busy learning, developing, and deepening my understanding of Yoga so I have even ore to share, teach and inspire you with when I return in January!

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