Aparigraha, the Yama of unattachment, acts as a guide for those times when we want, or when we won’t. It’s for those times when our greed is about to get the better of us, or when we’re afraid to move on because the next step is unfamiliar.
Recently, I was fortunate to attend a meditation day at the Blue Cliff Monastery, in upstate New York, and had a chance to see Aparigraha practiced by Buddhist monks, in their own tradition. One way is through how they dress. So many of the visual aesthetics that we in the mainstream rely on for expression of the self the monks eschew, wearing simple brown robes and shaved heads. The monks believe this simple appearance unites them, creating a sense of community, and doing so without a single one of the monks losing their identity, because the true self is left to shine through without any logos or brands to distort it.
The monks have an admirable expression of Aparigraha, because they are unattached to whether they appear trendy or not, but we are all not monks. We must remember to balance ourselves in the way we express our true self as we come to discover more about our true self. This extends to what we think makes us who we are; the things with which we identify through. And here is the essence of Aparigraha: the wisdom of knowing the self is whole and complete without the need to hold on to extraneous matter.
Personally, this is one of the Yamas with which I need to practice. I like to dress well and with my own style, though not necessarily what is in fashion. But I get stuck at times, thinking everything must be from a particular brand, or in a particular color, or fit in a particular way. Maybe this is also why the example of the monks appearance was so vivid in my mind….ah, breakthroughs!
So how can we practice Aparigraha in our day to day lives? Begin identifying the things or beliefs you feel you can’t live without. If you always do something in a particular way, identify why, and if possible try doing it differently, or altogether not at all. If you identify with the “control-freak” label, maybe begin to recognize what is really within your control, and what is not, and all that is not, let go of. Always remember, act mindfully, taking action within reason. Balance is the goal.
“I have everything, yet have nothing; and although I possess nothing, still of nothing am I in want,” said Terence, a Roman comic dramatist. Take notice of what you have, what you need, what you want, and what you can let go off.