As the world began to face lockdown due to the spread of COVID-19, I decided to talk in one of my classes about the importance of letting go. I used one of yoga’s ethical guidelines and the last Yama of Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga, Aparigraha, as the class theme. These Yamas, or moral codes, help us to work on ourselves from within, knowing that our external lives are merely expressions of our internal realities.
Aparigraha is most commonly translated as “non-greed”, “non-possessiveness” or “non-attachment”, but perhaps in more relatable terms, it relates to the art of letting go. It doesn’t mean that we do not, or should not, care about things as they happen to us – it simply frees us to be present in the now, while we acknowledge that everything in life is temporary. It allows us to lighten the load of things that don’t serve our greater good.
Aparigraha teaches us to take only what we need and to release the rest. We so often worry about getting out of the situation we are in or reliving past situations that we don’t take advantage of this time we have been given now. We hold on to material things thinking they will add happiness to our lives when they don’t. The truth is that when we are stripped of our supposed “luxuries” as we all isolate at home, we realise what the real luxuries in life are: our families, our health, and this time we have been given.
Life used to move at a pace we couldn’t keep up with. We would judge the world around us often comparing our lives to that of others. Without the ability to slow down, how are we able to check in with ourselves and see if we are even living life on our terms anymore? How can we avoid feeling less than? Can we find a deeper meaning for what we are going through now? When we recognise the things that are hurting us, can we allow ourselves to let go?
As we work towards incorporating Aparigraha in our lives, it is important to recognise that in an effort to be “the best” we often lose the essence of our journey. When we get off track, we lose site of our values and the ego begins to think that it is the Self. Through Aparigraha, we are able to to remind ourselves to breathe, to let go, to be in the moment, and to be kind – so that we can appreciate what we have, be present in our lives, live life on our terms and in line with the kind of person we would like to be.