Aparigraha – Living with Less
What we possess,
My Journey to Minimalism and Practicing Aparigraha
There was a time in my early thirties where I went through an early midlife crisis, one might say. I had recently overcome a decade of addiction, gotten divorced, graduated from an MBA program, and decided to quit my decades long career in retail management and go off into the world of entrepreneurship. I did a lot of research and planning and along this journey I realized that my time, energy, and joy were more important than anything that money could buy me.
I had plenty of money working in retail, I had lived in a very nice house in a very nice neighborhood. I could afford to go on trips, I could buy plenty of things I wanted but didn’t necessarily need, but I was miserable. Not everyone is able to save up and make the moves that I did and I’m very grateful for the opportunity that I had. I saved about a month and a half of paychecks from my retail job, and I worked very hard to minimize my monthly expenses.
I knew that I would have to be “poor” to be happy at first. After my divorce and quitting my job, I moved into a cheaper apartment where I eventually got a roommate. I also got a cheaper car, I quit smoking, and I cut out coffee, eating out, and any other expense I could go without. I cut my monthly expenses by more than 50%.
These decisions and this new way of life not only allowed me to quit my job, but also made me realize what was really important to me. The cheaper, base-model used Jeep did all of the same things that my fancy Fiat did. My cheap apartment was full of so much love and so many memories with all of my girlfriends. And homemade coffee is best shared with a friend on the patio.
Aparigraha means non-possessiveness. It can also be interpreted as non-attachment, non-greed, non-clinging, non-grasping, non-coveting…you get the picture. You’ve got to let that shit go!
What Could You Leave Behind In a Fire?
This was asked of us in our yoga teacher training and I really enjoy this question because it really makes you think about what’s important in life. We were asked if our house burned to the ground and we had time to grab just one thing, what would we grab. The answers were amazing, and usually the item was not anything of value like an expensive watch or fancy electronics, but something worth nothing in currency, but worth everything sentimentally.
So Why Aparigraha?
Yoga means “to yoke” or “union” as in finding your highest self. It can be difficult to find the highest self, the god within, etc. if you are blocked by covetousness. There’s a reason that this is also one of the ten commandments, as well as shows up in every major religion. Our desires for material things bring instant gratification that is fleeting. All spiritual walks of life promote, on some level, non-attachment from temporary earthly things.
Imagine if you could be happy without the house, without the car, without the next high fashion item, name your pleasure. If happiness can be found without these things, then most people on Earth would have already achieved happiness.
Furthermore, how do we let go of non-material attachments? We can easily become attached to perceptions, belief systems, and ideas about the world. This sort of close-mindedness can potentially block us from having a new spiritual experience on this earth plane.
I once watched a documentary on YouTube about sadhus, which are a sect of Hindi or Jainist religious ascetics that renounce all of their worldly possessions and go off to be with the divine. They wander the streets without a home or any other material (or non-material attachments) so that they can be as close as possible to their divine.
This is an extreme way to live this Yama, and is definitely not for everyone, and is not required in order to practice this principle. This is where we come back to balance. How can we enjoy the finer things in life without letting them control us?
What we possess, possesses us. So once we realize that we don’t possess anything, everything is temporary and material goods only bring temporary relief and temporary happiness, we can be freed.