By giving everything away, she grew. Not in things of material substance, possessions pawned off on E-bay but a lightness in being, and sweetness of spirit.
It started many years back, when a gardener on an atypically cold day commented on her sweatshirt in passing. A simple gray lightly worn thing touting her alma mater, he said simply, “My dad used to tend the grounds there. I loved visiting your campus when I was a kid.” His smile was sincere, spoken words with a warmth in his eyes. Noticing his size not too far off her own, she pulled the gray sweatshirt over her hand and handed it to him, “Here, keep it and think of your Dad.”
The rest of the day running around, grabbing breakfast with her boyfriend, she shivered with goose bumps riding up her arms. But he never asked her why she did it, because he knew. Sometimes it’s more important to give spontaneously in the moment than to keep for one’s self. Back home at their apartment, there was no wanting for sweatshirts, clothes to keep warm. But in that brief exchange on the street with the gardener, there was only that one moment, that brief eclipse in time when the alchemy of authentic connection and thinking impulsively of another’s needs first gave birth to a tiny little miracle. The gardener could have survived without the sweatshirt for the day on the material plane. Even just seeing the sweatshirt triggered a series of nostalgia that bloomed like a bouquet of fragrant memories in his mind. The spontaneity of the gift slightly took his breath away. The rest of the day, he was warmer, inside and out, thinking of his father, their shared trade, and the random passerby that gave him something meaningful.
There is a time in our life when we are left on our own to grow up. Some of us get shipped off to college, get jobs, and begin to set up a household of our own. The juice coursing through our ambitious veins remains steadily fueled on the values of our society, namely that of accumulation as a measurement of success. Starting off bunking in a one-bedroom, the getting into a small cottage, to buying one’s first home, successively we aspire to swipe more, buy more, upgrade and update. Until we have outfitted more rooms than we could possibly need and accumulate adult toys and fancier cars, we are just on the treadmill of materialism and once we’ve acquired enough, we have reached a new plateau with another level of accumulation eagerly awaiting. This is exhausting over time with individuals looking around and asking how many asses do they really need to sit in all these chairs, or backs to bear in these rooms decorated with empty beds?
Aparigraha, or non-hoarding, is a yogic Yama, an observance for a higher standard of living. This concept simply defies everything we are conventionally taught today in America. We are conditioned to feed our needs and desires, entitled to do so excessively by our own means. Wall Street, capitalism, free markets are all about growth through excessive consumption. If there is not constant-consumerism, whether it be material items, entertainment, or information, it would be hard to see how our country would stay afloat. It is impossible to stave off our own hunger to have and to hold: property, possessions, not people.
Aparigraha in its fullest expression, is the liberty to be carefree with your sweatshirt. See a need in others, or an opportunity to create joy, your resources will be endless as will your state of Santosha, or contentment. Hoard your stuff, cling to it mercilessly are you will always been blind-sided by a lust to accumulate more.
Clutter and accumulation create a heaviness and a reflection of pursuing external realities from internal joy; you can consider it Bhoga, not Yoga. There is a current “tidiness” movement out of Japan that is reminding us to buy less, and keep only those things that bring incredible joy. Expanding on that further, can we even be willing to share that joy out to others by giving away what we most treasure , sharing or even refraining from buying at all and instead donating to help others. Less and less do we want to grow from the stuff that we have in life, but in our capacity to give it away. True non-attachment means that at any time we can be joyful with little to nothing and model of life increasingly less dependent on the burden of stuff.
A billionaire tech executive sitting on piles of money and accumulating interest at an absurd rate decides to build a global foundation serving large global concerns and creates a plan to give it all away. Is sitting on hoards of money, big retirement funds of investment portfolios really serving you but at the expense of others an equal form of hoarding like a clothing full of unworn clothing?
A friend is divorcing, needing a fresh start, so a friend helps decorate his new apartment, supplying him with all the essentials, and still returned home to everything she needed. She gave and helped create shelter during uncertain times.
So proud of her awesome book collection and the ‘oohs and ahhs’ she received when she toured people through her library, one day a woman becomes an anonymous contributor to a community resource center library. She grew her knowledge of the needs of her local community and still knew she would not lose her intelligence.
Whenever we pause before buying, understanding our true motives and knowing what gives use access to real joy, we are empowered to put something down. We have suddenly never been happier when not going to the mall for months at a time. By giving away and avoiding excessive accumulation we grow: not in the currency of materiality but in lightness.
This article was originally published in the Five Tattvas Embodied Philosophy blog at: http://www.fivetattvas.com/blog/2015/9/4/aparigraha-and-she-grew-yamas-series-no-2