I’ve neglected my blog for several months now. Since the last time I blogged I have opened my own yoga studio and have had little time for planning and writing. Oh how I’ve missed it. I didn’t realize what a great outlet it had become for me until I couldn’t do it any more. The irony is that I have more to blog about than ever.
My personal yoga practice has grown exponentially. I’ve really had to prioritize my time on the mat even though other endeavors suffer as a result at times…. Most of all though I’ve begun to see the limitations of asana and come to appreciate the more ephemeral, spiritual aspects of the practice. I think when we feel we are adrift we will cling to the closest life raft we can find and yoga has indeed been close. That’s not to say that things haven’t been going well. I spend my days around the best people. People I genuinely love just for being a part of my dream and also because they are exquisite in their own right. People consider their time with me one of the best parts of their day just because they get to breathe and stretch and be vulnerable for a short time. My studio is growing and transforming and already making a difference for people. I can see that. As any business owner might tell you, especially the owner of a new business, there are many ups and downs. The Yama, Aparigraha has become increasingly important as I try to remain in the center despite the highs and the lows.
This word, Aparigraha comes from the Sanskrit word Parigraha which means to reach for something. Aparigraha is translated as “not grasping”. I think of the term “grasping at straws”, and other fruitless actions when I think of this Yama. The Yamas are the first of the 8 Limbs laid out by Patanjali back in the second century Common Era. They are the observances, sort of like the 10 Commandments of Yoga. Other Yamas deal with more concrete behaviors like not stealing or avoiding violence or even abstinence or purity. This Yama, Aparigraha seems so personal. Some would translate the word as non-attachment and I would agree that this is a part of Aparigraha but I also find that this Yama is so much more; Buddhist in nature and so intimate. While the outward appearance of one observing Aparigraha might look like letting go of material possessions or less concern with status and position there is also very deep and internal element that I am finding increasingly vital to my very sanity.
We humans are blessed with capacities that we take for granted. Our brains are trained from the earliest ages to do things like remember, anticipate, compare, contrast and categorize. Think of the toys that kids play with when they are tiny; shape sorters, puzzles, matching games… We were in a hurry to bring these skills out because they are pretty vital to getting along in the world for a person. Over time though these skills are used for another, very good reason. They help us make sense of things. These skills put things and other people and ourselves in a place that we can understand, count on, and that makes us feel secure. It helps us to feel as if we are standing on solid ground, something that we can attach to. That’s good right. Well…yeah… sort of. Until things change. Which they will and do, always. Buddha says that the heart of suffering is this change. We are compelled to root to things and make plans and envision futures but circumstances change, the sand shifts, the bottom drops out. This causes pain, suffering. Sometimes mild, sometimes severe and devastating. Even the act of trying to feel secure is an act of Parigraha, or reaching for something. It seems so cruel and yet so inescapably true when you realize that the only constant in life IS change. This dilemma exists because we legitimately try to solve a need but always come up lacking.
This is so obvious to me in this stage of my life even within the very small microcosm of my yoga studio. Some days people show up in droves and some days it’s “crickets”. Sometimes there’s plenty of money in the bank for our many obligations and sometimes we wring our hands and fret. The thing is, when things are going well we feel elated, happy, secure; we anticipate and plan. When things go poorly we feel frightened, alone, we blame; we remember and regret. But then everything changes again. It’s a roller coaster! It’s like this for everyone though, in all parts of life; relationships, raising children, careers, health…. It’s just life, it changes and morphs and our lot as people is to have little or no control over any of it.
So how does one observe Aparigraha? It seems pretty attractive doesn’t it? Yes, I want to be immune to the pain of change, sign me up! Well, I’m not sure that we could ever be immune or impervious. As I said above, it’s in our nature to attach to things; this cycle of lack and fulfillment is age-old and shows no sign of stopping. It seems essential to our very survival to grasp and attempt to hold, we really really want to feel secure. Humans can even create routines and a sense of rough comfort even in the harshest, most appallingly cruel of circumstances. We’re that good! People generally respond quite well in crises because of this remarkable quality. But I want to avoid the pain of the inexorable highs and lows. I’d gladly sacrifice the highest highs to be spared the lowest lows. I understand that things happen, change is inevitable, I just want to find a way to handle it better!
Since true enlightenment is not in my 5 year plan and discarding my dream of owning a thriving yoga studio is also not something I can accept… though it is a Class A example of Attachment. Having my dream, something I’ve dedicated my energy and passion toward at the expense of happiness and tranquility is unacceptable. I refuse to believe that I can’t have both, I’m going to strive for brief moments of peace, a pause in the cycle of Parigraha in which I find myself. I will practice Aparigraha to the best of my ability just as I will practice Asteya or non-stealing. It is not in my nature to “just let it go” I absolutely will spend sleepless nights fretting over details that I have no hope of influencing but I am determined to observe this element of my practice. Practice makes perfect right?
There’s an important difference between giving up and letting go. Jessica Hatchigan