In my yoga teacher training we dove into some of the ethical practices of yoga, called the Yamas & Niyamas. These practices act as a map to help us travel through life. The one that I’ve been revisiting lately is Aparigraha or non-possessiveness.
The jewel of Aparigraha invites us to enjoy life to the fullest and yet always be able to drop everything and run into the waiting arms of the Divine. If we prefer to play with our toys, we have missed the point. – Deborah Adele
Others ways of describing this practice is nonattachment, nongreed, nonclinging, or nongrasping; essentially the ability to LET IT GO.
There are many ways to talk about this concept, whether it be relationships, arguments, or stuff. Today I want to talk about stuff, things that we already have too much of but somehow always want more. Growing up in westernized society we are taught to want more things, we crave it. We make Christmas lists of things we desire as kids (or throughout college if you’re like me.) Often times it was stuff we wanted for a brief moment, and ultimately our attachment to it was fleeting, as things tend to lose their appeal, collect dust and either get thrown away or donated to a new home.
A mentor of mine told me that everything we own we exchange energy with. So if we own lots of stuff we are giving away a lot of our energy. Now if I just went way too into the woo-hoo stuff let me bring you back. Think about a place in your house that’s particularly unorganized. Maybe a junk drawer, the back of a closet, or that one box that just never got unpacked. Think of how seeing that spot makes you feel. Do you avoid it? Do you sigh every time you open that drawer vowing someday to deal with it? That’s what I mean when I say energy exchange. The stuff you own shouldn’t exhaust you, it shouldn’t take energy to manage “things.”
It can be overwhelming to start downsizing towards a more minimal collection of stuff when our whole lives we’ve been taught to be collectors. Pick a room, and then pick a corner of that room, or a drawer, closet – something small.
Marie Kondo, a master minimalist, has created a whole method of getting rid of things based on one question, “Does this item spark joy?” Wherever you’re starting pick up every single thing in that space. If you’re in your closet throw it all on the floor so you have to touch every piece of clothing, pair of shoes, or accessory you own. When you touch that item does it bring you joy? Are you excited about having it in your life? Or do you feel indifferent, don’t care, or even forgot you have it? Because if it falls in the latter group of questions, chances are you don’t need it, and hello you save money!
Some more questions to keep in mind that can be helpful when getting rid of the old or getting something new:
Will I be able to use this again and again? Or is it single use? - Finding things that are multipurpose are great. Can a mason jar be a drinking glass, a toothbrush holder, or a spare change holder? You bet it can!
What is it made of? Can it be recycled? - This goes for things that wouldn’t fit in the clothing category. For example, wrapping paper can’t be recycled (post on eco-friendly gift wrap coming soon!) but old thrifted scarves or newspaper are fun ideas.
Do I love this and will I continue to love it? - There are times where I thought I really really wanted to buy something (usually shoes) but by holding off I gauge how bad I really wanted them. Not thinking of them the next day? Meh didn’t need them.
Does this stand the test of time? - For example, clothing, is it just trendy for a minute or is it a classic piece that goes with everything?
Who made this? - This question can be trickier to answer. Sometimes we don’t know. But it can make us stop and think about where our products are coming from
Try and keep these questions in mind as we come into the holiday season. Buying gifts people really need, or better yet offer experiences that you can share with that person instead of a physical gift! When you are ready to start getting rid of things – find places they can be useful – the odds are high that someone else might need or find joy out of them. Shelters and thrift stores can always use donations. Your stuff could become someone else's present this holiday season. Recycle anything that your local recycling center will take. Try to make throwing things away a last resort.
Let me be clear – nonattachment is not about not caring or deciding from this moment forward to never desire anything else ever again. It invites us to be more thoughtful when we want to bring something new into our space. I still have areas in which I can improve (looking at you book collection) but thinking about the energetic connection I have to make to new things stops me before continuing to collect stuff that weights me down to the world.
When we have more physical stuff to scramble around and manage we lose some ability to be more present in our relationships, whether it be to our partners, friends, family, or the universe.
Not having to move things out of the way, trip over something, or rummage through the bottom of a drawer to find that one thing you KNOW you have is freeing.
The fewer attachments we carry with us, the more we are free to enjoy and engage and live every moment before us to the fullest. The more breath we let go of, the more room there is in our body for the fullness of the next inhalation. The more we generously share and give away, the more expansive and light we become. The journey of life is towards freedom. A bird cannot hold its perch and fly. Neither can we grasp anything and be free – Deborah Adele
I challenge all of you to think of a way that you can free yourself, right now, even just a tiny bit. Start somewhere. Be free.