Aparigraha: Letting Go of the Stories We Tell Ourselves

This week I’ve been sharing the yogic teaching of Aparigraha (meaning ‘non-attachment’, ‘non-grasping’ or ‘non-possessiveness’ ), and putting words to what it currently means for me. Hopefully most of us know, at least on an intellectual level, that attaching ourselves to material things brings no true fulfilment - this discussion has become so cliched that we never fully internalise the lesson. But more insidious is our tendency to emotionally attach ourselves to concepts such as job titles, relationship statuses, and perceptions of identity. We desperately latch onto the image in our head of what we should be, should look like, should achieve. We are consistently irritated, angered or disappointed by a world that inevitably doesn’t follow the script we possess in our imagination. 

Titles, fashions, belief systems, nation states - all of these concepts cannot be clung to; they slip through our grasping fingers because of their inherent ambiguity. It is said that all of life is like a rope running through our hands; if you cling to it, you’ll get rope burn.

So why do we seek to possess things that have some imposed meaning, identities with some associated stature, and traditions with some supposed sacredness? Why do we cling to our fears, conjuring up worse-case scenarios and catastrophising every set-back, every deviation from our mental script? It is the ego’s search for certainty that makes us grasp at these vapid illusions, and the very chase is the roadmap we use to find our way in this confusing and complex existence. Attachment becomes our reason for being, our rat race. 

To possess is to create a sense of separateness, of scarcity. With our possessions and cherished notions, we build walls - enemy lines. We accumulate; we follow implicit narratives; we strive to achieve arbitrary goals. All the while we are living with the binary lens of good and bad, us and them, mine and yours, failure and success.  Guarding these distinctions gives us the impression that we have any kind of control. But when we stop to admit it to ourselves, we see that life is inherently uncertain; it cannot be labelled or nailed down, for it is ever-changing and unpredictable.

To let go of possession, attachment and grasping is to free-fall into the mysterious wonder of life - which is terrifying, yet liberating. Whether you cling or you free-fall, you ultimately cannot foresee nor orchestrate strokes of blind luck and tragedy. So why waste the energy when you can just fly?

This is not to say that we release motivation to direct our life’s course. To me, progress and growth are where we get much of our fulfilment - and my personal ambition is great. The distinction is that we must act from your deepest intuition, without influence from these delusive concepts and images built by a fearful culture. Act because it’s what your heart and your gut move you to do, not because your head is perfecting a fairytale that fits into the narrative you’ve chosen to follow. And, mostly essentially, act without attachment to the outcome. Another cliche that gets lost on us, I know, but with informed perspective and attunement to our intuitive drive comes the impulse to listen to that most heart-felt calling. 

As Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita: “Let your concern be with action alone, and never with the fruits of action. Do not let the results of action be your motive, and do not be attached to inaction”.