Aparigraha: The Fifth (and final) Yama
Once upon a time, a young boy named Nachiketas who, in a disagreement with his father, is sent to the to the home of Yama, the God of Death. When Nachiketas arrives Yama is not at home and Nachiketas waits three nights without food or water for Yama to return. When Yama comes home he is appalled that a guest has been at his home without food or water and grants Nachiketas three wishes. The first two wishes Yama grants willingly but the third wish takes a bit of coaxing for Yama to accommodate. In this third wish Nachiketas asks Yama to tell him if the Self exists when one dies. Yama tells Nachiketas that the Creator made humans with five senses and each of these senses extend outward. We see, hear, taste, touch, and smell what is beyond our body yet the Atman, the individual Soul, is within us. To cease the senses and turn inward is Yoga. When humans cease to look outside and instead go within, they connect to the inner most Self that transcends this world.
The idea to go within is one of the premises of the fifth yama, Aparigraha or non-grasping. Aparigraha asks that we “let go” of all the stuff we cling to so we can “travel lighter.” We hold onto clothes that we haven’t worn for years, we hold onto books we will never read again, we hold onto old loves, hurts, and memories subconsciously afraid that if we release them, we will lose ourselves. Quite the opposite. We must let go of past memories as well as release our expectations for our future endeavors in order to connect with the our highest Self.
We often look outside of ourselves for reassurance, for acceptance and validation. The practice of aparigraha reminds each of us that our true nature and our validation is not from more shoes or a longer vacation but from connecting to the strengths that lie in our heart center. We are clouded by debt, by illusions, by a society that feeds us the idea that more is better. Almost all of us has had our heart broken. When we hold onto this hurt, we find it impossible to start a new relationship. Until we can release the old pain, the old memories, and our “baggage,” we are unable to have a new, healthy, and happy relationship. This concept of releasing what does not apply to the “now” can be applied to all aspects of our life. Just as we need to release the past, we need to let go of our grasp to control our future, in order to grow and develop into our most supreme self.
To say “let go” is easy, but to actually “let go” is the one of the hardest things to do. To practice aparigraha in the simplest way focus on your exhale – the point of exertion and release. Pay attention to how your body releases tension and worry with each exhale. Each time you find yourself trying to control a situation or hold on tightly to an object, opinion, or idea, return to your exhale and embrace aparigraha, non-possessiveness. Each release will lead you closer within to that quiet place of true acceptance, validation, and light.