Aparigraha, translated to non-possessiveness, non-grasping or non-greed, can teach us to live in contentment in the material things that we already have, rather than being stressed and incomplete in obsessing over "stuff" that we don't really need.
This is not to say that we can't "want" things. Wanting can project us forward and drive us to overcome challenges in order to attain them. But without the balance of objective awareness of the importance of these objects of our desire, we can fall into unhealthy obsession.
Have a read below, a snippet into my personal life, as I relate it to my own practice of Aparigraha.
I bought this gorgeous Esprit bag as a post-Christmas present for myself. It is tan in colour, soft suede, stylish flap-over design, spacious and really, really gorgeous. I have a bag obsession.
Not any kind of bag though; I prefer slings and back packs. Big enough that I can stuff everything I need and, of course, it has to be cute. I also tend to only buy from specific brands. So when there’s something new, I start reasoning the purchase to myself and start obsessing over it. It would always feel so good when I finally get it. But after, the bag would wind up getting stuck in storage with all the other bags that I really, really wanted. Needed, even!
Where am I going with this, you ask. I’m painting you a picture of my psychology when it comes to buying “stuff”.
Stay with me as I tell you one more story...
Sometime last year I saw a unique oil burner. It was a laboratory flask attached to a wood stand with wing screws to keep the flask aloft. It was cute and it made sense to me. No boiling over, no spillage, aesthetically pleasing and I found it in a shop at Melbourne Central! I wanted it and clearly, finding it was a sign from the Universe that I was meant to have it (good grief...right!).
But it was expensive; $130 for the small one and $190 for the larger.
But I wanted it.
I didn’t have the money to throw at it.
But I wanted it.
I could have asked my husband to buy it for me, and he would without hesitation. Because I wanted it.
But I didn’t get it. I left it on the shelf and walked away.
Why? It wasn’t pre-purchase buyer’s guilt. That wouldn’t have made me let it go.
It was this simple sentence that rang through my head: “Don’t be wasteful”.
It was then that I remembered one of the Yamas (self-restraints) of Patanjali, Aparigraha: the practice of non-greed, non-avarice, non-covetousness. But my definition was, as I said, simply being non-wasteful.
I don’t think anyone would disagree that we live in a highly commercialized world, and being part of this world, we participate in this practise of near constant acquisition.
We buy stuff regardless of whether we need it or even whether we can afford it. And more often than not, these stuff end up in storage or as clutter or as contributions to the landfill, all a big waste in the end.
Apart from minimizing adding to the strain on our little planet, I believe practicing Aparigraha can help us appreciate the material things we already have. I’m not saying we can’t buy new stuff or replace some of our old or broken things.
But wouldn’t it be better to use what we have to their fullest service thereby increasing their value and the value of the replacement. I’m not merely talking about monetary value either. We work hard for the money we use, so what we use it on should match that effort. We honour ourselves and the ones who support us by being wise about our purchases and possessions. Aparigraha can also make our spirits feel lighter because we free ourselves from digging our mental and emotional claws into an obsession, any obsession.
So, going back to my oil burner, I decided to make one (it’s the photo in our MRW Card above). While making it, I was telling myself “Restrain yourself from being wasteful. Make rather than buy, give rather than throw, create rather than destroy, and have joy in what you have rather than want what you don’t need.”
Here are 4 ways to check in with your Aparigraha.
Do I need this?
If it's a want rather than a need, what non-material need does the want satisfy?
Are there other options? Can I make it? Can I opt for refurbished? Recycled? Upcycled?
Will the money, time, or effort used to acquire this item NOT take your resources from something that would fall under need or necessity?