Moving: Lessons in Aparigraha

By Kristine Kaoverii Weber | March 22, 2024

COMMENTS

author sitting on rocks meditating

Yesterday morning while I was working in my office writing an article, my husband walked in with an armful of Pyrex dishes, “Do we really need five casseroles?” he asked.

“What if I break one?” I responded.

Eye roll and exit.

We’re moving next week. Thankfully my husband is neat, efficient, and great at packing. He’s also bafflingly unattached to stuff. 

Next up, an old sisal floor mat with a wordless eyebrow lift and head tilt.

“Okay, okay, you can throw that one out,” I sighed.

Then there’s my grandmother’s beat up rocking chair, in which she fed my father when he was an infant 85 years ago. It’s been resting, unused, often on top of a heap, in our various basements for decades.

But I stood firm, “Nope, you’re gonna have to pry that one out of my cold, dead hands.”

For reasons that are too boring to get into but have lots to do with the pandemic, this will be our fourth move in five years (two of which were across the Pacific). Hopefully this will be our last for a while.

Each time we move, I glimpse a ripe opportunity to purge. Still, I wonder if I should save the 3 plastic shopping bags full of ancient Christmas bows, a stash of envelop-less greeting cards, a box full of shoes I’ll never wear again, and two brand new but long forgotten canary yellow bedspreads? Oh, and I have way too many spoons, a few vegetable peelers that are dull and useless, and can we please not talk about my closet?

And then there’s aparigraha.

One of the yamas, or self-regulating principles of the yoga tradition, aparigraha means non-grasping or non-hoarding. I am no hoarder! I prefer to frame my tendency to craft imaginary uses for long forgotten, random items as a noble preparedness. I can use these towels with bleach stains on them as rags! I can use this empty spray bottle for my plants! What if the power goes out and we need these old blankets to survive!

Admittedly, I need to let go of most everything my patient husband shows up at my office door with.

But letting go of stuff can feel like letting go of happy memories. And I find myself lapsing into melancholy. Remember when Bhaerava (my son) used to sleep on this sweet little blanket? Remember when we drank tea on these chairs and laughed so hard I spit it out? Remember when I was wearing this dress and we were dancing to that song? Remember how much we loved being here in this house?

But that sort of melancholy is not really an accurate reflection of reality. My son also vomited on that blanket, and I had to clean up the mess I made from that tea, and we also had an argument the night of that dance, and the house was noisy from the traffic, and I called the kitchen “the camping kitchen” because it was so tiny and frustrating.

The past was not perfect, it was wonderful and fun, and it was also sad and awful sometimes. It was just life.

Pining for a past that was perfect is pining for an illusion.

I can’t go back, but I can move forward.

In sutra 2.39, Patanjali writes: Aparigraha sthairye janma-kathaṃtā sambodhaḥ – “freedom from wanting unlocks the real purpose of existence.” (trans. Chip Hartranft)

Yeah, I get that. I need less junk and more yoga. Still, it’s hard to leave stuff, places, and people behind.

But if I don’t let it go, the universe will do it for me. It’s the rule, not the exception. The yoga tradition reminds that everything is impermanent. All of it will go eventually, my stuff, my house, my favorite restaurants, my friends, partner, body, and mind.

So, what’s left?

It’s not simply the memories, although they can certainly be sweet. The only thing that’s truly left is the magnificent force of love that drives the manifestation and withdrawal of everything in this world. Taking some time daily, through meditation or contemplation or prayer, to connect with that force not only makes it all worth it, it also prepares us, in small and big ways, for surrendering into the arms of that love and allowing it to support and guide us through the inevitable processes of loss.

Taking right action, surrendering the results of that action to a higher self, and learning to love more, those are the deepest lessons that yoga practice offers.

I told my friend who’s also I yoga teacher that we are moving. She said, “Good. Moving is a spiritually advancing experience.”

Right. But I still need to surrender those aluminum foil balls to the recycling bin.

Please check out my free class, Subtle® Yoga for Greater Nervous System Resilience and Brain Function.

 

P.S. I’ll be taking a break from blogging next week so I can unpack, obviously.

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