I woke up on Sunday with what I perceived to be a huge problem. It was my birthday. I had turned 29 while I was sleeping. 29!! One moment I was happily blundering along being 28 and then… BANG! I found myself perilously close to turning 30.
Because in my head 30 is when the magic happens. 30 is when I will become *horrified gasp* a fully fledged GROWN UP.
So, Sunday marked my own little New Year. The start of my 365 day dress rehearsal for responsible adulthood. I needed to hone my focus, turbo-charge my super-powers and rid myself of some demons. I thought the easiest way to start would be to read something inspiring and/or spiritual first thing in the morning, instead of just dopily pushing the glowiest buttons on my generic smartphone.
Either the fates approved of my plan or I got myself a happy coincidence, because I opened my inspirational text (Rolf Gates’ Meditations from the Mat, incase you were wondering) straight onto a passage about aparigraha.
Aparigraha is yoga’s 5th yama (ethical code). Traditionally defined as ‘nonhoarding’, I’ve always found this translation to be kinda useful, but mostly reminiscent of those trashy programs on Channel 5 where people who probably need professional help not having their bones picked by a documentary crew, live entombed amongst of piles and piles of really, really crazy shizzle. i.e. it’s really easy to think you’re already don’t hoard and give aparigraha the slip.
Unfortunately, there are a million and one ways to hoard, cling or grasp. ‘Letting go’ isn’t just physical, it’s emotional. And it doeesn’t just apply to obvious junk like Hawaiin shirts and chairs with three legs – it’s everything we don’t really need.
I decided to commit. Not just because I’m moving house and don’t want to be carting unnecessary rubbish up to Scotland, but 2015 is fast approaching and who doesn’t want to hit the ground running? Fresh starts are undeniably easier when you’ve cut loose your baggage.
Holding on to things and ideas – our (inverted finger commas) story – only serves to feed our ego and confuse our sense of identity. Clinging whites out our innate intelligence and intuition.
So, without further ado, here are 5 ways we can begin aparigaha to lighten our load for 2015:
- Stuff – The easiest and most satisfying way to have a clear out is… well, to have a clear out. Fetch a bag and fill it up for charity. Or the bin man. Or if you’re not up to the jolt of a big purge, challenge yourself to find one object a day you can release and put that in your bag. There are 14 days of 2014 remaining – unless you only have 30 possessions this should be fairly do-able.
- On the mat – Next time you limber up for yoga class, make this your intention: practice for the JOY of practice itself. Not because we’re grasping at achieving a certain pose or a great body or feel like a cool kid. Don’t get distracted by a story, whether it’s being ‘better’ than the person next to you or the most hopeless case in class. Let it go, breathe, move.
- Conversation – Turns out we’re nearly all guilty of hoarding talk time. The simple solution? Speak less, listen more.
- Body – Love what you’ve got. Take a bath, do something you wouldn’t usually like slap on a face mask. Heck, go to Whole Foods (or wherever we Northerners are supposed to go when you Londoners/Americans are off buying really good groceries) and make yourself one from organic avocado. (Unless aparigaha extends to not purchasing unnecessary face mask… it gets confusing!) Regardless, clinging extends to our body image. Change is inevitable. Soak away those niggling fears of wrinkles and wobbly bits.
- Forgiveness – Someone wise and very possibly yogic once said that holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick. (I think the saying is actually die, but that seems a little harsh…) It’s true. The anger and freakiness we cling to is really only hurting us. And even if it is hurting the object of our resentment, isn’t there enough pain and shittiness getting thrown around in the world without us helping? It’s Christmas! (Hannukah, winter solstice, etc.) Sit down with a cup of tea and be honest to yourself about the terms of your relationship. Then forgive them. Face-to-face is great. A Christmas card is convenient. Failing that, there’s always a bit of quiet time, meditation and exhalation.
And the festive aparigaha bonus point goes to…
Christmas presents – No more ‘one for them, one for me’ present-buying mentality! You don’t really need it, and buying less means less stress on our planet’s limited resources.
If you’re struggling for present ideas, consider giving a gift that somebody else really needs. One of the best gifts I’ve ever given was for my momentously-hard-to-shop-for Grandad. Just before we sat down to our Christmas lunch I gave him a little card telling him he’d just given lunch to a homeless young person at Centrepoint (Available at centrepointgifts.org.uk). No pair of socks is going to make you feel that lucky or helpful.
Lastly… always, always give with joy and give freely. Christmas is not a time for giving because you want to look a certain way or exert control over your loved ones.
So! Let’s try and trim down the physical things we tie ourselves to, shed our stories and let go of beliefs that don’t serve us. Learning to cut loose, to cease our grasping and clinging, is yoga. It’s like learning how to do hanumanasana or kapotasana, but for your insides. It’s probably heaps harder than nailing the splits or slinging a leg behind your head. But we shouldn’t let that scare us. Let’s forgive and get free. Because when I say I’m practicing to be a grown-up this year, what I really mean is that I’m getting aiming my sights on getting strong and getting free to live a life that really means something.
Lots of nearly-grown-up love,