September 22, 2011

The Yoga of Sharing. ~ John Nicoll

Photo: Fridgeuk

Is there anything more pleasurable than being present with what’s happening right now?

Well, yes because you’re staring at a computer screen and chances are if you stopped doing that and took a few deep breaths, it would be more pleasurable.

That being said, presence in life creates pleasure both within and without and flows from the outpouring of one’s true nature. Is it possible to derive pleasure from one’s relationship to the things in one’s life? Have you ever thought about how yoga relates to the “stuff” in your life? How mindful are you when it comes to your possessions? In yoga’s eight-fold path there is a “yama” (moral code) called “Aparigraha” which has been translated as “non-hoarding”, “non-possessiveness” and “non-attachment”. Interestingly, mindful engagement with material possessions is seen in the general tradition of yoga as part of the path to happiness, contentment, and inner peace.

Photo: SHAREconference

The Gunas

The concept of the Gunas is often applied to the yamas (one of which is Aparigraha). A simple definition of the Gunas is:

  • Tamas: Lethargic, low energy
  • Rajas: Active, high energy
  • Satva: A state of harmony, balanced between Rajas and Tamas

The state of Satva is the ideal and in the case of Aprigraha can be interpreted as possession without attachment. A state of Tamas would be total renunciation of material possessions and a state of Rajas might be the obsessive hoarding of stuff. American culture as a whole leans quite heavily in the direction of Rajas with respect to Aparigraha.

Using Your Possessions to Become More Present

“Possession without attachment” may hold a certain allure for those who are on the path to health, happiness and wisdom. And rightfully so, for achieving this balance is another source of bliss that is available to us as human beings.

There is deep healing available within the realm of material possessions. In a holistic understanding of life, everything about us is a reflection of who we are. Do you hold on to things you don’t need any more? Do you have junk in your house? Do you own things that you use to distract yourself from certain feelings?

If so, these possessions in your life are like calling cards from your true nature. By engaging them mindfully, you create transformation in your life in a very short time. Here are a few tips if you’d like to explore your relationship to Aparigraha:

~Only what is necessary: Pick something you own and ask yourself, “Do I really need this?”. If the answer is “yes”, ask yourself why. If the answer is “no”, then consider removing this item from your life. Or perhaps the answer is “sometimes”, in which case you might consider sharing it.

~Distraction: Do you have possessions that you use to distract yourself from potentially uncomfortable feelings such as being alone, feeling tired, or being upset with someone? Many of us own digital devices which we use to tune out on demand. These devices are the cigarettes of our generation. Consider setting some mindful limits around using these devices. Perhaps turning them off after a certain time at night, before a certain time in the morning, or leaving them at home during certain activities. As an experiment, try not using any digital devices for a day!

Photo: altjeringa

Using Your Possessions to Enlighten the World

Most people who practice yoga will have taken some steps to live a clean life with reduced clutter and junk. In America the production and consumption of goods has moved so far in the direction of Rajas (active, high energy) that the system is in the process of collapsing. Sharing, gifting, bartering, and reusing the items in our lives provides a simple, practical way to cultivate Aparigaha Satva within our unbalanced culture.

Rather than falling into Aparigaha Tamas (total renunciation)as a reaction to what we see all around us, we can actually use the mindful engagement of material possessions as a practice to not only create more space in our lives but as a way to bring clarity and balance into the lives of the people we touch. When we do this, we allow the outpouring of our true selves, the pleasure of who we are.

The Flow of Life is supreme in its ability to generate balance. For those of us in Western cultures, life is taking us back towards Satva from the manic activity (Rajas) of consumer culture. If you like to surf, now is the time to ride this unusually large wave that is returning us home. I encourage you to actively engage the practice and gifts of Aparigraha in your life.


John Nicoll is the founder of LocalShare.org – a website dedicated to mindful, low-impact, locally oriented living. John is originally from Virginia where he attended James Madison University. He has lived in Boulder, Colorado for the past 6 years, owns two local businesses and has received a 4 year certificate in holistic medicine from the Barbara Brennan School of Healing. He currently works to promote the local food web, a stronger social fabric and to encourage the diversity and resilience of local economies and cultures. You can connect with him at www.LocalShare.org.

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