October 27, 2012

What Do Turntables & Asanas Have in Common? ~ Sarah Elizabeth Lynch

(Photo: Brigitte Bardot via Tumblr)

A Collector’s Perspective on Non-Collection

“If you can’t be with the one you love…

Love the one you’re with.” ~ Stephen Stills

Until recently this lyric always baffled me. What is there to celebrate about not being with the one you really love? Why should it be okay to settle for second best? Or, is that actually what the lyric means?

I collect. I search. I get a rush when I find. Then, I hoard. Welcome to the inner workings of the mind of a semi-crazy and slightly obsessive record collector.

The harder the LP is to find the more I want it. The rarer the edition is the more prepared I am to wait for it. When I find it I can’t deny there is a buzz, a certain sense of satisfaction—it feels cozy almost. Maybe it’s the lure of a beautiful, rare pink Island Records label, or maybe it’s a recent satin 180g vinyl reissue of a tasty old favorite, but once it’s in my head that I want it—I believe that want to be gospel and I follow it with a vengeance.

When I started pushing beyond just an asana (yoga pose) practice and looking into adopting a more holistic and inclusive yoga practice,  I was alarmed by what the yogic lifestyle entailed. The code of Yama and Niyama seemed extreme. How is this commitment possible? Is there no moderation in the approach?

Yama and Niyama, as outlined by Patanjali in the Sutras, offers a code of observances for yogis. This code encourages yogis to work toward elimination, to cut back on “stuff” the mind loves. Or, at least that’s how it seemed. Although I had first been attracted to yoga as a method to de-clutter the mind, now I was faced with physical life clutter as well. It’s not fair, my mind cried, everything from my dinner plate to my shelves needs de-cluttering, but I’m not ready.

I struggle to live by the code of Yama and Niyama. I do try in earnest, but I really struggle. One of the areas I feel my struggle most keenly is Aparigrapha (non-collection, non-possessiveness, non-holding through senses, non-greed, non-grasping.) It’s a problem. A problem to the tune of about 2,500 LP records.

I started to study further in order to find the root of non-collection. This study was fuelled by my mind wanting to find a loophole, a way out. Surely, there must be some sneaky way out of this—like a tax break for an endeavoring yogi.

Unfortunately not.

Aparigrapa is exactly what it says on the tin—non-collection. What’s the big deal about collection? Surely what you collect colors this ethic.

For example, is a collection of weapons as “bad” as a collection of beautiful, tenderly loved LPs? I thought about it from every angle. But the collection (noun) is not the whole point; collecting (verb) is. Collection is spurred on from what you’ve got, to what you’ve not got. It’s to think about what you’re missing. Therefore, it’s to covet. In this respect it’s linked to Santosha (contentment), another part of the code of Niyama.

You can’t covet and have contentment. It’s just not possible. It’s a struggle. And what’s more, the struggle is in flux.

My collecting bleeds out into other areas of my life. The more I analyzed the more I realized all the different things I’ve been collecting. In my yoga practice I’ve been focusing, as one is taught to do, on a specific pose. I warm up, opening specifically to drop into the pose. The pose is neither here nor there; it’s in my head and I want it be on my mat. That’s what I want more than anything. As soon as that pose has come onto my mat, there’s a different pose now lurking, neither here, nor there, but in my head.

So, is my yoga practice like my record collection? Is my yoga practice a collection of beautiful poses, unique to me?

I pull out my favorite ones most often. There’s ones I am not so keen on; they only come out from time to time through a sense of duty. Is the pose/LP I am chasing always going to seem like the most important, the one that will really seal the collection?

The thought of my yoga practice as a hardy “collection” makes me shudder. But drilling everything back, how many striking similarities are there between my practice and my cherished LPs? Too many.

Then, the Stephen Stills lyric came to me. He’s not suggesting we settle for second best, but that it’s better to be with what you’ve got—rather than thinking about extending your collection. I still haven’t mastered my struggle with Aparigraha (probably never will), but at least I understand what I am entering into every time I prey on a record or a pose.

So, love the pose you’re in, love the LP you’re playing. In short—love the one you’re with.


Sarah Elizabeth Lynch is a yoga teacher in Belfast, Northern Ireland. When she’s not on her mat she’s usually working on a vegan culinary treat in her kitchen, listening to one of her records, crocheting, or reading, or maybe doing all four at once. She believes that if you look out for the universe, it will look out for you. Check out her blog, inboundconfessions.blogspot.co.uk


Editor: Sara McKeown

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