One of the yamas in yoga philosophy is aparigraha, which I’ve seen translated as non-attachment, non-possessiveness and non-hoarding. David Swenson talked about it during one of the panels at the Ashtanga Yoga Confuence last year, but it was more in terms of hoarding asanas and feeling attached to your level of achievement.
We had an unfortunate incident recently that reminded me of aparigraha and the importance of non-attachment. Our house was broken into in the middle of the day when I was out with the baby to visit another friend who just had a baby. It was rather a scary scene coming home to see the damage. The burglars (3 men) kicked open our front door, stole our TV, my wedding ring, another ring of great sentimental value, an earring and some other electronics. This was the home version of a smash-and-grab.
Thankfully, we weren’t home, and no one was physically hurt. But it’s still hard nonetheless to 1) feel violated knowing strangers with bad intentions were going through our home, 2) feel less secure if all it takes is a strong enough kick to destroy a door frame, 3) remind myself that things don’t matter as much as people, and 4) fathom what kind of horrible people they are to take what isn’t theirs by forcing entry into a home.
My husband was impressed with how calm I was taking the whole incident. We had always joked with each other that we really don’t have much for people to steal. Our TV was 5 years old, and there are so many newer, fancier and more affordable ones. The laptop they took was actually in a state of repair, so they took a non-functioning computer (and thankfully did not find our working ones!). But I am upset about my rings – the only possessions of value I really owned.
My wedding ring is insured, so while financially we broke even, I don’t want just another piece of equivalent jewelry. I really loved my ring. As for the other ring, I am kicking myself for not putting it away in a safe. I received it as a high school graduation gift from my mom. The only reason they were at home was because my fingers were still too swollen from pregnancy to wear either one. I kept them out to try on every few days, hoping they would fit. And now, they’re both gone.
In my head, I know it’s just stuff. At the same time, I take really good care of my things because we don’t buy a lot. We don’t treat our things as if everything is expendable or disposable. When we take the time to really consider our purchases, I think it’s only natural to feel attached to them.
This was a pretty nice explanation of aparigraha:
A person who has no concern for material possessions, who gives up everything to the point where they do not have a place to live, the clothes they need to keep warm, would be considered too passive in regards to material possessions, or tamasic in regards to material possessions. On the other hand, if a person hoards material possessions, cannot let anything go, accumulates far more wealth than they need, they are being too active, or rajasic, in regards to material possessions. A balance between the two is possessing just what you need and nothing more, which would be a sattvic state. Thus, aparigraha is taking only what is necessary for you to live.
I’m still working on taking only what is necessary to stay clear of any hoarding tendencies. (My husband doesn’t allow me to pick up free swag at conferences anymore unless it’s an actual, useful item.) I’m also trying not to attach myself to my possessions. This isn’t easy! Especially not in a consumer-centric society like the US.
For now, we’re putting our house back together and dealing with our insurance company. The police report was filed along with detailed descriptions of my rings with pictures, so hopefully they turn up at a pawn shop and get flagged in the database as stolen items. Not really the way I wanted to spend the remainder of my maternity leave.