Just like we practice asana and pranayama in yoga, we must also practice aparigraha, or non-attachment. We can relate aparigraha to being non-possessive, non-hoarding and non-greedy. In all definitions, it’s important to notice that the underlying burden we carry is our attachment to our expectations. Interesting, isn’t it? Let’s dive a little deeper.
Perhaps you’ve heard of aparigraha, as it happens to be one of the Yamas (moral restraints) developed by Patanjali. We can begin by looking at this concept from a physical perspective, which will lead us to understand how attachment affects us emotionally and spiritually. When we think about being attached to something, an object or a person, we might have the feeling of needing to possess this thing or be around this person in order to be happy. This is why some of us feel the urge to purchase items in excess, hoard possessions or follow a strict routine. We believe that these things will make us happy. Does this mean we are attached to these items and people? Not at all. We are attached to the expectation of how they make us feel.
What Is Attachment and What Does It Feel Like?
Attachment is essentially being bound to a sensation. You may be attached to a person because of how good you feel when you’re around them, you may be attached to a smell because of the memories that come flooding when you breathe it in, or you may be attached to a certain routine or plan, because you expect that the outcome will suit your life and bring you joy.
While attachment seems to bind us to all things that are good, it’s important to recognize that our expectation of the outcome can often lead to pain and suffering. This is why it’s important to practice letting go, or non-attachment (aparigraha). Let’s look at non-attachment and see how we might be able to practice it in our daily lives. (Learn more in 5 Yoga Virtues That Create Success.)
First off, it’s important to note that the opposite of attachment from a yogic perspective is not detachment. This illustrates a dark picture of being isolated, depressed and essentially cut off from society and the world around us. The goal is not to be detached, but to simply let go of attachment. Ideally, our goal is to release all attachment and live in a place where we aren’t emotionally altered by outcomes and don’t live on expectations.
By practicing non-attachment, we are not letting go of the person or object or thought itself, but we are practicing the concept of "letting go of expectations and outcome." So how can we practice non-attachment?
Steps to Take When You're Feeling Attached
Practicing non-attachment can be tricky if you're not familiar with techniques that can help with identifying the signs of attachment, managing your focus and practicing this virtue often without losing interest in the process. To practice aparigraha, here are some tips:
Identify the Attachment
This is not the object, thought or feeling itself; but rather your expectation. How are you expecting to feel when you have the object or person within your grasp of attachment?
Practice Mentally Letting Go of the Attachment
If we approach these situations with the understanding that the outcome could be different than what we’re expecting, we are training our mind to let go of the attachment. It’s important to stay neutral and simply have no expectations at all. (Read more in The Freedom in Letting Go.)
Turn Your Focus to the Activity, Object or Person
Instead of focusing on the outcome, try turning your focus to the activity, object or person (after all, they deserve your full attention of mind, body and soul). By letting go of the outcome, we are free to fully commit ourselves to the activity.
Understand That This Is a Practice That Requires Repetition
When practicing non attachment, the practitioner needs to understand that this is a practice and is something they will need to revisit often to achieve. This may even mean practicing non-attachment in the same situation, over and over, until you feel a sense of freedom from your expectations. Or perhaps practicing non-attachment each time you recognize the feeling of attachment.
So, while on the surface, attachment looks like a physical bind to an object or person, we can now understand that if we dig a little deeper, the attachment is always tied to our expectations. Imagine living with no attachments or expectations. What a beautifully lightweight and blissful life that would be! We can all start to live a little bit lighter by recognizing our attachments and practicing the art of letting them go. (Learn more in The Wisdom of Non-Attachment.)
Read more articles from Kelsie at Kelsie Jo Yoga.