Marie Kondo has been a hit sensation in recent months. Everyone is talking about her show and trying their best to do what she does: get rid of all their stuff and keep only what brings them joy.
What if I told you that the measure of how joyful you are has absolutely no relationship to what you own? Kondo forgot to mention that the things that truly bring joy are not material.
While I have never been one to hoard material items, I recently moved house, mainly to downsize. As a result I found myself face to face with the feeling of attachment to material objects. I am not really sure what happened, as I began sorting my belongings, to figure out which ones to keep and which ones to let go of, I could sense a direct emotional connection that I had not felt before.
I found myself thinking about how these items will be missed in my life. I could right away see that this was attachment. Needless to say, I was able to let them go. It was a moment of seeing and experiencing exactly what attachment to objects feels like.
The Sutras constantly remind us of the dangers of attachment. Aparigraha is one of the five yamas of yoga. It encourages non-hoarding and is sometimes referred to as non-grasping. The reason for aparigraha is to avoid attachment. Each person must take what they need to survive and anything beyond that qualifies as hoarding.
Imagine if every human on earth was able to do this with their material wealth. Think of the kind of world we can create.
Shortly after this insightful moment, I began to wonder about other ways in which we may hoard and how practicing non-attachment to experiences, emotions, ideas, beliefs, relationships, and energies can be pivotal in transformation. I also began to investigate what would be the best way to let go of each one of those things. And now, I share them with all of you:
We hoard experiences by constantly looking for the next thrill, the big adventure, always looking outside ourselves to find fulfillment. There is always that one friend we have who is never in one place for too long.
Another way to hoard experiences is by not wanting to let go of the memory of a place or event for fear of not having a similar one. Wanting to return to the same place to experience the same thing in the same way only to realize that the experience will never be the same.
Tips for letting go of experiences: Living in the moment is the best gift we can ever offer ourselves because taking in, with all our senses, what is happening in the present moment is all the adventure we really need. Using the breath can be powerful. Practicing pranayama daily, especially on days when we feel uncentered, can help bring our mind back into the present moment. (Learn more in Grounding Through the Senses: Mindfulness Techniques to Help You get Grounded.)
It is one thing to clean out one’s closet and decide that this garment or that garment does not bring joy, it is another to go through one’s emotions and begin to determine if it is time to remove them from our emotional repertoire.
Anger, sadness, depression. As we know, these things have their own timeline and may never really be resolved in one lifetime. How does one even hoard emotions? I personally think that this is when we refuse to let go of hurt, and betrayal and hold on to grudges for a very long time. This hoarding is in some way serving us, we feel justified in our anger. We want someone to be wrong so that we can be right.
Tips for letting go of emotions: recognize that emotions are not a part of our identity and understanding if someone hurt us consciously or unconsciously, it is coming from a wounding within them. Asana can be a powerful way to move through difficult emotions. Especially the poses that allow us to tense parts of the body and then release the tension, such as crow pose, and backbends. Cleansing breath, such as kapalabhati and bhuta shuddhi, can also be useful in releasing built up emotions. (Learn more in Managing Your Emotions: The How and the Why.)
Ideas are another way we hoard. Some of us like to collect ideas and find it difficult to share them with the world. We also sometimes copy them without giving credit to where we found them. In reality no one owns knowledge, ideas come from one and only one source.
Tips for letting go of ideas: When we realize that no one owns knowledge, we realize that the number one thing to do when we have an idea is to share it, especially if it will be beneficial to our loved ones and communities. If we happen upon an idea that resonates with us, it is not difficult to credit the person or persons where it came from. This way we free our self from negative karma.
Beliefs are a tough one to let go of. Hoarding them can make us feel powerful. Such as when we believe that a person is good or bad relative to our beliefs of what is good or bad. We can believe certain things about the world and life that will stand in the way of our progress and evolution.
Tips for releasing negative beliefs: We can learn to hold on lightly to any beliefs and be ready to accept other’s points of view. The realization that there are multiple perspectives in life and that they are all valid is liberating. A teacher of mine used to say, a flexible mind is the result of a flexible body. Notice where you are holding tension in your body and work on stretching and lengthening those areas as they more than likely relate to some outdated belief.
Energy hoarding is really mostly out of our control. Sometimes we take on others energies by being in proximity with them day in day out. This requires us to be really vigilant with who we spend our time.
As the saying goes: birds of a feather flock together. We take on the vibe of our tribe. It is also said that we take on the karma of our tribe. This is the reason we have to be discerning with the company we keep.
Tips for releasing energetic ties: Take your time to befriend someone. Do not call someone a friend until they prove it with their actions. If you do feel like your energy is being drained by someone, begin to distance yourself. In certain cases, we have to cut people out of our life for our own well being.
Relationship hoarding is when we pretend to be friends with one person or many people for self-serving purposes. Such as brown nosing our boss to get the position we always wanted, or befriending someone who will serve us in some way, whether monetary or otherwise.
Another way to hoard relationships is when we cannot let go of someone who has clearly stated that they want nothing do with us. When someone does not want you as a friend, and all their actions indicate that.
Tips for releasing unhealthy relationship patterns: Seek to be in relationship where the power dynamic is equal, where there is no co-dependance and you are not wanting to get something out of the other, but rather contributing to their life in some way. In healthy relationships all involved contribute to the well being of the other. Practicing unconditional love is not easy in a society that instills self-serving values. One can give in return for nothing, but really the law of the universe is that when you give from a full heart, you are rewarded many times over, even if you cannot see the gifts, they will be returned to you in one form or another.
The Sutras recommend asana, pranayama, and mantra recitation as necessary to cultivate metta (kindness) and karuna (compassion). Equanimity in the face of anything and unconditional love is why we practice yoga.
This spring as you clean out your material belongings, keep in mind the above mentioned list of attachments, and as you arrive on your mat each day intend to let go of at least one thing that is not material that no longer belongs in your life. (Learn more in Decluttering: Calming the Outer Chaos to Create Inner Peace.)
Wishing you joyful outer and inner spring cleaning.