Aparigraha means “not coveting, hoarding”. It is one of the five yamas, or ethical disciplines, of yoga. My yoga practice is a householder practice. Householder practitioners live worldly lives. We have houses, desires, ambitions, relationships to other people, worldly responsibilities. We look to live better, more spiritual lives in the particular contexts we inhabit, in connection to ourselves and others. We find bliss in the mundane, and joy in our worldly endeavors and successes. We work to root out injustice, dehumanization, disconnection. We find meaning in the path, not an ultimate goal or end. We embrace that there are many ways to live a good life, while acknowledging that some ways of acting and living are harmful and unjust, that they cause suffering for ourselves and others, and we need practices to help us cultivate the character we need to live better, more whole, more spiritual lives.
In this light, aparigraha does not mean lacking desires or ambitions. It does not mean avoiding all delight in success and disappointment in failure. Instead, it means knowing and acting from a place of what is, working through fears that we do not have enough when we actually do, paying attention to when our ambitions and hungers are out of harmony with what we and the world need. It means getting curious and studying the real roots of our desires and ambitions, and seeing whether they are ones that we should endorse. It means practicing dedication to worthy goals in ways that create health instead of suffering, that bring connection and community instead of isolation and competition.
Practicing aparigraha is something that has become and is ever more becoming a deep part of my yoga practice. I have so much. I also want so much more. I am dedicated to the continuous practice of sorting through my ambitions and desires so that I live and work from a place of love, self-worth, health, and devotion to social justice. The word “aparigraha” is now a permanent reminder on my wrist to reach only for what brings more knowledge, well-being, and good for myself and for the world.