The last of the five yamas is Aparigraha, or non-possessiveness. Aparigraha is defined as non-attachment. Non-attachment to possessions, to relationships, to routines and ways of being. Not hoarding, not clinging to anything or anyone. Fulfilling our needs rather than our wants.
The principle of Aparigraha asks us to take only what we need. To appreciate what we have. To do what we can for those who are in need.
Here’s a story that illustrates the principle of Aparigraha. When I was a child, my mother (or possibly the Easter Bunny) gave me a really nice ceramic mug. It was a simple but beautiful mug -- hand-crafted, tan in color, with a three-dimensional lion’s face on one side. It was “my” mug, and I used it whenever I drank tea or cocoa (provided it wasn’t in the dishwasher).
It managed to survive my childhood, as well as my first two years of college, when I lived in a single dorm room (no roommate). But in my third year of college, I shared a campus apartment with seven other people. At some point that year, my lion mug disappeared. I couldn’t find it, and none of my housemates could account for it. Maybe it got broken, maybe it got lost – but definitely it was gone.
I was upset – sad that my favorite mug was gone, angry that one of my housemates had either lost or broken it, hurt that one of my possessions had been treated so carelessly. But I understood that there was nothing I could do to bring it back. Sure, I could rant and rave, or sulk, or break/lose someone else’s favorite mug, or beat myself up for letting other people use my mug in the first place -- but the outcome would be the same: no more lion mug.
So I just let it go. It was an epiphany for me, because up until that point, my usual modus operandi was to rant or sulk or beat myself up.
Aparigraha asks us to embrace the simple fact that life is all about change. Losing a favorite mug is pretty easy to take when you compare it to losing something far more substantial – a friendship, a job, a loved one. But even in the most extreme circumstances, we can still apply Aparigraha and learn to let go and move on. It takes practice, of course, and it’s not necessarily easy. But the more we “just let go,” the easier it becomes.