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Aparigraha (non-attachment) by Julie Parvati Hillman

By Santosha Yoga

MON DEC 20, 2021

Aparigraha, in my opinion, is one of the most interesting of the Yamas. In fact, it is the first Yama I address in Becoming Parvati. How I see Aparigraha showing up during the holidays is how we expect our holiday celebrations to occur. We all have traditions that we grew up with or created new with our own families. For me, my aunt would host a Christmas eve dinner and open house. All her siblings, children, nieces and nephews, grandchildren would come by for a visit and some stayed for dinner (I usually worked, unfortunately). My husband and I would host a Christmas morning brunch for his immediate family, then we would head to my cousin’s house for dinner. This is how it has been for a year, it's what I expect. I realized last year, as we were all in a sort of “lockdown” due to COVID19, how much I expected this to happen every year. If I’m honest, I was a bit depressed over it not happening this way. And I am sure I am not the only one to have experienced this feeling.

But it wasn’t not seeing family that caused this sense of depression. I had maintained my regular contact with everyone throughout the year. It was my expectation of what my holiday should look like, what I should be doing, that caused my distress. Once I realized this I could address my attachment, and I chose to express the holiday differently in 2020. I kept some things the same, but I did it differently – I decorated a houseplant instead of a Christmas tree, for example. I found that I wasn’t as stressed about putting up – or, more important, taking down – trees and decorations. I felt more present, less distracted for the remainder of the season. I felt more at peace – still worried, stressed, missing gatherings but it didn’t consume me in the same way.

It’s (somewhat) easy to see our attachment to things: possessions, money, etc. Attachment to an expected outcome (our expectations) is less easy to identify. We work hard on something; we expect a certain outcome to happen. When we are attached to that outcome, we are distressed when it doesn’t happen. When we are unattached to the expected outcome, we can be more at peace when it doesn’t happen as we expected – we may be disappointed, but we are not upset. This happens in science all the time. Scientists perform experiments with an expected outcome in mind. When that outcome doesn’t happen instead of becoming upset they perform more experiments to determine why the expected outcome didn’t happen.

Observe where you find yourself stuck on certain expectations. Are there ways you can let go of your attachment to that expectation? There is an adage that states “non-Attachment is not that you do not own things; it means the things you own don’t own you.” Discover where your expectations own you so that you can begin to let go of them. It’s okay to be disappointed at an outcome, but don’t let that disappointment consume you.

You can read more of Parvati’s insights on Aparigraha in Becoming Parvati: a Modern Exploration of the Yamas & Niyamas. Order your copy today.