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Mary E. Vandenack: Aparigraha • Letting Go

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This year’s articles have focused on the yamas and niyamas of yoga, which have their roots in Hinduism. My son was taking a class this past semester that studied world religions and philosophies. One evening he said to me “You do realize that you have a very westernized view of yoga philosophy.” We discussed that off and on for several days. I agree that my perspective is westernized. My focus in writing about the yamas and niyamas is simply how some of these principles might correlate to living in our nsociety today.

Aparigraha is the concept of non-possessiveness. It is the Sanskrit word for “greedlessness” or non-grasping. It means taking what is truly necessary and no more. According to the Yoga Sutras, the more we practice non-grasping, the more happy and satisfied we
will feel.


Perfectionism seems to run rampant in our society. We want to have perfect figures, wrinkle-free faces, perfect homes, cars and spouses. We want to achieve perfect grades, perfect bank investments and have everything be just right.

The concept of aparigraha teaches us that the issue is not that of wanting to look better, do better, or have things. The issue is “clinging” to a particular desire in a manner where you do not feel okay until you have had the most recent botox treatment.  

For a period of time, I was not inviting people over to my house. Most of us are short of time because we have many commitments. While raising my son and pursuing a career, I finally gave in to letting clothes be on the floor when I walked out the door. For many years, that was unthinkable. Instead of picking up every object every day, I wouldn’t let anyone come over for fear that the house was too messy. Fortunately, I have let go of that type of grasping and am truly comfortable with the fact that my house may not be in order until my son is off to college, if then.      


Another area of grasping in our society is the world of “things.” We are often clinging to the need for the latest iPAD, iPhone, golf Garmin, exercise video, BMW or Nike shoe.

We all have our type of “thing.” My thing has been collecting books on yoga, Pilates, fitness, and various philosophies. I have hundreds of such books. Many of them are unread. They are sitting around waiting for me to have the time to read them. 

One day it occurred to me that I likely couldn’t read all of those books in my lifetime and that there are others who might have time now. It took me quite awhile to let go of my need to have all my books around and I am still working on it, but I have donated several piles this year.


In the process of writing this article, I read the views of others on the subject of aparigraha. One author wrote about the concept of voluntary simplicity. The article suggested going for one year without buying anything new and described the experiences of several people who had accomplished just that. 

I will admit that I have not yet made the commitment to go for a year without buying anything new, but I have begun to apply some of the concepts of voluntary simplicity. A few of them are as follows:

Buy Less New Stuff – I have begun buying less new stuff. My only son will be going off to college soon. I am not sure what life looks like after that. My dishes and glasses are getting old and there are chips on some of my plates. I have decided not to replace them. Maybe I will send those with him for his first apartment. I don’t really know. I do know that it doesn’t seem to interfere with our mealtimes to use plates that could be, but don’t need to be, replaced.

Give More Away – I live in more space than I need so it is easy to let stuff stockpile. For the longest time I figured that as long as I have the space, I may as well keep stuff “in case I need it later.”  When the recession started a few years ago, I decided to give a lot of stuff away with the idea that others might need it more than I did and I have continued that process. The benefit is that I am beginning to feel less crowded in my home. It is amazing what a little clear space does for one mentally.

Consider Different Gifts – I rarely remember a specific material gift that someone gave me. I do remember kind words, time made, and acknowledgements. In recent years I have done far less traditional gift-giving and far more “making time” and acknowledging. 

Conscious Buying – I rarely buy anything that I haven’t had on a list for a period of time and built into my budget. This prevents impulse buying. I often put something on my list and, before I get around to buying it, I realize I have eight other ways to take care of the need that would be served. I cross the item off.


The biggest challenge to living simpler is the need to “keep up.” Fortunately, the impact of the recession has been that more people are willing to see a simpler lifestyle as success rather than failure. Aparigraha means “not having unnecessary things around and not hankering after what other people have.” Keep only that which you really want, need and adds value to your life.


Mary E. Vandenack, while a lawyer by profession, has studied extensively in mind/body areas of fitness and wellness. She is Yoga Alliance RYT-200, Power Pilates certified, ACE certified and has completed her Stott Pilates comprehensive studies, as well as a variety of work in nutriition.

-end- metroMAGAZINE




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