This was “supposed” to be posted in November. It is a concept I have been sharing with my yoga classes this month…… and, as evidenced by this much later than expected publish date; I believe my attempts at practicing what I wanted to share might be proving effective!
Have you ever been planning an event or buying a gift (both likely scenarios for this time of year), and caught yourself so wrapped up in the outcome that when the event comes, or that person is opening your gift, you are so attached to seeing the reaction you expected, that you either are disappointed that it didn’t go as planned, or mad at yourself for not doing something different?
What if we could release ourselves from the self-imposed “expected results”? What if we could take joy in the preparations or the gift buying and let that act itself be the work of the heart? What if while at the party, or watching your loved ones open a gift, you could just be present and know whatever you prepared was an act out of love and your joy was not dependent on whatever reaction or result occurred?
One of the practices in yoga philosophy focuses on just this. Many people I talk to understand yoga as only being the physical movements you do on a mat. This physical practice is one “limb” of yoga (there are actually 8 limbs of yoga – did you know that?). Another limb is called the “yamas,” which are a set of guidelines focused on our relationship with ourselves and world around us. These “moral codes” can be applied both on and off of the mat. Practicing them not only benefits ourselves, but in turn benefits all those around us. There are 5 yamas , they focus on non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, use of energy and lastly, non-greed/non-possessiveness/non-attachment.
The focus on non-greed/non-possessiveness/non-attachment is called aparigraha. ‘Graha’ means to take, to seize, or to grab, ‘Pari’ means ‘on all sides’, and the prefix ‘a’ negates the word itself - basically, it means ‘non’. This practice – and it does require practice (at least for me) - reminds us to take only what we need, keep only what serves us in the moment, and to let go when the time is right.
Here is how I have shared this concept of aparigraha in some of my yoga classes this past month. Yoga is not a competitive sport, taking the time to come to our mat is an opportunity for time with self. An opportunity to practice giving yourself the grace and peace of just being you. We start with this intention. But it probably doesn’t take long until our minds wander, we start taking note of the person next to us and seeing what they are doing. At this point, we lost sight of the reason we came. This is where the “non-greed’/‘non-attachment’ aspect comes into play. When we start focusing on another person and what they are doing, we lose our focus on self. Our yoga practice is an opportunity to see our practice as a gift in and of itself. The time to just be. The time to be in our own body, present to the moment. It can be very freeing not to have a concrete goal in place, not tell ourselves we need to get further into a pose, look better, be better than the person next to us. We can just be.
Practicing this on the mat is a fantastic way to take this practice with us off the mat. There are applications everywhere. For example, “stuff.” Clothes we hold onto, or clothes we think we have to have. Endless efforts to make it look just like it does on pinterest. When we focus on physical or material needs we end up creating lots of mental baggage.
And this is my personal application of this practice. Like I said earlier, I wanted to share this at thanksgiving time, as food for thought as we go through the rush to Christmas. But I have had a lot going on and many weekends have come and gone. Did this cross my mind every week? You bet. Did I tack it on my “you really should have gotten that done, you are falling short of expectations” list? No, not this time.
I am sharing this here, now, today. It is from my heart and will hopefully find its way to someone who needs a reminder that there is grace in releasing the “musts” and the “shoulds”.
Practicing aparigraha offers us so much freedom. It really is possible to rely less on external and material possessions to bring us happiness. It really is possible to simply be present and free ourselves from the self imposed standards of perfection.
What if we could stop being concerned with what might happen, and just enjoy what is happening?
During this holiday season, I wish you the gift of just being. Merry Christmas!
You can go about three weeks without food, three days without water, and three minutes without air. This precious air we breathe, day in and day out, we probably hardly ever pay attention to.
The conscious breath is an amazing thing. Physically, the act of drawing air in and out of the body delivers oxygen which provides basic building blocks our bodies need to survive. It helps kill bacteria, and it fuels the cells that make up our body's defenses against viruses and other invaders. We could not function without it.
Despite the fact that it is a true necessity of life, I am not sure I ever paid too much attention to my breath other than noticing how out of breath I was when racing one of my kids upon a challenge, or doing a crash course in ramping up my cardio workout. It was when I started practicing yoga and in a place where I couldn’t go anywhere that I started to take conscious note of my breath. On my mat, listening to my instructor guide me to breathe in and out, I learned to connect breath with movement as we moved through pose to pose. I became much more aware of drawing air in and out of the body and appreciating what that air is doing to keep me alive.
Over time I began to call on this practice of pausing and taking a minute to pay attention to my inhale and exhale. Being in the present moment, being right here, right now, took my mind off of whatever thoughts were troubling or causing me anxiety. It drew me back and let me remember that I can only control what I can control and worrying was not going to accomplish anything.
I have become most thankful and appreciative of this physical action of breathing. Not only does it bring my physical body life, but by pausing and becoming aware of the inhale and the exhale, it gives my mind a chance for new life. Being aware of my breath gives me the ability to be here right now, to recognize thoughts or worries that do not serve me and to let them go. It brings life back to the person I am meant to be.
Michelle is the owner of a curious mind, she is loving life's journey and takes every opportunity to learn about how people can create the space they need to live life to the fullest.
The Gift of Breathing