Several years ago, I moved a house full of belongings from Washington state, up the inside passage to a tiny community in Southeast Alaska and then back down and across the country to Massachusetts.
During each of these moves, I was in a time of turbulent transition. I was able to let go of some belongings but felt drawn to hold on to most of them. It was as though I could add stability and safety to my life by being surrounded by familiar things.
From the time of the first move in the fall 2010 to the second move in the winter 2012 and after, I slowly began to part with my possessions, a little at a time. I was ready.
There were different stories I began creating to help nudge me along in this process. Those stories began with purging belongings that reminded me of a life I no longer was living.
Friends helped me develop these stories further, and the stories grew more elaborate after I moved to Massachusetts.
I could part with any book that was replaceable. I expanded this to any article of clothing, scarf, etc.
I asked questions of my belongings:
Were they fulfilling their destiny and purpose in my care? If not, I needed to try to part with them and gift or sell them to someone who would allow them to honor.
Stuffed animals sitting on shelves went to a friend who was a therapist for young children who came to her practice.
Clothing was sold online and donated to local organizations.
And so on, and so forth.
The more I began to purge, the more free I felt. My body and my heart and mind felt lighter. It became easier to part with things.
But it did not become easy, just easier. I still could no believe how tightly I held onto material possessions, especially items I had not worn or used in years.
Would I regret parting with it? What if I someday wanted it again but had given it away, never to find it or see it again?
I solved this problem in part by taking photographs of things, scanning letters and cards.
During a conversation with coworkers on the ways we are burdened by our belongings, one person said that she doesn’t keep anything that does not make her happy.
I went home for another round of purging.
Slowly, but surely, my load was getting smaller and the burden lighter.
When I moved to Arizona this past fall, my load was indeed lighter, but my process not yet finished. I find that as much as I have grown to love giving away my worldly possessions, I am still drawn to bring new ones into my life. It is like a push and pull living in this western culture, where more and bigger is better.
Plus, I just really like handmade jewelry!
So, I am carrying on in my practice. And as the universe would have it, I began studying yoga on a deep level through an intensive studies course in the community of Prescott where I live.
During this practice, I have moved through asanas that allow for letting go, emptying my cup of expectation, learning to look for grace within and without, and opening my mind, body, and spirit to my own truth, a truth that only I can discover and tell.
My most recent discovery has been through the assignment gifted to us by our teacher, to study for one month a yama or nyama.
My yama is Aparigraha
Aparigraha (Sanskrit: अपरिग्रहा) is the concept of non-possessiveness, non-grasping or non-greediness. It is one of the virtues in Hinduism and Jainism. Aparigrah is the opposite of parigrah, and refers to keeping the desire for possessions to what is necessary or important, depending on one’s life stage and context.
My intention is to sit with this concept. Already, my partner has commented that it seems reminiscent of the Buddhist concept of non-attachment.
So I am sitting and thinking about what I hold on to, perhaps a little bit too tightly, and how I feel when I let something go.
I am practicing slowing down and honoring what my body is telling me I need in this moment in my life.
And I am trying to focus on what is most important.