Aparigraha - what does it mean to give?

Thanksgiving is right around the corner for Americans.  It is a really great time to be on social media and see all of the things people are thankful for - and I love to read the positive messages.  I believe it is a really appropriate time to introduce Aparigraha into an every day routine - if it falls by the wayside regularly.  If you have no idea what that word is, please read on.  There is just a short description, and then I promise, the more accessible (to me) adaptation will follow. Aparigraha is is the 5th Yama of the 8 Limb Path of Yoga as outlined in Patanjali’s The Yoga Sutras.  Aparigraha is translated and explained as the non-hoarding of things, not being greedy, not accumulating beyond our capacity to use things properly, and ultimately, not stealing.  Patanjali says, “When non-greed is confirmed, a thorough illumination of the how and why of one’s existence comes (II-30)."

Godfrey Devereux has a beautiful spin on the Yamas and Niyamas - he flips the meaning into a positive light, giving us yogis something to DO rather than AVOID.  To take action with the path.

Godfrey describes Aparigraha as generosity.  It can be practiced both during your physical asana (posture) practice and off the mat with yourself and everyone you interact with in life.

Bring your awareness into your actions and intentions - see where you can incorporate generosity in your life. Generously give to yourself and others:

When you discover yourself bridling efforts during posture practice due to fear, doubt, or whatever mind-tale is spinning around at that moment in the pose that makes you cringe... be generous to yourself.  Breathe.  See what happens when you open your mind and give abundant space to your body.

When you are feeling overwhelmed and run-down, be generous to yourself and give yourself a nap, a massage, a long soak in the tub... Or better yet, be generous and ask a loved one for help.

When it comes to being generous with others - you do not need to put yourself out being overly charitable: Share your knowledge and experience.  Give a hug.

Listen to someone intently because you want to gift them your energy and time - not because you have a monologue planned for the first quiet pause and need an audience.

Stay late after an event or party to help clean up because you are a part of the community that shared that space - not to gain favor.

Help a friend who is sick, overwhelmed, or just because you have the time to give.

Bring a homeless person your extra winter clothes, a sandwich, cup of coffee, or your change that will likely end up under your car seat, anyway.

Smile at someone - and don’t expect the kindness returned.

Give.

Take only what is given and needed.  Be fair and honest.  Do not take advantage of the goodness of others.

These are all ways to incorporate generosity in your life.  Your unselfish and thoughtful, yet simple gifts to yourself and others, will cultivate Aparigraha within you. And it will continue to expand the more you give.

Be mindful of your intentions this season - true Aparigraha requires a gentle restraint of the ego - to be humble.  To recognize that you give something that others need without selfish intentions or attachments to the outcome.

"True generosity is an offering; given freely and out of pure love. No strings attached. No expectations. Time and love are the most valuable possession you can share." Suze Orman

When was the last time you were honestly generous?

The most generous soul I know.