Aparigraha (“You shall not hoard” or “You shall not covet”). Normally I think about the harvest festivals, which begin in the Northern Hemisphere with August’s first harvest and occur every few weeks throughout the winter (Thanksgiving being most familiar in the US), when I think about non-hoarding. It is the time for being grateful, sharing abundance, and taking care of each other.
Even though it’s Spring, we are finding ourselves needing to take care of one another in differing ways. Many people are making masks, designing new, less complex respirators and teaching courses like yoga online (and making many other efforts toward the public good).
But there are others who are allowing their fears to overwhelm them at this time. They are hoarding, most noticeably, toilet paper. This is not the same as buying extra butter to bake with. Families baking together and people baking to share are wonderful things. But buying up every last bit of some item, like toilet paper, for fear— of anything — that’s another story. (Some are holding on to N95 masks though others need them desperately.) Especially given that there are, in fact no shortages of that product and are not likely to be. (If you happen to know WHY folks are hoarding TP, please tell me. I just can’t imagine a reason.)
Hoarding (which could also be called coveting what one doesn’t need) shows poverty of spirit and indicates one does not have faith that the universe will provide. It does not enhance one’s sense of well-being and, in fact, diminishes it. When folks hoard to the point that other people can’t get what they need, it becomes an active detriment to the well-being of society as a whole.
Aparigraha, or, non-hoarding is a way of keeping ones hands open so that that which you need can find you while those things others need and you have in abundance can flow outward to where they can be used. The net result of practicing aparigraha is a life of simplicity with only those things one needs immediately close at hand, trusting that when one needs something it will become available. This can be a real challenge in our culture of consumerism and our homes filled to the rafters with stuff.
The challenges of our present time of pandemic have thrown the most extreme consequences of hoarding into high relief, but there are other, rather insidious ways, we can find it in our lives.
A colleague of mine once spoke about a bottle of Worcestershire sauce that he bought to replace an empty one, and how he somehow kept putting off opening the new bottle. This went on for weeks until he looked at the bottle in the cupboard and asked himself why he was saving it. He owned the condiment, but by not opening it he lost the benefit of having it. I realized I was doing the same with a bottle of real maple syrup (yum, maple syrup!).
My aunt did the same thing with nice gifts she was given. She always said, “I’ll save that for a special occasion.” But sometimes an occasion special enough never came. I bought her an Irish linen bread warmer specifically for Thanksgiving rolls. Unless I was there, she still wouldn’t use it! And when I was there, she wouldn’t use it unless I prompted her.
The truth is that holding onto or coveting things (or condiments) of any kind puts a burden on spirit. Even stored neatly away, things clutter life up. Getting rid of excess belongings (as suggested by both spiritual teachers and interior designers) is literally lightening your load in life.
Recently, I began to work on this. Well, first I formed the intention and I did get rid of a few things. But it was so easy to let it slide. Oddly, I found an app (probably the only tech recommendation I’ll ever make here) called “Way of Life” that makes getting rid of what I don’t need so that others might benefit much easier. And the rule is, that ANYTHING, no matter how small, that gets transitioned counts! It’s only been a few months and already both my heart and my house feel lighter.
The stuff I’ve been keeping has run the gamut from family keepsakes (which I plan to pass on and if no one wants them in my family, I’ll sell them) to well-designed artifacts and art that has been hidden away.
Throughout this harvest season I plan to give thanks for all I have, while letting go of the things I no longer use or need. I hope the things I let go of bring joy to others.
Namaste, and have a grand Autumn!