Aparigraha or Non-Possessiveness is the fifth and final yama. When studying this yama, I learned another way to view non-possessiveness is through the lense of non-attachment.
Attachment is still something I struggle to understand and it is talked about considerably when discussing all branches of the yoga tree and through The Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali.
Pantanjali defines attachment as “the consciousness of self-mastery in one who is free from craving from objects seen or heard.”
Awesome. Did that make sense to you? It did not to me the first, second and third time I read it. We discussed this concept at length throughout my yoga teacher training and attachment always seemed to be at the core of any sense of suffering; physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, etc.
For awhile, I struggled with the thought process that maybe I was not supposed to care about anything? If caring about something or someone led me to be attached to them and the fear of losing them led to attachment, well, should I just not care?
Not caring can be a freeing concept in some respects. Not caring so much has helped me deal with some forms of my anxiety where maybe I am not caring so much about my appearance, about how fast I can run, about how far I can push myself in a yoga pose.
But, there are some things, or mainly, people, I have a hard time not caring about.
My biggest attachment and thoughts that cause suffering relate to the fear of losing people. My core group of loves ones (husband, step-son, family members and friends) are treasured and dear to me and the thought of anything “bad” happening to them or an untimely death causes me to have anxious thoughts.
I was confronted with this construct pretty head on when my dad was murdered four years ago. My biggest fear and source of anxiety up to that point was losing someone I loved and then crash, bang, boom, I did.
Does non-attachment tell me to not care about what happened to my dad or my healing process? The way I am understanding attachment is that it does not mean a lack of care, but a lack of investment to an expected outcome. I am trying to be at peace with whatever outcomes may come in regards to the things and people I care about.
Non-attachment to outcomes has helped me not suffer as much through the legal process surrounding the arrests made in my dad’s case. The legal process is still dragging on and I work to be at peace with whatever may be and not let the results affect my own personal healing journey.
I believe attachment is the main source of the anxiety I experienced for so many years. Although it still creeps in from time to time, having an awareness of what is going on has helped tremendously in dealing with the racing thoughts.
There was an incident a few months back with my step-son’s school bus. He was almost at school when a stolen truck crashed into the bus. The driver of the truck got out to run and the cops begin shooting at him. Right.next.to.the.bus. Everyone was OK. The driver was arrested. The kids made it to school safely. My step-son was fine.
The next day as I drove to work and thought about him on that bus, I constructed a whole alternative, catastrophized scenario in my head. I decided to never let him out of the house again and cover him in bubble wrap when we needed to go outside for some requisite sunlight.
I am exaggerating, but I am sure you can imagine how this event sent my anxiety soaring, but I was able to recognize it before it spiraled out of control. I beging using the mantra “I do not own safety. I do not own people.” My step-son is one of the greatest blessings of my life, but he does not belong to me. I have to work to be at peace that the universe, his guides and god will always protect him.
I used tree pose or vrksasana to demonstrate non-attachment or possessiveness. I love how this pose feels both grounding and lifting simultaneously. In order to stay stable in this pose, the standing foot must be firmly grounded and connected to the earth. The breath has to flow calmly and freely, the body lifts and the crown of the head connects to a higher source. If you hold your breath, become anxious or overthink it, you will fall out of this pose. Tree pose takes both tremendous focus and freedom of the mind, just like the journey to non-attachment.