Native American wisdom echoes the sentiment of this Yoga Sutra : “Take only what you need and leave the land as you found it”. Yet, in our consumer-driven culture, we often accumulate more than necessary, burdening ourselves with physical and emotional baggage. Aparigraha teaches us to discern between our genuine needs and desires born out of a sense of lack. How many clothes do you have in your cupboard that you know you won’t ever wear again? How many gadgets, ornaments, books and shoes do we have that we really just don’t need? Moderation in consumption is key, as excessive possessions weigh us down physically and energetically.
The principle extends beyond material goods to food consumption, with wastage contributing to global hunger despite abundant resources. Many texts advise eating moderately, so as not to disturb our practice, and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika in particular lists over-eating as a hindrance on the Yogic path. It has been well documented that the world’s ‘blue zones’ (the places in the world with the highest life expectancy, and the healthiest quality of life) eat until about 80% full, so as to allow the body to properly digest and assimilate food. Okinawa in Japan is one of these blue zones, and the phrase ‘Hara Hachi Bu’, meaning ‘eat until you are eight parts full’ originates here. It’s not just how much we eat that is worth considering, but also how much we throw away. 30% – 50% of the food produced in the world ends up as waste. With a growing global population of around 9 billion people, demands for food are growing, but still well over 8 million people in the world go hungry every day. The food currently wasted in Europe could feed around 200 million people, so why are we still being greedy, over-buying and wasting food?
Attachment to positive experiences is naturally human, but clinging to them impedes our growth. The Sanskrit concept of ‘Parinamavada’, meaning ‘everything is in a constant state of flux’, reminds us that change is inherent in life. By embracing both joy and sorrow, light and dark, we enrich our human experience. Happiness, joy and peace are important emotions to feel, yes, but so too is sadness, anger and loss. To experience only the good stuff is to experience only half of what life has to offer. The school of life exists to allow us to experience and learn from every aspect of our being, and to truly live we must not push away the things we don’t want to feel, but allow them to happen, and know that this too shall pass. When we let the moment be what it is without either trying to cling to it, or to push it away, we can really say we’re living in that moment, allowing things to come and go, without the need to possess any of it.