When you take your yoga off the mat and start digging into the philosophy (me, all day long…) we come up against several different concepts that boil down to this basic idea:
Aparigraha, for example, is the yama that tells us not to be greedy.
Santosa is the niyama telling us to find satisfaction with what we have in the moment.
The thing about this work, though, the thing that keeps me coming back again and again, is that even though these lessons are simple, living them is not.
Especially here, in a country focused on materialism. Being back in the United States for just over three years, I miss the simplicity of life on the move. By it’s nature, being a traveler means you are a minimalist. If it doesn’t fit in the backpack, it gets passed on when it’s time to move on. In this way, I’ve left a trail of favorite dresses, scarves, boots, and books behind me.
Being a mom, on the other hand, is a lesson in straddling the line between minimalism and wanting to be prepared for all of life’s “what-if’s.” It also means that I am more focused on acquiring financial security than I was while traveling on a shoestring.
The thing that I’ve found sneaking up on me these last few months is an inexplicable sense of jealousy.
The word Jealous is defined by Mirriam-Webster dictionary as:
1 : hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage
2 a : intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness
b : disposed to suspect rivalry or unfaithfulness
3 : vigilant in guarding a possession
This is a difficult topic for me to write about, because frankly, it’s embarrasing! Jealousy is not a comfortable feeling nor one that I’m proud of, but I think it’s important to write about because a BIG part of my yoga practice is not only moving my body on the mat, but learning to sit through the waves of emotions that buffet my mind. My practice comes in choosing to observe rather than react.
Jealousy is a concept based on false logic: there is not enough to go around.
In the relationship realm, jealousy was something I dealt with when a partner was unfaithful. Living with the strong, unpleasant, jealous emotions taught me to heed my intuition sooner rather than later. When I’m in a situation that I trust, I don’t feel jealous. My best lesson from dealing with past relationships that invoked this feeling is to understand that I can’t be my best self with somebody who I don’t fully trust.
To be jealous of another’s success assumes that success is limited and only available to the lucky few. If that guy over there is successful, there is less success available for me and my family. Logically, I know this is untrue, so I’ve been sitting with the feeling of jealousy in my life and noticing when and where it arises.
What I’ve noticed lately is that I feel jealous seeing others having success. This is silly, because each of us will gain success by making an authentic and passionate offering, and others reaching success does not mean that there is less of it available to me. I know all of this, logically, but the toddler in me feels a sense of scarcity and wants to hoard everything for myself. Which brings me straight back to aparigraha, which is a practice that resonates with me and that I know and love.
Aparigraha, for me, is a meditation. It is a constant redirect of the mind away from all that glitters and towards what really matters. It is a constant reminding that:
Everything is wonderful and perfect in this present moment. I don’t need to change a thing.
It is a reminder not to grip, not to hold my breath, but simply to soften and move with the natural flow of things, the tao.
Santosa is about trusting the process. We never begin at the finish line. It is in the journey that we learn our deepest lessons, the ones we call upon when faced with somebody else struggling. This is my deepest belief: that we are here to help each other and lift each other up.
Most religions offer up the concept of the enlightened being pausing at the door of heaven to turn and offer assistance to the sea of humanity behind them. Buddhists use the term bodhisattva, Christians say saints, Hindus say brahmans. Regardless of where you are on the path of awakening, I believe that the more you dig in and really learn this stuff, the more success we have in our own lives and the better we are able to help those around us.
Karma Yoga, Wisdom Yoga, Devotional Yoga, it is all wrapped up in this practice.