I grew-up in a family comprised of 7, so the most economical way for all of us to have a family vacation was by car & tent. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to see and experience this magnificant country in all it’s beauty.
One summer we spent a few days at the Great Smokey Mountains National Park in TN. Every evening around 6:30-7:00 the entertainment began. The bears would come check out the garbage cans, since most of the campers had finished dinner, to enjoy all the leftovers.
One evening after our dinner was done and cleaned up my dad and I were sitting at the picnic table enjoying some conversation while I played cards with my brothers. The campsite across from us had been vacant all day until a man showed up in a fancy car and proceeded to set up camp for the evening. First he pulled out a small grill, got it nice and hot, then threw on a big steak. We were impressed! This was NOT “camping” food. As the steak cooked the man set up the picnic table ready to enjoy his fabulous meal in the great outdoors.
Well, a bear must have gotten a good whif of that juicey steak because just when it was done a bear walked right up to the grill and with one good swipe, it was gone. While we got a good laugh, the man was really pissed off and packed up all his geer as quickly as he could and left. I still get a chuckle just thinking about it. That was one very happy bear!
Aparigraha is a Sanskrit word that means non-hoarding or not holding on. To say this in positive way, which is always my preference, one could say it means letting go. Letting go begins with the trust that we will always get our needs met. The man in my story certainly didn’t feel he got his needs met that evening. The bear on the other hand…
From the trust comes the confidence to let go knowing that if we need it again later, it will come back to us. The practice of aparigraha can be as simple as breath awareness. When we exhale completely, allowing ourselves to be empty for a moment, we are trusting that on the other side of the breath, there is a whole ocean of air just waiting to rush into our lungs and fill us with life force. When we inhale completely, we are declaring our worthiness to be fully alive and experience that aliveness. When it is time–we let it go.
Now, letting go certainly covers much more than inhaling and exhaling. So I ask you, identify something that you could let go of in your life to make room for a new experience. I often wonder how long it took that man to let go of that experience and hopefully was soon able to see the humor in it. After all, the bear was just being a bear.
Now, it could be old clothes occupying space in your closet, thoughts cluttering your mind, relationships that have out lived their meaningfulness, moldy cheese in the fridge–anything that could be released to make some precious space to experience your own creative possibilities.
It is my experience that there is always something to be released, even if it’s just one breath. When we let go of something that we are holding on to, be it a decades old t-shirt or a self-limiting belief, we are able to reclaim our creative power.
But space can be a little scary. Maybe a whole lot scary. You might want to run away screaming. I know when taking a good look at stuff that has accumulated, it feels insanely overwhelming. Maybe you’d rather cover your head with a pillow and fall into several days of hibernation (no pun intended) instead of taking a good look at why you’ve been holding on to all that stuff.
Now admit it. You have plenty of clutter in a closet, in your basement, and in your brain. You want to let go of it all, but it’s really hard.
Well, do you know what’s profoundly reassuring in all of this? Aparigraha isn’t something that we grasp on to at the mental level one moment, and then put down in the next. We don’t have to flip a switch and miraculously morph into a shining example of simple, uncluttered living. It’s something that we can keep practicing until one day it becomes second nature. Maybe today you let go of that chunk of moldy cheese that has been lurking in your fridge, and tomorrow you’ll put one old t-shirt in a donation box. Maybe it’s time to let go of that “steak” that was swiped out from under you. Maybe a month from now you’ll have the courage to examine a self-deprecating thought that has been running around in your brain for the better part of your life. Maybe you have a friend who has repeatedly hurt you with careless remarks, inconsistent behaviors, destructive choices–and one day you have the courage to say “No more!” You can move at a pace that feels comfortable, and whittle away at the mountain of clutter, until one day you notice the freedom. Wow! It feels fantastic!
So keep practicing. Keep breathing, beginning with a big exhalation that says, “I am willing to let go!” Waiting for you on the other side is a whole ocean of life force ready to rush in as you allow yourself to receive.
May your breaths be full, deep, and joyful and celebrate the life you have right now.