Yoga’s Aparigraha: A Sustainable Intention for 2021
Some say that 2020 was the year of removing the veils of illusion, but I think it was more like ripping off Band-Aids.
Today, all over the internet, folks are saying “good riddance” to 2020—like somehow we can start fresh and things will go back to “normal.” But let’s remember that what those of us in the West with socioeconomic privilege have considered “normal” is actually a culture plagued by many nasty, festering wounds.
We can’t miss the potential of this moment. Yes, it’s been a horrible year, but slamming the door shut on it doesn’t solve anything. Band-Aids won’t fix this; what’s calling is Aparigraha.
How to Practice Sustainability with Yoga’s Aparigraha
Aparigraha is the fifth Yama. (The Yamas, which are about social integration, are the first of the Eight Limbs of Yoga.) They ask us to operationalize our values and ethics in the context of our larger relationship to others and to the community, society, culture, and planet.
This fifth principle typically gets translated as “non-greed.” Which is great, cuts right to the heart of the matter. But, to reframe in a more positive psychology perspective, I think we can also invoke the idea of sustainability. I can practice aparigraha by making sustainable choices. And, as we all strive toward aparigraha in our personal lives, it can begin to push the cultural juggernaut in a more sustainable direction as well.
My personal Aparigraha choices may look like choosing to recycle stuff, to drive less, to eat more locally, to not waste my life force with activities or people that drain my energy, to volunteer and help others more, to make better informed political choices, to put my money where my mouth is—and so much more.
Aparigraha provides a framework in which to look at my choices with others and with the future in mind. How will others fare because of my choices? How will future generations be affected?
2020 revealed the festering sores of an unsustainable world—a world troubled by environmental devastation, conspicuous consumption, economic and social disparity, racism, sexism, and homophobia. All these conditions need much more attention and care than the pre-2020 Band-Aids can ever offer.
There was nothing sustainable about “normal.” We are at the end of a modern-day Roman empire. It has to end and something new has to emerge. There’s no doubt that this birthing process is going to be hard. But what other choice do we have? If we only look at 2020 from the perspective of wanting to escape from it or close the book on it, then we miss out on the opportunities for personal and collective evolution.
Mine the Lessons of 2020
Challenges compel growth. The bigger the challenge, the greater the opportunity. Every time we are forced into difficulties, and we work to meet them head-on and overcome them, we make cosmic evolutionary leaps. BTW, can you feel it? This is a massive, collective leap we are in the middle of, and it’s our choice if we sink or swim.
Let’s not throw 2020 in the trash bin just yet. Let’s get out the pickaxes and mine the golden lessons here. Ringing in the new year with alcohol and revelry is a pastime appropriate only (and questionably) for a pre-2020 world. Right now we are called to create new rituals, new intentions, new possibilities for the future. We have choices to make and some of them are going to be hard.
What is your ritual? What is your intention? How are you going to show up in 2021? What do you think the world needs more of in this critical moment?
I wish you the strength and fortitude to move into the new year with a sense of hope and courage, a willingness to let go of what is not sustainable, and a growing, deepening sense of self, meaning, purpose, and gratitude.