A Simple Guide to Find Happiness Today!

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Hi!  Thanks for returning to my blog for #fitfriday. Let's face it-the last couple of years have been challenging for all of us.  Today-let's talk about a simple guide to find some freedom and happiness via yoga and a principle called aparigraha.  

The word 'yoga' is understood differently by many of us--for some it's purely a physical exercise, a way to get stronger, healthier and more flexible.  For others, it's meditating and cultivating mental discipline every day.  The idea of a yoga practice is to learn to focus, be aware and mindful for the time that we're on the mat, but the ability to carry this state of being off the mat and into the world can have a much deeper impact than just making us look good.  Sure, many, (including me), initially come to class for the physical benefits, but the reason so many of us stay is because there's an inkling that there's some other sort of magic at work here...

One of those magic moments happened to me when I began to learn about a principle known as 'aparigraha'.  Aparigraha is the last Yama in Patanjali's Eight Limbs of Yoga. The yamas are essentially moral guidelines by which to live with regard to our relationship with ourselves, and the world around us.  Aparigraha often translates as 'non-greed', 'non-possessiveness', and 'non-attachment'.  The word 'graha' means to take, to seize, or to grab, 'pari' means 'on all sides', and the prefix 'a' negates the word itself-basically, it means 'non'.  This principle in essence teaches us to take only what we need, keep only what serves us in the moment, and to let go when the time is right.  A way to think about this is that we should not concern ourselves with the outcome of a situation, only with what we're actually doing right now as we work towards that outcome.  

For example-how often do we worry about what might come of the effort we put into a project at work, a trip we are planning, or a meal that we are making, that we don't really enjoy the work/process itself?  So often we worry if we'll be successful enough, or good enough, that we forget why we started in the first place.  If you have something to do and share with the world, we should just do it-with all our hearts-and let go of what might come of it.  

Great poets like Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman, and even composers like Beethoven couldn't be sure of what would come of their work.  Many were considered unworthy of recognition when they first showed the world their creations, but when they let go of the need to be praised by other people-and they just worked for the pure love and pleasure of it-they allowed their passions to come alive and they lived fulfilled and abundant lives.  When we begin to understand and learn how to live this way, it's a bit like taking a deep breath--a huge sigh of relief...

Simple ways to practice aparigraha at home:

How many things do you have in your closets and cupboards that you know you will never use, maybe never wear again, but you keep that thing...just in case.  How many gadgets, ornaments, books and shoes do we have that we really just don't need?  I learned that the more material possessions I have--the more they have me.  In other words, the more we hoard material possessions, the more we weigh ourselves down with not only physical, but energetic baggage, and the more we become attached to and worry about losing those possessions.  Believing that a new object we buy will bring us happiness is based on a feeling of lack.  In this sense, 'lack' is that sense of 'I'm not whole without that thing', when we really always were.  The next time you want to buy something new, take a moment to think of why you need it so much-will it bring lasting happiness?  Will it help you find peace?  Will it help you live in a more self-reliant and simpler way?  Can you let go of something you held onto and free up that space for something new?  

Simple ways to practice aparigraha in our minds:

Hindsight is a wonderful-and annoyingly useful thing.  If only we knew that those things we obsessively worry over didn't really matter?  If only we could stop being concerned with what might happen, and just enjoy what is happening?  When we let the moment be what it is without trying to cling to it, or push it away, we can really say that we're living in that moment, allowing things to come and go, without the need to possess any of it.  

Each time we start a new project or begin something new, we experience a sensation of joy and happiness, and a flash of concern crosses our mind-even if just for a moment-what happens when this is over?  What will come of this? When we experience this moment, do we really let ourselves fully have that experience, or do we cling to it, willing everything to stay just as it is in that moment?  Change is what we fear, so we cling to that moment.  And yet, change is the only constant that we can expect in life.  To embrace change with an open heart is to experience that deep breath of relief.  Just as the trees drop their leaves in the fall, so that they may grow new buds in Spring, the day turns to night, the seasons come and go, we too go through changes every moment of every day.  Our physical bodies are undergoing changes every second, cells regenerating, blood flowing, breath moving in and out of the body; so too do our minds experience change continuously. 

Yoga and aparigraha offers us so much freedom-the freedom to work and do what we love without worrying about the outcome, the freedom to rely less on external possessions to bring us happiness, and the freedom to experience everything life has to offer, whatever that may be.  See what happens when you apply this concept to your life--what happens when you just let go?

I wish you peace and happiness.  See you soon! Warmly, Susan