I think of myself as someone who relishes change and is open to new experiences. Yet recently I find myself grasping, wanting things to remain how they have been. As the days get shorter, I find myself longing for the light of summer. As the leaves fall to the ground, I feel sadness that the glorious fall colors are now in a heap on my lawn. I intellectually understand that nothing is static and life is always changing, yet still find myself internally struggling with letting go.
As I look to nature, I am reminded that the leaves let go…they do not grasp. They have lived their life, and now they are willing to release their grip and fall to the ground. They understand the next season requires something different of them. In the 8 limbed path of yoga, we are called to work with aparigraha, or non-grasping. This moral teaching is often translated as avoiding our desire to accumulate more material objects, such as shoes. It is a call to live life more simplistically, because it creates stress to care for objects that can be damaged or lost.
In addition to grasping objects, we also grasp feelings (i.e. happiness), situations (i.e. the light of summer), people (i.e., our loved ones), phases of life (i.e., college days)…the list of things to which we cling could go on and on. The point of aparigraha, at least in my mind, is focusing more of our energy and life on the things that cannot be lost. What are these things? Loving actions toward self and others, honest words, inner work, quieting the mind, learning to act from your highest self, listening to your inner voice, following your intuition…these are things that cannot be lost. In essence, these are the steps of the spiritual journey, and as the Bhagavad Gita reminds us, no step on this path is lost and even a little progress is freedom from fear.
“By letting it go, it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is then beyond the winning”. –Book of Tao