The concept of Aparigraha is a difficult one for me—and one lesson that the Universe has repeatedly tried to teach me in this life. My struggle is not with attachment to material possessions. Though I was raised in affluence, my mother’s puritan New England values taught us to value people above things and to recognize the simplest riches in life- love, nature, curiosity, imagination…
It is in my relationship to others and my struggle to control that which is out of my hands that I find Aparigraha particularly hard to grasp (pun intended). Indeed, it may be one of the root causes of my anxiety. I have learned in the last few years (basically because the Universe had to bluntly show me!) how to greater appreciate Aparigraha in regards to letting go of my attempts to control my life. Two great lessons stand out to me.
The first lesson came with the birth of my two children. With my son, I was so focused on having the ‘ideal’ birth. This meant drug free and as close to a home birth as I could get in a hospital (I had to be there because of my heart condition). I also tried to control when he would arrive. By 38 weeks, I was trying everything to encourage him to come out- hikes, caster oil, evening primrose oil…you name the old wives’ tale and I had tried it. Finally, I had done enough and had my dilation checked enough that I basically induced my own labor before he was ready. My water broke and I was not in labor. The doctors induced me and I labored for 12 hours on Pitocin before finally giving in to a light epidural. Seamus was born 45 minutes later. As I cradled my perfect little boy, I could not help but feel a twinge of disappointment that I had forced things to the point of having a managed birth.
With Emelie, I was determined to allow her to come in her own time. She was due on the 8th of January (1-08!). The day came and went. My mother and sister flew in to town and walked and massaged me. They left days later with no new baby. My doula came over and did a fear release- still no baby. I finally realized I had not let go of her ‘due date’- this arbitrary date that the baby could arrive two weeks before or two weeks after. She was her own soul who would do things on her own time (a lesson my son’s growth and development had taught me). When we went to bed the night of the 17th, I looked at my husband and actually told him I was fine if I didn’t go in to labor that night because it would just be a lot of stress with Seamus. The next morning I woke with contractions. I checked email, took a nice bath (shaved my legs!), and played with Seamus. When I finally couldn’t walk or talk through a contraction we went to the hospital. We met my doula there and found I was 7 cm. I caught Emelie Anne as she left my body two hours later after a drug free birth (1/18/08). When I let go and let her come when she was meant to I was able to relax and enjoy what was meant to be.
Yet even with the lessons taught to me through the births of my children, when it comes to my loved ones I struggle with Aparigraha. Clearly, I am highly bonded to the people in my life. I even practice a model of parenting called “attachment parenting.” I have great fears about dreadful things happening to them. Working towards letting go of those fears and having faith in the Universe has helped me reduce anxiety. Yet, the concept of Aparigraha still alludes and confuses me—I am an attached person.
The second lesson took a bit longer for me to learn. When I had to stop dancing, I was lost for a very long time. I searched and yearned to fill the void with every little idea that came along. I resisted the change out of fear. If I didn’t dance, who was I? I had to let go of identifying who I was with what I did and discover that Kristie is not just someone who dances.
My road became varied and bumpy. Of course, those 8 years of wandering along my path were not for nothing. I was forced to fill the void by trying all sorts of lovely things. In this way, I discovered I had so much more to offer-- so much more to be than ‘just’ dancer. I discovered qualities about myself I never knew existed because I was so myopic about dance.
It was not until my therapist suggested that I not try to hold on to the dancer identity and just be open to what comes my way that I felt the call to teach Yoga. Once I listened to that call, I found peace. The bitterness that I felt towards my body, my career, my life…it all dissipated. The space that was left was then able to be filled with understanding, perspective, and appreciation for the time I did have and the level of professionalism I was able to experience. I realized that what was fulfilling for me in dance could all be developed in Yoga. I don’t need to dance to find playfulness in moving my body or joy in cooperating with others to understand movement. The anger and disappointment I had always felt towards my physical being was gone because in Yoga, it is still strong and able. Additionally, I found benefits that were not present in dance: instead of working in a world that is highly competitive and superficial, I can foster a career based on collaboration, depth, and respect for those in my field. All these gifts came only when I let go of Kristie the Dancer.
Working towards Aparigraha appears to be one of the great lessons of this lifetime for me. Each time I practice, I learn to let go of trying to grasp what the practice should be and simply let it be. As time goes by this becomes easier in practice and that ease seems to bleed in to my daily life. I may never fully understand this Yama in this life. For now, though, I’ll just keep on practicing.