Aparigraha and attachments to outcomes
One of the yamas is Aparigraha, which means non-hoarding, non-collecting, and letting go. This yama teaches us to take only what we need, keep only what serves us in the moment, and let go when the time is right.
This yama makes me think of Marie Kondo, of “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” You could say that she is teaching us how to practice Aparigraha in our homes, by getting rid of anything that doesn’t “spark joy.”
But Aparigraha is more than just concrete objects. Sometimes we get attached to people, and we cling to them when we should let go. We can also get stuck in thought patterns, such as negative thinking, replaying situations in our minds, or refusing to acknowledge an opinion that is different from our own.
Another thing we get attached to are results. The Bhagavad Gita teaches us that we should always act for the sake of the action, and not for the results of that action. For example, if you donate money to a charity, you should do so because it makes you happy, not because you expect to be thanked or to get recognition.
Acting without attachments to the results — that’s something I’ve been struggling to get my mind around. When I apply it to teaching yoga, I am surprised (and a little sheepish) about how attached I am to results, such as making my students happy. Having students tell me how much they enjoyed the class. Getting more people to come to my class. The ego boost of hearing that I’m a great teacher.
Yeah, I’m attached to all those things!
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna counsels Arjuna that his judgement will be good and his vision clear if he is not emotionally invested in the outcome. He describes the people who act out of selfish desire:
“There are ignorant people who speak flowery words and take delight in the letter of the law, saying that there is nothing else. Their hearts are full of selfish desires, Arjuna. Their idea of heaven is their own enjoyment, and the aim of all their activities is pleasure and power.”(2:42-43)
This is heady spiritual stuff. It is easy for me to point at other people and say, yep, that guy is definitely acting out of selfishness. But what about me?
What would it be like to teach yoga without any attachment to the results? I would need to let go of all of this, and be okay with teaching for the sake of teaching. It sounds easy, because I love teaching yoga.
But I have discovered it is harder than it sounds.
I am trying, though. I have discovered that it requires me to make some changes in my thinking. For example, I need to let go of numbers. It doesn’t (or shouldn’t) matter how many students show up in my class, because I’m not attached to that number (i.e. results). I also need to be okay with whatever happens: twenty people, only one person, or no one.
I also need to let go of judgement. My classes are just classes—not good or bad. And if no one tells me how much they liked the class, that is okay. It doesn’t mean it was a “bad” class.
This isn’t easy, but I’m trying.
In what ways are you attached to outcomes?
How could you approach a task differently, if you were not attached to the outcome?