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  • Writer's pictureKyla Winlow, LCSW

Aparigraha: Letting Go

I recently found myself thinking about a close friend from years ago. Our paths just grew in separate directions but I found myself grasping onto what that relationship had been. I found a physical sense of relief when I transitioned my thinking from, “Why aren’t we still close? I wish we were close again,” to, “I am so grateful that I had him in my life when I did. What if everything happened just how it was supposed to?”

I first heard the term aparigraha, which translates to “non-grasping” or “non-greed,” in a yoga class and I later learned more about it while I was a student in a yoga teacher training. It is a Sanskrit word authored by Patanjali who was from India and is the creator of the Yoga Sutras. Aparigraha is often talked about in terms of material items, meaning possess what you truly need but not more than that. I have also heard aparigraha described as “loving with an open palm,” meaning we appreciate what is here without clutching onto it.

I find myself thinking about this concept often as the pandemic has been a continuous invitation to practice non-grasping. We have had to adapt to so much change and let go of so much. I try to sit compassionately with both the changes and the emotions that accompany them. It is important to process what is happening along with the emotions that arise but then what do we do? We remind ourselves of aparigraha and practice letting go.

We can wake up missing the things that we don’t have anymore and we can go through our whole day clawing to have them back even when we know it’s not possible (for now). Or we can wake up missing the things we don’t have anymore and then we can honor those feelings, offer gratitude for the time we did have them, and practice letting them go. In doing this, we are freeing up our mental energy to be present with whatever our day holds.

We have choices.

What happens when instead of clenching our fists tightly around what we have had to give up, we choose to open our palms and let it go?

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