Last week I discussed aparigraha (the 5th part of Yama, in the 8 Limbs of Yoga) as letting go, non-attachment and non-possessiveness in relationships, but there's more to it.
Aparigraha advises us to travel light while on the spiritual path.
In the summer of 2014, I set off to hike 200 miles of the Camino de Santiago, specifically on The Way of Saint James from Leon to Santiago de Compostella in Spain. I decided that I wanted to make this trek after watching the film, The Way. I accompanied my dear friend, JoAnna as she had made a pact with God to make this journey.
They called us pilgrims, people who travel on long journeys. as we made this pilgrimage, "a journey to a place associated with someone or something well known or respected."
Legend holds that St. James's remains were carried by boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain, where he was buried on what is now the city of Santiago de Compostela. People have been making this trek for the past one thousand years. However, the road has been in place since ancient Roman times. This journey is intended to have a spiritual healing affect.
My intention was for adventure, culture, nature, and possibly some self-discovery.
JoAnna insisted that we take a stone from our homeland. So that when we arrived at El Crucero, the cross, we symbolically let go of this burden or attachment. People hike the Camino to free themselves from resentment, addiction, bad habits, negative thinking patterns, pain through loss, and much more.
When I started planning the trip, I wasn’t even sure what it was that I was trying to find or let go of.
However, before I left, I was about to get new windows in my apartment. I was ordered to move all of my stuff off of the walls and into the center of the room. My apartment was an island of stuff for several weeks leading up to this trip. I felt overwhelmed by the sight of it all and I couldn’t wait to escape it.
At that moment, I began to see that one of my lessons for this trip was a practice of minimalism and letting go of the attachment to material things.
Further, I always want to be prepared for a journey, so I like to pack a lot. I spent months trying maximize my pack list for this trip. I have one backpack that fits 30 lbs worth of stuff. Through a process of elimination, I was able to fit only the necessities.
I’ve been known as the type of person that always dresses for the occasion; therefore, I have a lot of dresses, outfits, makeup and costumes. Who am I underneath it all?
For much of my adult life, I've worn makeup every day. On days when I didn't feel like putting it on, people asked me if I was sick, tired, or sad. One time, someone even told me that I looked like a cancer patient. I let those comments stay with me for years and I held onto them and I continued to wear makeup each day, ashamed of my natural look. However, as I considered the weight, space, and time that it would consume to put on and take off makeup, I left it behind along with beauty products, hairstyles, and fancy clothes.
For the first time, I felt beautiful in my natural state.
Throughout the journey, I observed storks who lived on the tops of bell towers and abandoned buildings. They set up their minimal nests and were fry to fly all around the city. This reminded me again of living lightly and how free I felt on The Way.
When you place the larger part of your life energy on the material world, you are generally in a continual state of worry about your “stuff” and you feel like you never get ahead in the game of life. Virtually all of your mental energy is focused on what you have or don’t have. You may even feel inferior because other people have more stuff!
This imbalance between the spiritual and material world usually means that indebtedness is a way of life.
“A devastating aspect of spiritual/material imbalance is the amount of time and mental energy spent on monetary considerations. Money becomes the single most important standard for evaluating everything, including your happiness, inner peace, and feelings about your value as a human being.
Our desire is for bliss, peace, love, health, freedom, but the addictive behavior gives us precisely the opposite.
The pattern goes something like this: We must have more and more of what we desire. The more of it we take or imbibe, the more we need. The less effective it is as we consume more. Further, what we’re using to get to this place of bliss is toxic to our well-being (Being in Balance).”
Even though I love to plan ahead, JoAnna insisted that we go with the flow. We didn’t make any plans for accommodations. Instead, we just showed up to Albergues, hostels for Pilgrims, when we are tired and ready to rest each day. When we arrived in Leon to begin the adventure, we were greeted by lion statues all over the city. This reminded us to have the courage of a lion to face the unknown.
We heard a popular phrase throughout the journey, “The Camino Provides.” It felt magical at how true this concept played out for us when we decided to take the steps into the path of minimalism. On the first day, we hiked hours through a long stretch of dirt and empty fields, in the heat. I said aloud, “Right now, I could really use a bench in the shade to rest for few minutes.” Over the next horizon, 30-60 minutes later, in the middle of nowhere, we came upon a bench in the shade!!!
Further, I reminisced on some childhood adventure fantasies of playing in fields of tall yellow grass. Again, I expressed aloud that I would love to see some fields of tall yellow grass, and again, over the next horizon, we were greeted with yellow grass that was taller that my adult height, 5’5”.
My favorite day was when I was missing my cat, Kiki. We came across 5 kittens on the trail. It helped that I was wearing my cat pants! We stopped and played with them for about 30 minutes. I felt filled with love and warmth after getting to hold and pet them. Further, that same evening, we arrived at an Albergue on the edge of town and while we were hand-washing our clothes in the back yard, we discovered another set of 5 young, adorable playful kittens. I got my fill as I had the privilege and opportunity to share love with them all evening!
This week, I was reflecting on this concept of aparigraha and my material possessions. For as long as I’ve been painting and making art, I’ve had a hard time parting with my favorites. They’ve been hanging on my walls for years. I’ve been inspired to make some new paintings, but I’ve been held back by lack of space for the new. Ironically, I had some family visiting this week and they asked if they can buy one of my favorite paintings right off of my wall. In the past, I inflated the prices to a point that I knew it would be hard to sell, but this time, they made an offer and I accepted it as an opportunity to make space for new paintings. Now, I’m inspired to sell all of my favorite paintings rights off of my walls. Send me an email if you’d like to make an offer (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit my online store.
Once we realize that we can actually part with whatever it is we have been holding on to – old clothes, artworks, books, chipped dishes, old receipts, debts, we are clearing space for something better.
What do you need to let go of?
Hannah seeks to find relationships between nature, cultures, yoga, and art through her writing.
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Fun Yoga in the Park
Travel the world with me through yoga!
These themed lessons are fun for all ages and levels at Mission Bay Park.
See the page, Park Yoga, for more information!
Lessons from Abroad