Posted by: patti | October 18, 2008

Guided Meditation: Aparigraha

When we hold our breath, we actively prevent a new breath from nourishing us. When we hold so much that our hands and arms are full, we cannot take hold of one more item without dropping everything to the floor.  When we hold stubbornly to ideas or beliefs, we have no room in our heart or mind to experience new ideas and beliefs.

In the practical science and philosophy of Yoga, we have the idea of “aparigraha,” which encourages us to consider our possessions with attention and awareness.  We let things go so that we can let something better in.

The practice of aparigraha, which is often translated as “non-coveting” or “non-greed,” does not have to be about giving up all our possessions.  It is also about giving up the belief that happiness depends on our ability to hold on to what we think we “own.”  We also hold on to time, relationships, memories, and beliefs.  When we have freedom from the belief of ownership, it is irrelevant what we actually own or possess.  Aparigraha can also be translated as “non-attachment,” which more accurately captures the intention to let go of the fear associated with trying to protect what we own, or protect ourselves against loss of any kind.

When we stop being greedy, we start being generous.  Our focus becomes less narrow, and we begin to see what others need instead of what we need.  We also stop defining the world in terms of what we want and what we don’t want.  We change our pronouns as well as our attention: we let go of “I,” “me,” “mine.”

When we let go of these pronouns, we have no attachments.

We cling to who we think we are.  We think we are our bodies, our thoughts, our feelings, our relationships, our values, our work.  We cling to our expectations of what is “supposed” to happen and how things are “supposed” to work.  We tell ourselves stories of where we came from and where we are going and of who we are, and we do not like it when those narratives are challenged.

We avoid the things that appear to be the opposite of what we cling to, but aversion and clinging are the same thing, ultimately.  We stay away from the things or the people who challenge the stories we tell about ourselves—the narrative we cling to.  If we refuse to let something in, it is exactly the same thing as not being able to let something in.  We need to allow it in, no matter what it is—good, bad, pleasant, uncomfortable, quiet, loud, delicious, disgusting.  And then we need to take the next step, of embracing it, fully experiencing it, so that we can honor it exactly as it is.  Then, no matter how wonderful it is, we must release it.

Aparigraha does not mean never embracing.  It cannot: How could we let go of something we never held?  Rather, it reminds us that we need to treat major loss and strong attachment exactly the same:  we need to let it go.  Non-attachment does not mean detachment.

Yoga challenges us to live with our eyes and our arms open.  But even in our yoga practice, we assign labels to asanas: there are good poses, poses we love, poses that are too hard for us, poses we don’t like, poses we fear.  If we don’t let go of these labels, we cannot experience any of the poses, even the ones we think we like, with freshness and or presence.  We must recognize that none of these qualities are inherently present in the postures themselves.  If we want new experiences, we must release our past experiences.

Our own breath is our guide.  Every released breath makes room for a new breath.  At some point, we simply must let go of the old to make room for the new.  Each time we exhale consciously, each time we intentionally release into savasana, each time we bring our awareness back to the breath—we are learning to be comfortable with letting go.  Ideally then, we are also learning to let go of what we no longer need, in order to make space for the growth that matters the most to each of us.


Find a quiet, comfortable spot, where you can sit undisturbed for at least 18 minutes.  Close your eyes.

Bring your awareness to your breath.  Do not judge your breath, just notice its length and depth without trying to change it.

On your next comfortable inhale, hold your breath.  Hold it as long as you can possibly hold it.  And when you think you can’t possibly hold it any longer, hold it a little longer.

Before the panic sets in, exhale.  As your breathing comes back to its natural rhythm, notice what is different.  Keep your focus on your exhale.

Gently, but mindfully, try to make each exhale a little longer than each inhale.  Notice how a complete exhale makes room for a natural inhale.  Notice how letting go makes room for exactly what you need in the moment.

Call to mind a label you use to identify yourself.  Just one label: it might be the first one you think of, it might be the best way to describe you, it might be the only way to describe you, it might be the easiest way.  It might even be your name.

Consider this label.  Does this label mean different things to you when you are with different people?  Or does that label change altogether depending on who you are with?

Attach this label to your breath.  On your inhale, say to yourself, “I am (fill in the blank).”  On your exhale, say to yourself, “Let her go.”

Breathe for three to five minutes, repeating this mantra.

Bring your awareness back to your breath.  If your exhale is still longer than your inhale, even them out.  With each inhale, say to yourself, “I am.”  With each exhale, say, “I am.”

Breathe naturally for a minute or two.

Gradually, gently, bring your awareness back to the room.  Identify each sound, each smell, and if the light has changed, consider why.  When you are ready, open your eyes.



  1. […] inspiration for this post comes from here Share this:ShareFacebookPrintEmail This entry was posted in Class extras, Yama Niyama – The Moral […]

  2. Love this –thank you

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