One who perseveres on the path of noncovetousness gains deep understanding of the meaning of life. (Patanjali Sutra, 2:39, trans. B. Bouanchaud)
Aparigraha, one of the yamas of the eight-fold yogi path is frequently defined as the path of non-covetousness, or a letting go of the desire for possessions. The yamas are the personal restraints, and in this abundant consumer-driven society, aparigraha may be one of the hardest yamas to practice. I mean it is easier to practice saucha (cleanliness) by taking a shower everyday than to practice aparigraha when it comes to wishing for nice soap and fluffy white towels to go with that shower.
Anyway, the things is, my computer is causing me so much frustration, that I am experiencing just the opposite of aparigraha. I WANT a new computer. I NEED a new computer.
I am so used to being able to sit down at my computer and write whenever I want, and then be able to upload it whenever I want. I like being able to check my email several times a day, and to read the news online. I have gotten so used to having my computer as a regular part of my leisure and work day, that as it fails, I am driven to a state of frustration and distraction that is unnerving.
I am even I am having difficulties feeling compassion for my computer. At first I would quietly do a restore when I saw a blue screen. Then I would do a defrag. Then I would do a virus fix, and then all would be well for a while. Good computer, thank you computer. But now after several months of this and a recent check to the computer geek squad, the dang thing is still failing and running hot.
So, the question is, how do we find balance between our wants and our needs. Clearly I need a functional computer. And, I am lucky to have this computer. But…it could be better, faster, more reliable… And this is when we (or least I am) forced to re-evaluate the equation of time, money and peace of mind, and the practice of aparigraha. I don’t want to be driven by my desire for a cool new computer. But at the same time I don’t want to waste time and money and personal energy on technology which causes hours of frustration and loss of money, not to mention a lack of personal clarity.
Aparigraha is about learning to let go of our need for possessions. And in my mind it is about bringing a personal awareness to our sense of entitlement and neediness. Maybe I will go out and get a new computer. Maybe I won’t, but the very fact that I have spent time and energy considering the question of need vs. want brings me, I hope, one step closer to practicing aparigraha.
Perhaps, if we all stopped to pause before engaging in that next purchase decision, we would all be further along the road to living our yoga beyond the mat.
Shalom & Namaste