Freedom and Aparigraha

Prisoners of our stuff

A favorite teaching story is monkey-catching in SE Asia.  The hunter puts a small cage in a banana or mango grove frequented by monkeys.  He places a banana inside the cage, then leaves.  A monkey comes along and happily slides his hand into one of the small square openings in the cage, and grabs the banana.  But with his hand fisted around the banana, he can’t pull it back out of the cage.  Even as he hears the hunter returning he struggles to get his hand AND the banana out to run away.  The hunter walks up and easily scoops up the monkey into a bag.  Where before only in his mind is the monkey a prisoner, now he is truly captured.  Even with all the free fruit hanging in abundance all around, the monkey had become a prisoner of his attachment to a single silly banana.We can laugh all we want, yet we too create our own prison with “stuff” we hang onto: stuff including tangible items, as well as ideas, grudges, old stories, etc.  Deb Adele tells us “Anything we cling to creates a maintenance problem for us.”  And what we hold on to begins to hold on to us.  (Deb Adele The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice, p. 95)  This wisdom is a central point of the practice of Aparigraha – non-attachment.

My personal Aparigraha story

Over the last several of years, I let my office get so cluttered, that I bought a second desk to put into my upstairs guest bedroom so I could write my book in peace.  Book done, my kitchen table has been my office for the last year or so.  I hate it.  Yet my office is inhabitable.  I had a long line of excuses, yet truly, the clutter now has me a prisoner.  So I have committed to reclaiming my office (and my kitchen table) and doing it in a way that does not transfer the clutter elsewhere (no bins to the basement) and also includes new systems for me to maintain my work with more ease.  A lot must go to goodwill, eBay sales, perhaps a yard sale, and, unfortunately, the dump too.  In fact I have committed to de-clutter my house!

A double opportunity:help yourself, help others

Sister Lucy, founder of beloved Maher in India, is coming for a brief visit September 7.  (Maher is a remarkable refuge for battered and at-risk women and children in India where I have volunteered these last 5 years, and is the subject of my book.  See my website for more information.)  I have been thinking about fundraising to send her home with much needed funds to continue Maher’s work.  Because living in India helped me really SEE how I have become a “prisoner of my own abundance,” it seems especially poetic to celebrate my freedom by giving the proceeds to Maher.

My personal commitment

I will sell as much as I can and donate 100% Maher.


Look around your home and workspaces.  Let the feeling of clutter, of acquisitiveness, of mass advertising to consume and own more, let the true weight of this “stuff” register in your body, your heart, your mind….  Begin to free yourself – start with one room – feel the difference!!  If you would like to share with Maher all or some of the funds you earn (and even get a tax deduction!) let me know!!Let’s see how free we can become, and how much we can offer as a “seva group” to Maher. (seva means service in Sanskrit)