Gratitude’s the best attitude. (Thinking about Aparigraha and Santosha)

 Yoga  Comments Off on Gratitude’s the best attitude. (Thinking about Aparigraha and Santosha)
Jul 102016

IMG_2743I’ve been decluttering lately. Something I sometimes find challenging. It goes in waves. I cling to a lot of things “Just in case,” and then all of a sudden I’m filling up garbage bags en route to the nearest friend or charity shop.

One of the most cluttered places chez nous is the kid’s room. My kids simply have too much stuff. Lots of things they don’t play with–they just sit there and take up space. The way I frame it to them is,

Let’s get rid of the toys and books you no longer use so that other children can enjoy them… Or if I’m feeling particularly proactive, If we don’t get rid of some old toys, there will be no room for new toys. Kind of the same but not really.

Most of us have too much stuff we don’t need and not enough space for what we do need. (And I don’t mean we all need a bigger house!) The less junk we have, the more we’re grateful for what we do have. My kids aren’t deprived– far from it. They do not, however, get everything they ask for. (Hells no Shopkins.)

some-people-are-so-poor-all-they-have-is-moneyThey have everything they need, and then some. They aren’t “spoiled,” but know they are abundant. They know we’re rich, because I tell them. We are RICH! With love and happiness! (Read: How we do so well with so Little) Although they also do know that money is important. We need it, and we don’t waste it. We also don’t waste food, electricity etc.

An interesting example of decluttering adults can relate to, is something my friend Dave reminded us of in his yoga class the other day. If you’re doing work you don’t really love, and you’re just waiting for that new thing to come along, it will probably be hard to get that gig, because there simply is no space in your life. I’ve seen it happen in my own life again and again. One door closes and another opens. We need to make space on the shelves, closets, calendars and wallet…

We need to make space.

To appreciate what we do have, and to make room for more of it. The sky is the limit. You are abundant. Yes, you.

This all ties in with Aparigraha and Santosha, two of the Yama and Niyamas (part of Yoga’s 8 Limbs). And of course, gratitude.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras have been interpreted many times, but the authors who I best relate to these days are Nischala Joy Devi and Donna Farhi. Farhi Translates Aparigraha as Not Grasping (other translations include: ‘non-greed’, ‘non-possessiveness’, and ‘non-attachment’.) and Santosha as Contentment.

What do you grasp or cling to? It can be material possessions, a job, or a relationship, and the reason so many of us think will be happy “If I could just…” Acknowledging abundance allows us to realize we don’t need anything more. You don’t need to be anything more. You are enough. Nothing is permanent. Things are constantly shifting.

Which brings my thoughts to Santosha (and really, all the Yamas and Niyamas are totally intertwined, it’s just these that are on the forefront of my mind this week). It is possible to be content, even if things aren’t actually “perfect” or ideal. It’s possible to be content if we’re not necessarily happy. And, as Donna Farhi writes, “Contentment also should not be confused with complacency, in which we allow ourselves to stagnate in out growth. Rather, it is a sign that we are at peace with whatever stage of growth that we are in and the circumstances we find ourselves in.” (P.13 Yoga Mind, Body and Spirit.) For example, I’d like more kids. I’d really, really like more kids. But I have two beautiful, amazing, hilarious, smart and healthy kids. I am content (I do happen to be happy) and I am so incredibly grateful.

And gratitude? It’s the best attitude.

My good friend Matt Stern says something really beautiful in the introduction to his song here. Watch and love, I promise.

There is something to be grateful for every single moment of our days. When a friend of a friend is diagnosed with cancer, we have a momentary kick in the butt to be grateful for our health, don’t we. But then it’s very, very easy to fall into complaining again. I had a seriously real moment in the shower the other day when I was overcome with emotion that my water was hot. Granted, I was PMSing, but when you really take a moment to think of all you have…

A pic I snapped of Babe being deeply grateful

A pic I snapped of Babe being deeply grateful

An exercise I wholeheartedly recommend: (Hey, if Oprah does it…) Perhaps you’ve heard of gratitude journals? Some people write five things they’re grateful for first thing in the morning, others do it at night. It changes your entire perception of the world and of yourself. Chez nous, we do it every night as a family, outloud. It is the most precious and amazing moment of my day. In bed, we take turns saying what we’re grateful for. Last night we were brushing our teeth and 3 year old Bug said, “Our gratefuls! We can’t forget our gratefuls!” And we didn’t. His is usually something like, “I’m grateful that I love my mom.” He, especially, insists we have our hands in namaste at the heart. It’s a pretty mushy moment. Some days Babe feels grumpy, stuck, and ungrateful and I remind her how cozy she is in her bed. The kids also get to see the simple, and not so simple things their parents are also grateful for. A cozy house with warm water, a car, being able to work jobs that fill us up, a well-stocked fridge, friends who love us and that we love, the woman who held the door open at the grocery store, our health, a day spent with the kids…

If you’d like to know more about how the Yamas and the rest of the 8 Limbs of Yoga can be applied to your child’s life, I’ll be presenting on the topic at the Montreal Expo Yoga in February 2017.