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Less is more

When the shiny things in the shops don’t seem so shiny anymore, it’s time to slow down and just enjoy the journey, not chase that never-ending goal. By Victoria Jackson

I’m an unhappy shopper these days; it just doesn’t interest me anymore. Instead of the thrill of the chase for that must-have fashion item or gadget upgrade, I’m reluctant to acquire too many new things. While I don’t think I’m single-handedly responsible for any recent economic downturn, I know it made my birthday difficult for my family this year — what to buy the girl who claims not to want anything? Do I blame Marie Kondo who’s turned decluttering into a lifestyle choice rather than a domestic chore? Or do I point the finger further back in time to Patanjali who also knew a thing or too about living more simply? His word for it was Aparigraha (‘non-hoarding’ or ‘non-grasping’), listed in the Yoga Sutras alongside the more famous ‘restraint’ of Ahimsa (non-violence).
But of course Aparigraha is more than just resisting the temptation to buy more yoga leggings or another set of pretty espresso cups or whatever your own consumerism weak spot is. It goes beyond material things to become a mental discipline, a practice of learning to be in the world with less baggage, literally and metaphorically. For me it’s about behaving with grace and restraint, trusting that what I have already is enough, rather than always striving for more. This is easier said than done! Paying attention to the Yamas takes some serious effort.
On the mat I’m trying not to chase the next advanced asana but to be grateful for where I am, simply ‘inviting the pose’ as one of my teachers delicately puts it. We all know yoga is about the journey not the destination, right? I remind myself of this and somehow my practice flows a little more lightly, I breathe a little more easily. Phew!
Off the mat it’s even harder. Life seems all about completing projects and achieving some goal or other. At home the shopping needs doing, there are the household accounts to review, and the bathroom won’t paint itself. In the office it’s hard to tell my boss I didn’t complete that report on time because I was enjoying the journey rather than pursuing the end goal. There’s always something that needs doing, and I easily find myself on a fast-running treadmill through my to do list. But in grasping always towards achievement I realise I miss out on the joy of a work in progress, of picking my way through a problem, of having to get comfortable with the uncertainty of the outcome. There’s something to be said for Krishna’s advice in the Bhagavad Gita about simply committing yourself wholly to the action rather than the outcome: “Let your concern be with the action alone, and never with the results of action”.
So somewhere between Marie Kondo’s brisk decluttering and Shri Krishna’s antipathy to goals, there’s a sweet balance. By contemplating Aparigraha I’m learning to slow down and enjoy the journey — taking care not to grasp too much after that sense of enjoyment, obviously! !

Victoria Jackson lives and practices in Oxford. She is registered with Yoga Alliance as a vinyasa yoga teacher

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