Non-Grasping in 2020

I’ll start this with complete transparency and a shameless admission that a couple days ago I could be seen in the aisles of several grocery stores loading my cart with essentials. I was too late for the toilet paper. But I did manage to snag the last of the elbow noodles and spaghetti sauce.

When things started shutting down, I was in the middle of my week teaching yoga classes, and about to facilitate a philosophy discussion on Aparigraha: Non-Grasping. HA! I think I even spent my would-be class time at the store!

I feel tentative and a little nervous about engaging this topic in any sort of preachy fashion. And I admit that there’s part of me that’s feeling a little like a phony. Really? You think you can talk to people about non-grasping when you JUST hoarded the peanut butter at Aldi?

But here’s what I know. This path I’m on is one I can trust. I’ve called it Yoga. I’ve called it God. Truth. Love. Christ. Union. The words always come up too small when I’m attempting to capture what exactly the path that I’m on is named.

The names fall short. But the path is real, and the more I practice the more convinced I am that each offering from this path is an opportunity for less suffering and more joy.

But even non-grasping in the time of a pandemic?

What if we all run out of toilet paper? Or staple food items?

What if the economy crumbles?

What if our mental health suffers?

What if someone we love dies?

Should we not grasp for security? For health? For the company of our loved ones? For safety and basic needs?

I don’t have satisfying answers to these questions. But I can share my experience, and that is that any time I practice restraint, there’s a space created by that which is restrained. When I notice myself grasping and begin to withhold that grasping, there’s a space that opens up for something more fruitful to move in.

When I stop grasping, I am able to behold.

I do not intend to minimize the devastating effects of this pandemic.

But I will say that in these past few days, I’ve been awake and aware enough to stop thinking about where our next roll of toilet paper is going to come from and instead behold the berry stains on my toddler’s lips. I’ve beheld the challenges of learning my husband more deeply as we navigate this together with our children. I’ve beheld the faces of neighbors I say hello to from across the street, the acts of compassion taking place in my community and around the world, and the chance to in many ways slow down.

I’ve beheld an interconnectedness I feel with humanity, a dissolving of my sense of individual self coalescing with a growing, visceral sense of the whole.

While grasping arises from feelings of need, competition, and scarcity, beholding comes from presence, awe, and wonder. We wake up to the abundance around us by holding what we already have with care.

And as with everything else on this path, Aparigraha presents itself humbly, as an opportunity if we choose to take it, but only if and when we choose.

I’m going to try to keep up this practice of non-grasping as things continue to unfold around us. We have enough toilet paper for now. And when we run out I’m sure there will be someone to toss us a roll from their car window.

Or listen on the phone.

Or walk with me in grief, if it comes to that.

I just have to trust it.

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