Updated: Apr 19, 2021
The essence of road-tripping, moving from place to place with only what you have packed in the car, means the small selection of personal items that have been chosen for the journey are packed into limited space that hinders the ability to acquire more.
Experiencing tight quarters on the road for the past few months has got me thinking about why we feel the need to acquire so much stuff. We fill large houses with furniture and appliances, clothes and trinkets, but how much of it do we really need?
It is our basic human nature to seek comfort and security, as described in Maslow's Hierarchy of needs. A place to live and clothes on our back is vital to our sense of safety and survival. However, I feel that when society deemed the accumulation of more material objects equal to more security and success, the message has been confused.
As a serial late-night online shopper myself, who's habits have been thrown under the microscope when living in a 2-door travelling circus for 3 months, I am by no means pointing the finger, but rather interested in my own habits and needs to fill up with things that have zero emotional capacity. Are these just habits that need to be broken, or are there deeper underlying spaces to be filled here?
In relation to yoga, there are several texts and principles that provide moral guidance in the way of this shared obsession we have with surrounding ourselves with material items. Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, specifically, the Yamas and Niyamas serve as a moral code of compass that are very fitting to the matter.
Aparigraha, is the third Yama, and translates to "non-greed" or "non-attachment." It is described similarly as "non-hoarding" by B.K.S. Iyengar in his book Light on Yoga in saying, "One should not hoard or collect things one does not require immediately.... The yogi feels that the collection or hoarding of things implies a lack of faith in himself to provide for his future." This concept seems unrealistic in a world of what seems to be limitless (could the world ever actually run out of airfryers?), but there is truth in that we are seeing the decline of many resources causing challenges for people's living situations all over the world.
This leads to another of Patanjali's Yamas, Asteya, or "non-stealing," which Iyengar succinctly defines as "The yogi reduces his physical needs to the minimum, believing that if he gathers things he does not really need, he is a thief." We can appreciate this idea in terms of physical things but also energy and time of others and ourselves. It is a simple awareness of what we really NEED versus what we might crave or desire.
There is a continual theme of minimalism throughout yogic texts that asks us to consume consciously of others and our planet. It is unrealistic for all of us to sell our stuff and move off the grid, but we can all make choices to be more mindful of our habits.
Taking a moment to pause before pressing the purchase button can be a powerful act. I like to picture myself once I own an item and ask, am I truly any happier now that I have this possession? Usually I am already pining after something else and the cycle goes on.
If we can re-learn to fill these desires with constructive pleasures such as a creative outlet, reading or meditation, we will start to unpin the false message that we are only as valuable as what we have. In turn we begin to recognise our own true and innate wholeness.
Wants to learn more? Here are links to the mentioned texts, so that you can continue your own investigation:
Patanjali's Yoga Sutras:
Light on Yoga - B.K.S. Iyengar: