Aparigraha is the fifth of the yamas in the Yoga Sutras. Here is a silly lesson Facebook taught me on being a hoarder.
Aparigraha Sthairye Janmakathamta Sambodhah
“When non-greed is confirmed, a thorough illumination of the how and why or one’s birth comes.”
Greed reaches into our lives in the most inane ways, especially in this age of over-sharing through media and social networks. Lately, I’ve been learning my lesson through the often anxiety producing Facebook like button. I often find myself sitting at the computer completely confused as to why no one has given their thumbs up to my awesome picture of a tree in the snow yet. It has gotten a whole lot easier with the iPhone upgrade. (Admit it, you also have checked your phone incessantly after a new status to find out how many people think you are awesome.)
So all this anxiety caused me to become a “like hoarder” at times. I was convinced if I saved my likes for those things I really found special that it would matter. I knew that the person I had decided to not like would know and somehow realize that they had to step up their game. I am not pretending that this is rational. It is ridiculous. However, it is a symptom of a greater problem.
After noticing this pattern, I sat down and liked anything on Facebook that remotely tickled my fancy. I liked all the happy announcement statuses, I liked photos of babies laughing, I liked the kittens and puppies and rainbows and frogs. I became a “like whore”. I began to see this trickle into the rest of my life. The more I shared in other peoples little joys on the internet, the more I could share in joys all around me, big and small. I realize that the internet has caused a lot of disconnectedness, but I also think that it has the potential to spur us forward if we are able to use it to notice the manifestations of bad habits.
I was being greedy and possessive over my joy. I thought my appreciation of something was important and that if I just went around appreciating everything it wouldn’t mean anything anymore. This is more than a bit self-aggrandizing. Hoarding your appreciation and love has to be one of the worst sins out there. Though, there is a point when the appreciation is no longer genuine and you are just “hitting the like button” without truly feeling anything, if you are conscious of what you are doing, if you do it with feeling, it is never too much.
This behaviour is in direct conflict with aparigraha, non-possessiveness. I didn’t realize that the more joy that I put out there, the more I would get back. The small gesture of liking something did not mean that anyone owed me their like back, it did not mean I owed them anything either. Swami Satchidananda says in his commentary on the sutra:
“Many times we get gifts that are merely an advance for a futur obligation…They are only given to get something in return…If we are strong enough to remain free of obligation, we can accept gifts…When the mind becomes this calm and clear by being free of desires and obligations, we gain the capacity to see how our desires caused our present birth.”
It may be a silly little social network, but it can be a great reflection of how we are living our lives out loud in the real world. Look at your Facebook behaviour (if you use the site) and notice what patterns emerge. Are you hoarding your likes? Or whoring them out?** Is there something else that your internet behaviour is trying to tell you?
**Funny random story: when I was a kid I got mad at my sister for keeping something away from me. I yelled to my mom that she was being a “hoard”. My mom heard “whore” and told me not to use that word. This didn’t get straightened out until I learned the word whore…
On that note, Namaste!