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Aparigraha and the Hierarchy of Needs

In our hyper-consumerist world, it's easy to believe that we need another new shirt, the latest iPhone or even the newest sport car (because it's better than our neighbours).

In the sea of marketing we're bombarded with every single day we don't seem to know what the difference between wants and needs are anymore. The yogic Yama of Aparigraha can help ground us in what is an actual need and a want.

Wants are simply that. Something you desire, would love to have, own or feel (happiness, in love etc). There is nothing wrong with wanting something but it becomes problematic when we find ourselves constantly seeking something to fill a void. Needs are the things we require in order to stay alive and thrive as a human.

You might be familiar with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (pictured below). These are our essential needs.


Maslow theorised that these are levels of things we need in order to become self-actualised or reach our full potential.

On the most basic level we need food, water, shelter and oxygen. Safety, love and belonging come next and this could mean physical or emotional safety, love and acceptance. These are often what's missing when people experience trauma, neglect or bullying - especially in childhood or future relationships and friendships.

Where does the yogic Yama of Aparigraha come in?

First, let's look at what the word means.

  1. A = 'non' (absence of something. E.g. Afebrile means non-feverish).

  2. Pari = 'on all sides'

  3. Graha = take, seize, grab.

Take only what we need. Keep what serves us in the moment and know when the time is right to let go.

Aparigraha can be applied to so many areas of our life: possessions, relationships, people, emotions and feelings.

What's at the heart of your want?

At times possessions do serve us - technology that makes things easy and efficient or clothes bought for a seasonal purpose or special occasion like swimmers or a wedding dress. But when we are getting confused between a need and a want, we often start to use possessions, or the desire for something, in order to fill a need in our life. How often have you gone shopping because you were bored or lonely? To be honest, I have.

At some points my closet literally mirrored my loneliness and boredom, especially when I had my children and didn't work in a job or have time for socialising anymore.

Be mindful about where we put our energy

In the Baghavad Ghita, the revered yogic teacher Krishna said:

"Let your concern be with the action alone, and never with the fruits of action. Do not let the results of your action be your motive, and do not be attached to inaction."

How often do we attach ourselves to the outcome of something before we've even started? We worry about whether we'll be successful with our project, our relationship, our cooking and we lose contact with the reason we wanted to do it in the first place.

It's the old saying: it's not about the goal, it's about the journey you take to get there.

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