Mandalas, Knitting, Leaves and Aparigraha – Lessons in Non-Attachment 

Several years ago, I was at the opening weekend at Lily Dale Assembly in New York.  Lily Dale is a community of Spiritualists.  On the opening weekend of the summer season, the Tibetan Monks come on that weekend and create a mandala made of sand.  On Friday evening, they create a sacred space, draw the mandala and begin to fill it in with various colours of sand.  Then on Sunday evening, the monks ceremoniously destroy the mandala and release the sand into running water!!  This entire process had me perplexed!  Why would you spend all that time creating something so beautiful only to destroy it!!??!!  I needed an answer!  I spoke with one of the other monks.  Monks are silent while creating the mandala, so I couldn’t ask them.  

Each mandala has special meaning when it is drawn.  The sand work is a form of meditation.  The monks are meditative in their process.  The destruction or deconstruction of the mandala is a practice of non-attachment!

On the opening weekend of the summer season, the Tibetan Monks create a mandala made of sand. On Friday evening, they create a sacred space, draw the mandala and begin to fill it in with various colours of sand.

Many sacred texts speak about non-attachment.  In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, one of the limbs or folds are the yama(s).  Yama(s) are considered to be ethical practices.  Aparigraha (a-pa-ree-gra-ha) means non-hoarding.  Hoarding as defined by Merriam Webster is “the practice of collecting or accumulating something (such as money or food.”  Part of practicing aparigraha is releasing our attachments to thoughts, achievements, things that we believe define us.

Hidden behind most attachments is the desire to control our own narrative.  Controlling images, wealth, thoughts and perceptions of ourselves and others.  Our world rewards us with praise, likes, followers and the title of influencer, guru or star.  Even in the Harry Potter series, Professor Slughorn likes to “collect” students who are famous or infamous or have the potential to be.  He gained prestige not by who he was but by how they were and his association to them!  What collections do you have??  Dishes used only once or twice a year?  How about my fellow creators?  A hoard of yarn, pens or supplies??  Do you spend time in yoga poses because you do them so well?  What about the thoughts you have about yourself or others that are on repeat in your mind?

Aparigraha (a-pa-ree-gra-ha) means non-hoarding. Hoarding as defined by Merriam Webster is “the practice of collecting or accumulating something (such as money or food.” Part of practicing aparigraha is releasing our attachments to thoughts, achievements, things that we believe define us.

I know I talk a lot about knitting.  I find the process to be a real teacher to me.  I discovered that I was a speed knitter because I thought that only expert knitters could knit fast!  Once I let that go, knitting became a relaxing meditative process.  It has taught me to release my need for perfection and that some mistakes are ok to keep in the project.  Recently, I made a big boo-boo!!  I was thinking too far ahead resulting in skipping 10 rows.  Now that would have been a funny looking sweater without those 10 rows.  I had to unknit 18 rows.  Sometimes, you can take the project off the needles and “rip” it out.  This wasn’t one of those times.  I had to unknit 2376 stitches.  Just like in life, it is easier to knit than to unknit.  Unknitting takes so much time especially when knitting with two strands and one of them is mohair!!  I made a conscious decision to be just like a Tibetan monk…I was going to ceremoniously unknit.  I began to let my hoard of stitches go.  I practiced non-attachment.  I let go.  And when it was all unknit, I followed the pattern and began to knit again.

I had to unknit 2376 stitches. Just like in life, it is easier to knit than to unknit. Unknitting takes so much time especially when knitting with two strands and one of them is mohair!!

This got me thinking…imagine if nature never let things go.  Imagine if in the fall, the trees held on tightly to their leaves?  Or the flowers never shared their pollen?  Growth and renewal would never happen.  New leaves would not be created and the trees would not breathe.  Nature brilliantly teaches us how to let go.  The type of tree is defined by its leaves; however, when the leaves no longer serve their purpose, the tree lets them go.  The leaves and the tree transform.  Pollination not only creates more flowers, cross-pollination creates new types of flowers.  In the summer we enjoy the shade of the trees and in the fall we enjoy the leaves to play in.

This fall, I am going to let nature be my influencer as I continue to learn how to let go!

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