How, though, do we determine what greediness and non-greediness are when our baseline has been distorted so much? We live at this time where excess is the norm, consumption is at an all-time high, and materialism is rewarded. This is my own experience, and I believe the experience for many of us. I grew up in the city, and weekends meant shopping, family time meant going to the mall, traveling meant checking out the outlet stores available in that city. This has been our norm for so long that these days, Decluttering with Marie Kondo has become so popular. We are now catching up to the realization that we have too much, our possessions are far excessive, that we now have to cut down and declutter and make sense of the mess of it all. Now that we know we live in excess, where do we begin in the practice of aparigraha? Where do we even start?
My teacher Sharon Gannon gives a simple but perhaps an unexpected piece of advice—feed the birds. What does feeding the birds have to do with practicing aparigraha? Well, it has to do with intention and mindset. When we are constantly accumulating things and thinking of our wants, we are living with the mindset of impoverishment, feeling that we do not have enough, and so we hoard to overcompensate, afraid of the safety of our future. But when we feed the birds, we turn this around. We shift our mindset, feeling safe that because we have enough and we are enough, we could turn our attention to others. We could afford to think of the welfare of others because our own future is safe and secure. We are sending out the message that we have enough, so we no longer have to worry about our own needs, we can tend to others. Why birds? Karmically, when we feed wild birds, we reclaim the wildness we have lost through the years. Our life of rules and dogma and living up to the expectations of others may have trapped us and prevented us from getting in touch with the meaning of our lives. When we reclaim our wildness, we become free to explore the world around us, our hearts and minds expand. And in that process, the purpose as to why we are here can be more easily revealed.
We often forget, because of excess as our norm, that we already have enough, that we have in fact more than enough. Think of the conditions available to you right now that indicate you already have enough. Appreciate it. Be grateful for it. Find joy in it. And then aparigraha will not feel like an imposition of what you need to do. Rather, it becomes a natural progression. Because you have already enough, you are inclined to give to others, you are inclined to think of the benefit of others, you are inclined to become selfless. And anytime you are unsure about where to start, start simple: feed the birds.