Yoga for Climate Action: Aparigraha

You have the right to your labor, but not to the fruits of your labor. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never become attached to not doing your duty. -Baghavad Gita 2.47


Aparigraha (non-grasping) is the bedrock of Yoga for Climate Action. We are fighting, and we are losing. Every day we are losing. No one alive today will see the natural world become any more hospitable to humans, or less volatile. By the standards of any other social movement, the goals of the climate movement are beyond unlikely, beyond uncertain, and we will never have anything material to show for our efforts. If one doesn’t practice some rigorous emotional hygiene, it has all the hallmarks of a lost cause.

A lot of us set our sites on a reason to fight, and this has some utility. I fight for my vision of humankind as worth saving, and to correct injustices. Some days I am moved to fight by a nauseating fear of losing seasonally appropriate weather: snow, red leaves falling, biting cold nights and 40 degree days for maple syrup in the late winter of Vermont, no one dying of heatstroke in August in Chicago. When I see projections of sea-level rise that put water around the knees of the apartment building in which I grew up, I am moved to fight for my home city. Fear of loss. The painful game of imagining parenthood, then imagining my child grow old to see things I tried to imagine but couldn’t conceive: sometimes I fight against that child’s suffering and sometimes I let the child disappear from my mind. Fighting for constructs of hope can be punishing.

I am struck again and again in this movement that while we’ve had some good news this year, it’s all been human-made: deals struck, bad ideas shot down, media coverage, people coming together, not going to jail. The bad news is always made by mother nature herself, the fruits of labor arriving in every season. The results of old choices are being visited on us. The results of our choices will be visited on our children. Much of what we are fighting for will be lost. We hope it will be lost and then found again, perhaps by someone related to us that we’ll never meet, 150 years from now. That’s a fantasy, though it has its uses: my practice isn’t so advanced that I can get out of bed without optimistic fantasies.

Whether it’s harder or easier to fight without hope of reward doesn’t matter. Some days one, some days the other. What matters is that Aparigraha is the reality of fighting for the climate: We have nothing to hold on to but the work, and love. The outcomes are coming, whether we are ready for them or not. They are coming whether we live to see them or not. They are not our punishment any more than they are our reward. We wake up every day, and work to our capacity.

I am very curious to know where this beautiful animation came from. This song gets me good. Oof.


  1. Pingback: Yoga of Climate Action: Yama and Niyama | grandgather

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