Leave your list behind: How to shop with aparigraha

By Stephanie Stillman

Aparigraha is one of the yamas, the ethics of Yoga. Its literal translation is not gripping, or non-attachment. Practicing aparigraha is practicing contentment, adaptability and presence. Being able to flow with life and stay present in the moment is aparigraha. It is the opposite of being attached to a past event or a future outcome.

I’ve worked in the vegetable business for over five years, as an organic farmer and a produce stocker at an organic grocery store. Over those years I noticed a theme in customer dissatisfaction. The produce, in some manner, does not match their expectation of what it was going to be. The biggest lesson I’ve learned from this work, work that is dependent on the queen of variability, Mother Nature herself, is aparigraha. The more I can let go of what I think it’s going to be like (the weather, the pests, the harvest, the selection), the greater opportunity I have to experience the richness of what it actually is.

Here are three practical ways to shop with aparigraha:

  1. Eat local: The recipe is only as good as the ingredients, and the ingredients are best when they are in season. Choose recipes that feature seasonal vegetables as much as possible. Even better, pick out the freshest available vegetables first and then find recipes that include them.

  2. Trust your senses: I recently cooked lunch with a friend and she asked me which vegetables she should buy at the store. I think she was expecting me to give her a simple list of veggies: beets, carrots, kale. Instead, I told her to buy the veggies that feel the best, the ones that called out to her. This is all about trusting your senses, and not just your eyes. Use your hands to feel, your nose to smell, and let your inner-knowingness guide the experience. Have fun with it!

  3. Think augmenting and extractive: Rather than shopping a strict list or recipe, shop with the principles of augmenting and extractive. If the ingredients for a carrot ginger soup is on the list but the carrots aren’t feeling so great, swap out for a different augmenting vegetable, like squash or beets. My list often says augmenting veggies and extractive veggies. Then once I’m at the store or in the field, I pick out the best match using the guidelines above.

Whether you are shopping in a grocery store, a farmer’s market or directly from a garden, see how it feels to leave your expectations behind and shop with aparigraha.

Share your experience in the comments!

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