Abundance vs. Excess: Yogic Principles to Guide You This Season

What is the difference between "abundance" and "excess"?

At the core of “excess” there is attachment, greed, and a feeling of “not being enough” or “not having enough.” At this time of year, we are bombarded with advertisements and sales, alcohol and sugar, and over-booked calendar. If we are not mindful of how we spend our time, energy, and money, the excess of this season can leave us over-stuffed, in debt, and depleted.

Aparigraha, or non-attachment, is one of the Yamas, or the ethical principles of a yogic lifestyle, specifically, how we conduct ourselves in the world. “Attachment” is a sense of clinging to material possessions (or even people or ideas). When we cling to any of these transient things and depend on objects to bring us happiness, it will only cause suffering in the end. Over-spending (even on gifts), can be due to an underlying current of attachment. Instead of going beyond what our budget and reason allow, is there another way to show loved ones that you care? Can you show love with less expensive,  but more thoughtful gifts? Perhaps some people would appreciate your time and company, or a donation to a charity made in their name. Or a yoga package to encourage their well-being (😉 😉 Sorry I had to say it!) Practice mindful spending and gift-giving. This is unique from person to person.

Brahmacharya, which can be translated to mean “moderation” or “energy balance,” is another one of the Yamas that comes into play here. Eating slowly, mindfully, and savoring any treats you decide to enjoy—guilt free, that is important---can help you to eat mindfully. Just have the cookie. Enjoy it, savor it, notice how satisfying it is to really taste your food. When we savor our food and eat guilt-free, we are much less likely to keep going and eat 10 cookies, and then feel guilty and sick to our stomach. Also, we must check in with how many commitments we say “yes” to so that we don’t over-extend ourselves. Allow some time for rest and self-care. How do you, personally, “re-charge your batteries”?

Only you can observe your thoughts and behaviors, energy and bank account. Only you can decide what non-attachment and moderation mean to you.

On the other hand, abundance has contentment at its core.  Contentment, or santosha, is the second Niyama (which are inner or spiritual practices of a yogic lifestyle).  It is having enough, now and always. It is being enough, just as you are. It is a quiet, peaceful acceptance from deep within.  Does contentment mean that we must pretend that we are in a good mood 24/7?  No. We are still allowed to have emotions, we still have challenges in our lives. Contentment is the ability to see the bigger picture: that all things are transient and every challenging emotion or situation can be our teacher. Contentment is realizing that we have the ability to create our own joy, and that true joy does not come from the acquiring of belongings (or anything outside of ourselves for that matter). The ability to be content in happy times, as well as in difficult times. “To be with what is.”

Also at the core of abundance is awareness, love, and gratitude. It is truly seeing what is right in front of our eyes, and what is all around us. There is so, so much to be grateful for, and so much beauty in the world.  When we take this perspective--when we allow ourselves to feel abundant-- any sense of “wanting” melts away.

Of course, we are humans, and wanting is a part of our nature. It is not wrong to want—but can we want without attachment? Our ego is the part of us that “wants” things, that wants to read a certain book, or learn a new skill, or succeed at our career. We need our ego. We don’t have to give up our ego completely and go live in a cave with no possessions (unless of course that is your jam). But we can understand that we are not only our ego. We all exist beyond our ego. Finding this part of ourselves—you may call it spirit—is the source of the abundance within.
Abundance =
Presence. Connection. Awareness. Open to give and receive love. Balance. True joy. Contentment. Having space to grow. Freedom. Enough.

Excess =
Distraction. Attachment. Disconnect. Fear. Imbalance. False joy. Discontentment. Being weighed down. Suffering. Never enough.