Thursday, March 24, 2011

Aparigraha, non-accumulation and balance, in Miami, FL

The other weekend I had the opportunity to attend a couple of workshops with Greg Nardi, at the Miami Life Center, in Miami, FL -- a major hub for pop culture, media, and entertainment; a city notorious for finance, commerce, business, and shopping.

The surge of people pulsing through that city that March 11th weekend, I soon learned, could be attributed to: (1) South Beach's mass appeal for a spring break location, and (2) the Winter Music Conference, an annual event that is apparently enormously popular and successful.

As I wandered down Collins Ave. -- "shopping district" -- passed shops like Armani Exchange, Club Monaco, Sephora, Polo Sport Ralph Lauren, and so on, simultaneously absorbing the teeming masses seeming positively smitten by all of the stuff that this city had to offer, I began contemplating the irony of practicing yoga in a culture so heavily influenced by media, and incidentally by superficiality (the newest iPhone, uPhone, or whatever) and appearance (the tans, white teeth, bleach blonde hair, beach bodies, string bikinis). I could not help but wonder about the fifth of the five yamas (or personal codes of conduct), the first limb of Ashtanga Yoga: aparigraha, or non-accumulation, non-possessiveness, non-greed. Yes, in a city thriving off of materialism, how does one balance a life of yoga, a life of mindful living and mindful possession, a life of selflessness, a life of seeking out and acquiring only what one needs and nothing more, a life of moderation and control...?

This, I think, is the ultimate challenge. To practice a yoga within a world that advertises distractions on every billboard, on every homepage, on every front cover of every magazine on every street corner; a society that presents and produces the urge and the potential to indulge at every whim. This is the real yoga.

So as I took it one step, one Ujjayi breath, at a time, towards the Miami Life Center, I tell myself, that yes, while I can be indulgent and can really enjoy my Starbucks chai teas when I have them, that we must recognize the emptiness in addictions, in accumulation, in consumerism. As I arrive at this safe haven, this quiet, still, and peaceful place, of the Miami Life Center, I see that this is the work: To enjoy what you have when you have it, but to be okay without it as well; to abolish the idea that we need things that we simply do not (i.e. that other purse, when the one(s) we have is/are perfectly usable)...

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