Sunday, January 8, 2012

To Seethe or Not To Seethe

Today was not one of my better days, yogicly speaking. I was invited to an upscale event in the fancy part of town and experienced a fair degree of social awkwardness. As an anthropologist, you would think I would relish these fleeting opportunities to observe another social class in their natural environment. I could scribble small notes about unique greeting patterns involving partial hugs, or describe the ceremonial scarves and belts brought to you by specific and highly regarded individuals (such as Marc Jacobs or someone named Coach). Perhaps I would include a diagram of the various areas of the room populated by persons of each respective social class, to the best of my ability, as an outsider.

Instead, I triumphantly marched in carrying my fair-trade bag, my unpolished nails balled into my unadorned hands, and spent the good part of an afternoon making myself feel like crap.

I have spent a goodly amount of time exploring my own psyche/seeking my own North star/communicating with my inner wildebeest, and yet it took me fewer than three seconds to realize that:

a) I spend far less time on personal grooming than these new friends might find acceptable

b) A significant quantity of the 'things' that I own have either been owned previously, were extracted from the garbage, or were created by a person in a far away country who is working for a fair wage and making things out of garbage

c) I had never ranked snorkeling in gobs of money among my top ten life values


d) that I was not six years old.

What is it about these situations that makes us feel so small? Why are my hard-earned values so easy to discard? And how does anyone get floors and windows that clean???

As you may have guessed, I cozied up with the irrational side of myself and had my own little two part conversation.

Alpaca-Kari: "Why didn't I become an investment banker/doctor/mob boss?"

Yogini-Kari: "Because you don't realistically know what any of those people actually do for a living, but you're pretty sure none of them get to teach yoga or play with puppies on a regular basis."

Alpaca-Kari: "Ok, so why didn't I marry someone who was one of those things?"

Yogini-Kari: "Because you didn't want your identity to be wrapped up in the occupation of someone else... you wanted to live freely and guided by your own actions, with a partner who didn't rely on you to host cocktail parties or bury people in cement."

Alpaca-Kari: "So then why did I think I had any business coming to this part of town? I'm obviously not like these people at all."

Yogini-Kari: "You came because you are a good friend and clearly had no idea that you would stick out like an elephant."

Alpaca-Kari: "Ok, fine. But why didn't I at least go buy a brand new outfit for this shindig, wherever these people buy their clothes?"

Yogini-Kari: "Because on some level you wanted them to know that you are comfortable in your own skin. You know that teaching yoga means more than telling people when and how to balance on their elbows, and that non-grasping is a good thing. Also you have no idea where these people shop and would probably have to sell your car to buy a scarf."

Alpaca-Kari: "Wow, Yogini-Kari, you seem to have all of the answers. Now will you please unlock the bathroom door and get out here with me?"

I would like to tell you that I've transcended these petty feelings, or that I'm immune to grasping for status. I would like to say that after practicing yoga for 26 years that I have these yamas down and I'm just working on experiencing a samadhi-like state of bliss 80 or more percent of the time. The reality is that Yogini-Kari often locks herself into the bathroom when she feels uncomfortable and leaves the anxiety-prone and skittish Kari out on her own. Alpaca-Kari forgets that she could simply pretend to be an anthropologist and observe this unusual behavior and instead begins to sound various social alarms by dropping food onto people, accidentally discussing socially inappropriate topics, like human reproduction, and possibly gnawing through the rim of her paper cup.

The best advice I have for all of us is to become aware of the grasping the alpaca side does and allow the yogi(ni) side to peel the fingers back from the object of our infatuation.

Perhaps the lesson isn't to avoid grasping, but to learn how to ungrasp.

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