Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Age of Instant Gratification and the Modern Yogi

Is the yogic path inherently at odds with modern life?

A few years ago, when I was younger and more of a zealot, I would have said yes to that. Before I moved to an urban environment, out of the pastoral utopia of rural southern Indiana, I would have claimed that off the grid was THE only way to effectively transcend this plane of existence. As life would have it, I was brought to a very urban environment, with all of the distractions and seething bits of humanity one would expect here. There is early morning construction and abrasive late-night neighbor noises. There are gun shots, earth quakes, and every pathogen expected in a buzzing hub of immigration and tourism, high-speed internet and HD cable. One might think so many wonderful and awesome distractions would make my meditation practice more challenging, my quest for peace and detachment from materialism, futile. But does it?

Short answer: no. Think about it and give me your own thoughts in the comments.

A more interesting question is HOW meditation and moderation fit in a world of one-click buying and being able to indulge one's every whim, given the resources. Yoga and the Middle Way emphasize the detachment from grasping and I think the issues yogis take generally take with the modern world is the unfettered grasping, the way our culture rewards greed and cruelty in the pursuit of ever-more. The Middle Way provides the antidote to grasping through mindfulness. Being mindful of one's desires can go a long way to minimize your own impact on humanity's carbon footprint and limit your contribution to the ugly habit of modern consumerism. Meditation is one tool that can help cultivate the mindfulness necessary to navigate the urban setting as a yogi. Even the Christian Bible supports mindful living with God imploring us, "Consider your ways." Consider your every purchase, your every meal. Yes you can get anything you want as fast as you want if you have enough money, but do you need it? Does it nourish your soul? Is there a way to get the same thing with less environmental impact? Are your choices depriving someone else of their human rights? Is there a more ethical use for your resources? These are the questions we must be vigilant in asking ourselves amidst the many-splendored temptress of the urban environment and one-click technology.

We need peace and meditation and we can get tap into it anywhere. On the bus, in the financial district, in the ghetto, anywhere we find ourselves, if we are mindful of our thoughts, we can be a force for peace. The world is beautiful and miraculous no matter where you are, no matter how concrete your neighborhood is. We are constantly enveloped by the awe-inspiring vibration of the divine in the universe, pushed towards nirvana and expansion as we embrace open hearts, open minds and the throbbing, raw expanse of existence that transcends environment.


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