Friday, May 4, 2012

Life Lessons: What do I really need to be happy? In the material realm


What do I really need to be happy?
Sitting here in the lounge at the Jazz Hostel in South Beach, there is a very good internet connection and a brand new power cord is connecting my Mac to the power it needs so I can work.
When I left the Bahamas last Wednesday, I had been living in the ashram, in a tent, since February 3, 2012. The four days previous to my departure the rain had been unending and the sun had not been seen. Here in South Beach, for $20 a night, there is a nice sized room with firm bunk bed mattresses, a large mirror with a sink and spacious countertop and a separate private bathroom inside the room with a tub. And AC. Right now, after three months in a tent, all of the things listed in the previous sentence feel like necessities. So I extended my stay in Miami for eight more days. Ah, the comforts of a youth hostel.
The past two mornings I have awoken without any loud clanging bell ringing, at precisely 6:13 AM. With the leisure of a beach vacation, I stay lying prone in my bottom bunk bed until I am ready to sit up and meditate for 20 minutes. Morning cleansing routine follows meditation and I get ready for the beach. Some work on the computer usually proceeds the departure. Breakfast of coffee and pancakes is served at Jazz at 9 AM. And there is also strong coffee available at the latino bodega (much cheaper and much better coffee than Starbucks) one block away. Then off to the beach.
Though the water is not Caribbean Blue, it is very nice. And there is a life guard. I do asana for 45 minutes to an hour once I arrive on the beach. Then I just lie there and listen to the sound of the waves, feel the sun, make a few phone calls (oh, there is ATT cell service right on the beach!), thank the appearances, feel great waves of gratitude, wonder what will happen next, take a breath, feel the sun, hear the sound of the sea … you get the idea
om om om …
Arriving in South Beach
On the bus ride from the Miami International Airport, before I ever saw the ocean, as soon as the water inlets started to color the sky, I was brought back to Rio de Janeiro. I have been to Rio twice and I adore that beach city. South Beach has some housing that makes me think of Rio and of course there is a lot of great shopping just like Rio—but Miami is less expensive. There are also the international tourists that frequent both Miami and Rio. I hear a lot of Italian being spoken on the street and the beach here, as well as a lot of Spanish. And there is quite a Brazilian presence as well—makes sense, as it feels so much like Rio. At the hostel, in just two days, I have had roommates from Denmark, Columbia and Padua, Italia and some place in America.
Miami also brings the remembrance of my youth in Houston. The grassy street meridians and the humid feel of the air are very much like Houston, as well as the big food supermarkets. I just went shopping at the Publix, a few blocks away. I bought some of the foods I always eat, like avocadoes, spelt pasta and my favorite Italian hard cheese, Grana Padano. I have not had these foods (except for the avocadoes which I have had only once) since I have been at the ashram in the Bahamas. Food brings so much comfort and being able to eat foods that I like and that I know are good for me is another necessity.
The last place that Miami brings to mind for me is LA—with it’s shallow glitz and focus on the physical and material things of life. I like it. It is familiar. It is comforting to my samskaras that include a lot of focus on the physical, material things in life. After all it is a material world as the material girl says.
Beyond the material realm 
NB Being a Westerner, an American, I understand how spoiled I am by the wealth of the karma of my birth as such. In the West we often forget how privileged we are by all of the conveniences and comforts. Living in the ashram in a tent, in order to do sadhana (spiritual practice) daily by waking early to meditate, pray and study and ending each day in the same manner, working long hours in a kitchen cooking for many people, feels like tapas, or austerity at times. Yet, I know it is also a privilege to be able to take the time in order to offer this sadhana*, instead of being in the world, and adhering to the daily routine of work in order to pay the bills. In the ancient Caste system of India only the highest class were allowed to make spiritual study the center of life.
*What is sadhana? It’s a committed prayer. It is something which you want to do, have to do, and which is being done by you. … Sadhana is self-enrichment. It is not something which is done to please somebody or to gain something. Sadhana is a personal process in which you bring out your best. ~ Yogi Bhajan