Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Are you a Nomad? By Gaby

At Yogi-nomad, we have been asked many time "Are you Nomads?" or "Do we need to be a nomad to join?" Beyond our travel habits and a life lived around the globe, we had to go back to the basic reason of why we call ourselves nomads.

Tuareg nomad, Sahara, 1986
Early 80's in the Sahara desert. My friend were tuaregs, people who have always been nomads. The only thing they would take when moving was a few goats and their camels. I remember a day when they were moving to another camp, they placed an old worn out  tarpaulin on the sand and everyone threw in their belongings. A couple of recycled food tins, an old plastic water container, a piece of iron bar to stir the fire, some old stuff that in the west would have gone to the dump field. They folded the tarpaulin and hanged it in a tree, they where ready to go.

It was a powerful and decisive moment in my life, these people who had so much to share, an incomparably generous hospitality, who were always joyful and ready to sit for a tea and a chat, were traveling across the desert with nothing more than what they were wearing that day. It was in stark contrast with the world I came from where summer traveller disappear behind the mountain size of their backpacks. Our luggages have become so heavy that almost all of them have wheels nowadays.

It was clear to me that it was fear that was making us travel with so much stuff. My tuareg friend were free. Free from fears. I then understood that being a nomad is an ideal: It is the ultimate expression of your trust that the universe will provide what is needed when it is needed. It is the full acceptation of “what is”, without useless resistance. It is moving with the flow of the Universe like my nomads friends were moving with seasons. It is the recognition of our belonging, total dependence and our need for union and harmony with the environment, both human and natural.

Ascetic and Nomad on the ghats, Varanasi, India, 2011

A few year later in India started my yogic journey. Yoga has long been associated with asceticism, a form of anti-materialism that reminded me of my desert friends. In between, 25 years have passed and consumerism and capitalism have spread to most of the world. All our major  challenges like climate change, corruption, overpopulation etc. find their roots in the choice we have made to consume and capitalize.

We have disrupted the balance. You need 2000 Cal to live a day but a 10 hours jet-flight will burn Cal, each passenger's share being the energetic equivalent to 4 year of food*... Capitalism can be easily summarized: invest little and expect large returns. Consumerism is similarly simple: buy, throw away and buy again. The first feeding the second and vice-versa.
(*Travel responsibly and offset your carbon emission )

This is the exact opposite of being a nomad, this is also the opposite of the yogic life ideal: take from the environment as little as possible, give and share as much as you can and do not worry for the return. My desert friend had taught me my first yoga lesson. This lesson was later expressed by the sanskrit term "aparigraha" (non-accumulating) the fifth of the yama, the ethics rules of self control. 

Aparigraha requires to have the capacity to discriminate (viveka) between what we need and what we want. Consumerism is making its best to fog your vision and make you believe your wants are in fact your needs. Capitalism fuel your fears and want to convince you that "material surplus" will keep trouble away. Being a nomad like being a yogi, signifies your non-attachment to the material world and its cohort of illusions, it is an anti-consumerist, anti-capitalist behavior.

There is a clear battle going on out-there between to world of the yogis and the consumerist world: a watered down version of Yoga is being turned into a consumer good. Expensive yoga mat and clothes, expensive training and classes, yoga "registered", "branded" and "copyrighted" styles. Check Google trends, Bikram Yoga, Hot Yoga, Ashtanga yoga, Anusara Yoga are leading the race. This neo-yoga is being turned into a multi million dollar business. The business world is trying to convince you that you need that next training, you must meet that famous teacher, you must go to that yoga conference etc. Videos on UTube, front page of Yoga Journal reproduce the perfect image of this new yoga, just like Vogue or Cosmopolitan fashioned our current world, and well trained consuming crowds follow the trend, a trend known as spiritual materialism. A vision of yoga we do not share. 

Beyond these political choices, I remember clearly my friends stoping five times a day and humbly prostrating, forehead in the sand, before the creator. They were muslims of course but they shared many values with the yogis I met later. Further than the material choices there is a deeper link between my early and later teachers: the recognition of the godly intrinsic value in each human, the spark of the divine burning in every heart. This is the treasure they bow to, what they really pay respect to as many time of day as possible.

Namaste: the divine in me bow to the divine in you.

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