My first yoga studio was in Singapore and like most things in Singapore, located in a high-rise with at least 2 floors devoted to…shopping! You see, in Singapore, shopping is one of life’s greatest pleasures. My over-simplified summation: Very small island + Very wealthy people – Title 9 = lots of women (mostly) spending money as a pastime, if not a full-on sport. While big box stores like Target weren’t the norm, there were lots of malls with “stalls” and shops large and small.
My first teacher, Erika, wore the same white polo shirt and blue track pants every class. She would warn us, “Now don’t go shopping on your way home from class.” The way she said it sounded ominous, like Mrs. Rabbit ordering Peter, “Now, don’t go into Mr. McGregor’s garden.” Spoiler alert: Mrs. McGregor put Peter’s father into a pie. 🙁
“Encase yourself in a golden bubble of light” was another parting instruction. While I didn’t understand the philosophical underpinnings at the time, I started to realize that somehow, the practice of yoga was a purification, but of what? Against what? In any case, it was surely beyond loosening up my hamstrings.
KLESHAS: ROOTS OF SUFFERING
Enter the yoga Kleshas, or root causes of suffering. They’re an all-star suffering lineup including Raga (attraction, clinging), Dvesha (aversion, avoidance), and Moha (delusion). In Yogaland, pretty much every ill feeling can be traced back to one of these culprits. My teacher was a Buddhist Yogi, a common hybrid born of common ground.
Before the Buddha was a Buddha, he was a Yogi. Both practices attempt to mind-map the root causes of suffering and believe that awareness of those root causes in one’s own mind is the key to transcendence.
Author and Former Kripalu Director Stephen Cope refers to the Kleshas as “afflictive mind-states.” He explains, “We lean forward out of the present moment. Or we dig in our heels and lean backward. Or we twist away from the naked truth of the moment. All three experiences keep us from being present with How It Is just now.” This results in our being uncomfortable in our own skin, feeling like things will never be OK.
THE RAGA of SHOPPING
Raga goes beyond wanting something in a reasonable way; it has an emotional, craving quality that makes you uncomfortable. Yet, in an extremely capitalist economy where consumption is the main driver, throwing shade on shopping-as-sport isn’t popular. We are slammed with messages that challenge the tidy wants vs. needs dichotomy of Raga.
A typical scenario: you don’t really need another pair of black pants because you have so many already. But wait, you don’t have a pair with the updated flare…or sequins…or flares with sequins! Of course, you didn’t even know you needed them until you walked by the shop on your way home from yoga and saw them in the window. Dang!
Taking your teacher’s sage advice, you push through, keep walking, but contemplate The Pants. The more you ruminate (an average of 60,000 thoughts per day means you’ve got some to spare), the other Kleshas start making their way into the mental circus. Ew, all those black pants I have now look sooo dated…
Welcome Dvesha (aversion), glad you could make it to the party! Who’s your friend? Moha (delusion)? If I had those new pants I could wear them to That Party and I’d be all set; in fact, if I don’t show up on-trend, it’s not gonna go well for me–I need to look good for these people.
Just to recap, you left yoga not even knowing such pants existed! Now, you can’t stop thinking about them, comparing them to your inferior (blech!) pants at home, counting up the cool points you’ll get from some random people you think you need to impress. You check your phone and see yep, you do have an email coupon for 20% off! Sure, you’re supposed to be saving up for a vacation but you really need those pants, In fact, you need those pants to take on your vacation — SOLD!
Wait, what just happened? Well, in Yogaland, we might say that you went into a suffering-shopping-shame spiral. The shame comes later when you see them on sale for 50% off the day before the big party. Remember? The coupon was the thing that pushed you over the edge, mobilizing all those thoughts into action.
Now, you’ve got a Klesha Hangover... Note to the super savvy shoppers: I know you’d return the pants (as you kept the tags on and the receipt), then buy them back at the cheaper price. But, be honest, you’d feel a little tacky about it, wouldn’t you? Especially if it were a small business…
So now the post-mortem on the hangover… Was there some way you couldn’ve prevented this? Good news: in Yogaland there’s always a way and the way is always mindfulness. You were off to a good start, but you could’ve pumped the brakes a little more. Good on you for walking by the shop in the first place, A + there–even if it was because you didn’t want to try stuff on all sweaty. Your pre-yoga self would’ve been in there, sweaty or not!
The coupon is really what added the fuel to the Raga craving fire. Your ruminating thoughts didn’t have enough time to switch gears into why you shouldn’t buy yet another pair of black pants. You might have recalled the “Law of Intensification” (often preached by Iyengar) or as an Economist might say, “diminishing returns.” Your 20th pair of pants won’t bring the utility and joy of the first pair.
You might have then contemplated the washing instructions–by hand?! You might have visualized all those little black sequins coming off all over your white carpeting, lack of hanging space in your closet. Those thoughts would’ve offset some of the initial cravings. If given time, you may have traveled to Nirodha or “equanimity, balance” in your mind-map, a much better location from which to make a decision. Plus, you might have waited long enough to legit capitalize on the markdown!
ONWARD to the CAGE FIGHT: YOU vs. TARGET
I find the Target Joy Lab brand challenging. How am I supposed to ignore these fetching yoga sets? One way: I now only consider items that have SOME natural fiber (ideally cotton)– That shortens the list!
Now, the above scenario involved seeing something in a shop you didn’t have to enter, but S-O-S when it comes to places like our beloved, Minnesotan Target. Our DNA is no match for the palpable Target Dopamine Rush. Go in for Windex, come out with a side table and a sweatshirt–shoot, forgot the Windex! What then, O Guru?
Keep in mind, it’s a David and Goliath scenario (to be Windex clear, you’re David, Target is Goliath). All I can do is share what sometimes works for me, but again, it takes time. What my husband doesn’t realize is rushing me through Target is the worst (and most expensive) thing he can do.
First, I try to just take a small Target-red basket, not a cart. At least my biceps will get a workout. Next, I allow myself to place impulsive things in said basket and I stall. I walk through the calming aisles considering carefully. I try not to fall for the “you can just return it later.” I envision how much I HATE returning things, carrying the stuff around in the backseat of my car, keeping track of the receipts ( I know Target has receipt look-up –dastardly!), all that standing in line. Then I imagine where the thing (usually clothing) will fit in my already over-stuffed closet. Does it replace something I could donate–or is it just more stuff? Is it iconic or just “so me” –something I’d wear even if it weren’t totally in style?
My success rate is probably about 80%, B- minus. That’s pretty good for a former shopaholic. I suppose you could apply this to anything really, not just shopping. It’s just that shopping is probably where I’ve changed my habits the most over my adult life. A big part of it was yoga–and living in some of the world’s most expensive cities. Shopping in Tokyo, London, or Singapore routinely can easily break your bank, so I took to books, parks, exploring, and yoga.
Oh, but you’d better believe I have a pair of fancy pants with sequins. These are for yoga. I’m happy to share they were mindfully acquired during a trip to Kripalu after 5 days of careful consideration, made by a local Stockbridge, MA artist, and have a hard-to-find 35″ inseam. It’s so much more fun when the clothes find you–and when you didn’t blow your budget at Target! 15 years later, still going strong, albeit a few sequins short.