They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. My dad was a Kapha type. He was a saver and spent his pay slowly and wisely. I’ve been wearing hand-me-downs all my life. I still get shipments from my big sis. I rarely buy retail and don’t care about name brands. I love finding treasures at garage sales, and some of my favorite funky yoga outfits are from resale shops in Austin, Texas.
I also picked up some traits from my mom. She felt naked without her earrings and bracelets. She had dozens of bangles from India, in every shade of the rainbow. She would wear rings on most of her fingers and with her pitch-black hair looked more like a gypsy than June Cleaver.
Diamonds are not my best friend. I’ve never had one. Pearls are so not my style. I buy most of my jewelry from street vendors during my travels. A dollar here. A dollar there. All unique and contributing to craftsmen. I hate chain hotels, preferring hostels, pensiones, or b&bs. My preferences are not based on a dollar, or euro, value, but a people and cultural value.
Asteya and aprarigraha are the easiest of the sutras for me to remember, because I’ve always believed in them, and tried to live them, long before I’d heard either of those words.
Another sutra, Santocha, is normally translated as contentment. Today, I take it further to include valuing the multi-culturalism in this world, and in my life. At a time when some people are extremely intolerant of others, for their race, religion, or political views, I think this is an important tenet.
“Accepting that there is a purpose for everything (karma) we can cultivate contentment and compassion, for ourselves and for others,” as one source describes Santosha.
Both my parents exposed me to multi-culturalism from the get-go. They would infuse words in French and Yiddish as if it was the most natural thing in the world. We routinely opened up letters or invitations from our relatives in Brazil and Mexico. Those were printed in Portuguese or Spanish, and often had Yiddish hand-scrawled in Hebrew lettering on the back.
My spendthrift nature has never conflicted with my thirst for travel and experiencing other cultures. As a child, I had paper dolls reflecting different countries of the world. I loved reading Russian folktales and stories from the Incas. I’ve been traveling on my own, on the cheap, outside the U.S. of A. since I was 16. So my degree in cultural anthropology and linguistics was an easy one. It allowed me to soak up cultures and languages and get credit for it.
When I was two months pregnant, I left the U.S. It was a conscientious decision to give our child the gift of multiculturalism and multilingualism. Pretty much the only English my baby heard was when I spoke to her and read to her in English. When we moved to Miami, I switched gears. I read Spanish books and tried to surround her with a Spanish-speaking dentist, daycare provider, and her Brazilian and Ecuadorian relatives. I took her to African music workshops.
I made my grandma’s blintzes and mandelbroidt, but our favorite eatery was a mom-and-pop Cuban place where the abuela served us the best rice, beans, and mariquitas. For special meals, we enjoyed a Nicaraguan restaurant. On vacation in Chicago, we went to Devon Street where I bought her a sari, and we routinely would eat in the Pilsen neighborhood or corner dives for the best Mexican sopes. During summers, she’d return to South America.
I chose to live in multi-cultural cities, stateside, so that my daughter would see that as the norm. It wasn’t until she left Texas to go to college that she first realized she was multi-racial. When she told me that, it was a bit of a surprise to me, too. I viewed her as being multi-cultural, not multi-racial.
M’ija is 27 now and her profession requires fluency in Spanish, and cultural sensitivity. She studied in Italy and worked in Japan. Beyond family trips to Latin America and Europe, she visited China, Turkey, and Israel. On the cheap.
One of my friends recently wrote about the fears of being a single mom of four. She wisely says we will never get it all right. Kids may have scarring, but love and precious moments are the most important things for a child.
I know I didn’t do it all right. But, I hope she picks up on the sutras, even if she has never read the words.
What’s most precious to us, we share with our loved ones. I don’t share gems or expensive gifts. I share my love for a yogic lifestyle that includes acceptance of one’s own and others’ cultures, traditions, and languages, among other things.