Tesla, Yoga, and Endogenous Luxury
By Kristine Kaoverii Weber | June 14, 2021
My 17-year-old wants a Tesla.
He shows me different models and their latest features. He talks about how it can pick me up at the grocery store curb. He tells me about the computer, the self-driving, the automatic updates, the parking sensors. He talks about the shape, the style, the motor, how it doesn’t use a combustion engine.
in a last-ditch sales pitch effort: it’s good for the environment!
Luckily, he’s also a realistic kid. He doesn’t mind driving our 2014 Honda Civic and enjoys the moon roof and the sunglass compartment. And, to be clear, I don’t mind that he wants a Tesla. It’s not gonna happen of course 😁, but it’s also a developmentally appropriate desire.
When I think about Tesla cars, I also think about the big personality and genius of Elon Musk – his wealth, his ambition, and all the material things his success affords him – like cars, rockets, an apocalypse bunker in New Zealand, whatever else he wants.
He’s got luxury.
I used to think about luxury as exclusively expensive. Once basic needs are met, the next logical step, according to our culture, is luxury.
But the idea that wealth brings luxury and luxury is the apex of civilization is a capitalist ruse.
Research shows that once income levels get to the point that basic needs are met comfortably (around US$70,000 per person, per year), life satisfaction does not increase.
At this point, I could skip down the path of exploring the mental illness that lies at the heart of excessive wealth accumulation and its accompanying lack of concern for human suffering, but that’s been well detailed elsewhere. I think there’s something else to discuss.
Yoga practice has the potential to unveil a deeper, endogenous kind of luxury. All humans need and deserve love, safety, food, clothing, shelter and health care. Beyond that, we need individual stuff – material things that satisfy who we are individually – Lulu’s, a Tesla, a swimming pool, or whatever.
But what’s after that?
You can search everywhere and acquire every sparkly thing that captures your attention – but there will always be some new, upgraded Tesla, iPhone, or yoga mat. Material luxuries are by their very nature transient and the dopaminergic pleasure they afford is, by its very nature, fleeting.
When I roll out my mat, lie down on my back, close my eyes, start to focus on my breath and move slowly, I encounter a luxury that I can only access endogenously.
Luxurious is the best word I can use to describe the neurochemistry (plus a sprinkle of pixie dust) of the experience.
With slow, mindful asanas I can activate (at various times, in various ways, for various reasons) serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, acetylcholine, and GABA. I can reduce cortisol and sympathetic nervous system activation.
I can luxuriate in the sensations of movement and feed soothing interoceptive messages to my brain that tune my whole cortical mantle towards a luxurious parasympathetic response. I can get to know and like my body and myself better, I can activate gratitude, self-compassion, and self-acceptance.
With pranayama practice, I can leverage the interneuronal messenger nitric oxide and feed that into my olfactory bulb to dampen down the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (stress) response. I can luxuriate in the sensations of my breath stroking the inside of my nose and throat and giving a massage (that I could never get at a spa) to my organs from the inside out. I can ride the waves of prana towards their source in my higher power or inner divinity, I can imagine I’m breathing with the universe and connecting to the source of the lifeforce.
With chanting and kirtan I can stimulate my vagus nerve and feel expansive, unconditional love. With satsanga I can activate my social engagement system and find mutually satisfying relationship and meaning.
With meditation, I can kick all these benefits up a notch, and I can sit in the awareness of my integral existence as a part of the limitless whole. I can enter a liminal space, deepen my personal spiritual connection and experience awe.
Yoga is more precious than gold, it’s an endogenous luxury.
There’s no shame in wanting a luxury car or a luxurious life. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to go to beautiful places or to take a joy ride in outer space. Adventure is fun.
But practice offers something different.
It offers luxury that is uniquely yours, always available at your finger (or toe) tips. In these uncertain times of great upheaval and inequity, it makes me feel better to know that luxury is always available to me, and to everyone who’s ready to learn how to luxuriate from within.
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