Have you ever spent some time shopping around for a car? Have you noticed that as soon as you start getting interested in a particular kind of car, you start to see it everywhere? And you start to become curious about the kind of people driving that car? Well I have lately, because I’ve been shopping for a new car.
Though there seems to be this idea out there that yogis are earth-loving ride-my-bike-everywhere kind of people, I live in an area where I require a vehicle to get around. So, I’ve begun a search for the right car.
But here’s the problem with car shopping: instead of searching for a machine to get me from point A to point B, I am looking for a an identity.
My husband the mechanic suggests that I get something cheap (read: old) and fuel efficient (read: tiny). But my last car was brand new when I got it, so I have become accustomed to certain features. I have standards to meet, I tell him. I don’t want to go backwards. I immediately rule out any kind of truck because I am not a small town hick. Sedans won’t do, nor will anything that resembles the colour gold because I am not an 80 year old grandmother. I want a hatchback that is maybe a few years old – I’m a young, independent woman. I want a car that fits me.
I do realize somewhere in the back of my mind that my husband is probably right; I should get something affordable and realistic. A car is just meant to get me somewhere, not define who I am. But I push these thoughts aside for the time being and focus my search on a few particular models that I like, trying to see just how much I can squeeze into my budget to afford them.
Then one day in the midst of all this, I come across a section in Meditations from the Mat about Aparigraha where Rolf Gates talks about how his career changed and his car became unaffordable, but he had been unwilling to let it go because it represented “the last vestige of the prestige that I had enjoyed” in a former career.
Uh, oh. This sounds familiar. I have been doing the exact same thing. I have been holding on to this one last piece of my former identity, looking for a vehicle that will reassure me that I am still a successful person even if I make less money than before.
It’s time to let go. Yoga teaches us not just to let go of our physical attachments, but also to let go of the story of ourselves. My life is far richer than it ever was when I drove a brand new car, because I am not making myself miserable in an unfulfilling career just to pay for it. A vehicle doesn’t make me a small-town hick or a successful city girl; it just is.
So, perhaps I will consider some of those cheap old cars. After all, what good is it having a husband who is a mechanic if he’s got nothing to fix?