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Image by SJ Objio

Reinventing the Wheel

Have you heard of the Child Minder Infant-Toddler Elite Pad System? Neither had I, but apparently this new gadget is flying off the shelves. It reminds parents when they leave their infants in the car. Somehow, my kids survived their toddler years without accidentally being forsaken and forgotten in parked cars, without the benefit of a gadget. Whew!

What about the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer? Found on Amazon, this banana slicer in incredibly popular with customer reviews, most of which appear to be mocking the product. Consider this five star review:

“What can I say about the 571B Banana Slicer that hasn’t already been said about the wheel, penicillin, or the iPhone…this is one of the greatest inventions of all times. My husband and I would argue constantly over who had to cut the day’s banana slices. Its one of those chores NO ONE want to do…These are the things that can destroy an entire relationship…the minute I heard my 6-year-old girl re-enacting our daily banana fight with her Barbie dolls, I knew we had to make a change. That’s when I found the 571B Banana Slicer. Our marriage has never been healthier, AND we’ve even incorporated it into our lovemaking. THANKS 571B BANANA SLICER”

Shiny packaging transforms unneeded items into desired, even coveted objects of desire. It is perhaps easier to recognize that the banana slicer is a ‘nice to have”, not a “need to have”, and therefore easier to mock the value of the product. However, consider the objects or services we consider essential today that were not even in existence fifty years ago. Some examples are cable TV, high-speed internet and central air. How about a hundred years ago? Flush toilets, paved roads, vaccinations come to my mind. And in most of the world, these are still luxuries. Our shifting expectations about wants versus needs have the human race constantly re-inventing the wheel, looking for the next best thing, replacing one “need” with another.

In Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs, it may be surprising to some to find that once a person has met his or her physiological and safety needs, how few of the other human needs are tangible. How can one put a price tag on friendship, confidence or creativity? In fact, even when someone articulates a desire for a concrete object, the underlying need is usually much more profound. Consider the statement “I need X amount of dollars per month to get by”. The underlying need is not a quantity of money, but the currency of security.

And thanks to the diversity of the human experience, we all have unique expectations of what is needed to make us happy. For some, it may be home ownership. For others, it is having multiple degrees from prestigious universities, or 24/7 access to the Internet. Desire creates families, champions and works of art. This creative expression of our unique talents and desires adds spice to life, yet the possible choices create a dizzying array of shiny paths to follow.

The simplicity of the yogic path in its essence is that we need nothing. The letting go of desire and ultimately of ego is the path of stilling the fluctuations of the mind. When we still the mind, we are left with our breath, stripped of desire. In one moment of perfect union of body, mind and breath, the neurotransmitters in our brain entrain on one path, and we can rest in it, if even for an instant.

B.K.S. Iyengar writes “The mind can go in many directions in a split second. Its movements are very fast and varied. But the breath cannot go in many directions at once. It has only one path: inhalation and exhalation. It can pause for a moment in a state of retention, but it cannot multiply like the mind”

By practicing controlling the breath, and stilling consciousness, little by little, we begin to develop mindfulness around all the potential paths glittering away. We begin to look before we leap, pause before we respond, focus on the essential instead of re-inventing the wheel. There is a reason why yoga as a physical and spiritual practice has survived the centuries, despite our fascination with modern technology, speed and distraction.

No need to reinvent the wheel. Just show up, as you are and experience for yourself what you already hold inside.


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