The amount of homies I have that walked into a yoga studio because, “The honey’s, the finest honey’s are in yoga,” is a lot. They all come out preaching, “I’m trying to tell you Chris, the finest honey’s.” In LA, it’s fair to say that those privileged enough to do yoga and meditate buy lulu lemon pants and drink cold pressed juice and keep a vegan and/or ketogenic diets are pretty.
I mean, one women’s health article reads BIG JOY HOT ABS. And the one next to it reads, HOT AND HAPPY… The truth is, one does not guarantee the other.
Am I pretty? I like to think I’m happy. Am I happy or just pretty? I like to think I’m pretty. We should all be happy and we should all think we are pretty. Do you like it when I smile? I mean, my inside smile. I mean, my smize, when I smile with my eyes. Do you like it when I smile? Am I light because of my caloric deficit, light because I am light on my feet from hours of downward dog and pigeon, or do you see that inner light in me which comes from all I practice? How about that sense of peace that radiates off me – do you think it’s hot? When I’m grumpy – do you still want me? Is there an actual happy, is this a thing I can achieve? Is there an end goal? Or is it just a false surface? What’s the point of any of it if it’s just for me? When you have the ability/access/ freedom to be in harmony do I radiate internally and does that light attract people to me? Am I likeable? Am I likeable when I’m not at my shiniest? Are people able to see beyond my physical boundaries to my true self? Is happiness real and do I deserve it? Is the happiness I’m feeling now real? How do I hold onto it? Is it real if I don’t share it?
Imagine, walking into studio full of physical hotness, and a bunch of people with obvious disposable income, to do things like practice infrared hot candlelit yoga while listening to hip-hop, eat well, and get all the potions and creams that Gwyneth Paltrow uses. It’s intimidating. Happiness is intimidating and often uninviting. These spaces can easily feel like a very tight inner circle full of, “those people,” a commonly used term for things we don’t understand, as if to say, you’re different from the rest of us.
Socrates said, “Symmetry is beautiful.” He also said, “Know thyself.” What if I know that I am not symmetrical? What is the essence of beauty when it comes to surviving? The prettier I become via my expensive happy practices, the more aware I am of the lack diversity within these happy spaces, as if the people I grew up with are not capable of happiness, or not capable of being called pretty. I mean, I don’t know if I want to be happy or if I want to be pretty or if I only got the chance for happiness because of my beauty, but I see pretty and beautiful people every day who will never make it on the billboards or yoga magazines and billboards because they don’t fit the current mold of what it means to be pretty.
Socrates never said much about the cost of knowing oneself in today’s beautiful, soul cycle, class pass, and selfie filled society. He left out the $30 drop in classes and $150 a month subscriptions, the privilege to take the time to practice extra curricular activities, forms of technology which in their creation where made for inclusion, balance and awareness, not separation.
We have done ourselves a great disservice by attaching the practice of personal wellbeing to a physical outcome. We’ve appropriated an ancient Eastern technology, and use it at a system to sell diets, clothing, and equipment. Pretty people sell: memberships, merchandise, $7 granola bars, vegan smoothies, and wellness gimmicks. But pretty is not synonymous with happy, and it’s certainly not required to be well. Beauty and money are not prerequisites for spiritual enlightenment. In fact, if your version of true happiness includes beauty and material wealth, then you’re missing the point. But life and yoga and mindfulness and health and happiness is a business, it needs to be sold. And physical change sells, so it becomes the focus of what it is all about. The great sages of India didn’t follow the path of yoga to get bikini ready, they followed it for eternal bliss. And they certainly didn’t look like the honeys over at Hot8.
I don’t know how to make health and happiness more inclusive on a large scale. I wish I could reach out to everyone who has ever felt intimidated to walk into a studio and say, “welcome, come inside.” I wish I could tell the young girls who see thin yoga models and think it’s something to aspire to that they can do so much better. I wish I knew how to get meditation into low-income communities. But most of all, I wish we all did a better job of standing up for tradition and authenticity, and teaching people what they need… not what sells.
I know when I’m truly happy, and I know when I’m on the right path the perception of other’s doesn’t matter. That if I’m on the right path I am able to give and receive in the exact way I’m meant to, and that is exactly what happiness is. When I feel happy, I feel pretty, prettier. In fact, what really happens is I care less about how pretty I am or aren’t, I think less about my pretty, far less. In fact, I think less about myself, far less. As I change to less self, people notice, and I can notice more people more paradigms outside of myself. Maybe the goal, my hope, is that the goal is that we become so happy, we know that we are beautiful no matter what. We become so internally pretty we know that everyone deserves to love him or herself in this way. We become so pretty happy, happy pretty that we break down all walls that restrict any person who doesn’t feel welcome. We, in all our beauty, welcome they who are also beautiful, with open arms. We invite them in to share space with us. We know that we are beautiful no matter what. This is what health and happiness is all about.
Happiness and beauty for all, happiness and beauty for the benefit of all beings.
Hope this helps.
Author Bio: Chris Rivas, I am an awardwinning international storyteller (winner of The MOTH), passionate artivist, published writer, film/television (GLOW, Grey’s Anatomy, SEAL Team, Shameless, Rizzoli & Isles, 2 Broke Girls, Rosewood) and theater actor.
My artistic mission is to create and share stories that move us forward, blend boundaries, and encourage dialogue. I am the proud founder of Lifestyledezine, a community dedicated to exploring and realizing the power of compassionate storytelling.
As a storyteller, I have created empathy labs for Upworthy.com, developed and facilitated storytelling labs and story for healing workshops for the UNHCR, The US Embassy, Hollywood Heart Foundation, LAUSD, The Expressive Arts Institute in Berlin, LAMP on Skid Row, Safe Place for Youth, The Museum of Broken Relationships, The Skirball Cultural Center, Unplug Meditation Studio, CalArts, and UCLA. I was born and raised in NYC. I am a proud graduate of CalArts and currently a Ph.D. candidate in Expressive Arts for Global Health & Peace Building from The European Graduate School.