I probably fell in love with handbags in 2001 when I bought the Balenciaga 'Motorcycle' bag, but I can't recall when I became obsessed with the Hermes Birkin bag. All I knew is it would be mine one day. It was about $5,000, choosing the size, color, and leather. I would order it and be on the wait-list and wait for the day the Hermes store called to let me know it was ready for pick up.
I woke up one morning to an e-mail from a former client of mine with the subject: “I have what you want.” Instantly I knew what the e-mail was about. I opened the e-mail, my heart almost stopped. There black on white in pure Hermes lingo, it read: “It’s cognac and 35 cm. Interested?” Like a junkie in need of a hit, I immediately wrote back: “When can we meet?”
We meet and exchange the Birkin bag for 10 yoga lessons! After the transaction I felt like the luckiest person in the world.
I am a yoga teacher and my work clothes are yoga clothes, but I was sure the bag would be a great workbag. A month went by and I had used the bag a few times. For some reason the bag didn’t feel right. My mind kept repeating like a Mantra: “I don’t think I like this bag.” I could feel something being stirred up inside me. All I could think of was that I had to get rid of the bag.
I threw the bag on the floor and “accidentally” stepped on it thinking I would like it better with a vintage look. My husband looked at me: “What are you doing?” Casually I answered: “I thought if I beat it up a bit I would like it better…” He shook his head: “What is wrong with you?”
I didn’t know, but intuitively I knew the Birkin bag was a Guru here to teach me something. “A good teacher,” according to Desikachar, “is a guide; he/she will show you that the answer is inside you. And there is a right answer.” I had a lot of questions, like: Was it un-yogic to wear such an expensive bag? Would I have to let go of any desire for expensive things?
It took a couple of years before a couple of right answers came:
1. I had conditioned myself to believe that life was about working hard and acquiring things that to me represented milestones, rewards in life for working hard and achieving goals. The Hermes Birkin bag represented a milestone to me.
2. The stigma the bag carries in incredible. People notice the bag before they notice you, and you are immediately looked at differently. I hated that.
I own a lot of expensive designer handbags, but I never knew that a bag could send SUCH strong signals, but reality is a bag will show society your status, taste and personality.
Although the bag made me question if buying or owning expensive things could hinder spiritual progress, I don’t believe that. Material things can neither make us more nor less spiritual people. It’s ones attachment to things and how much importance we put on them that is the key, I think.
The yoga asanas that challenge me the most are the ones that teach me the most about myself. The discomfort my “Birkasana” brought on took it to another level where I was forced to dig deeper and analyze what was going on.
To become enlightened means to wake up! And we all need a wake-up call at various times in our life. It sounds so ridiculous, but I was on my way to define a part of myself by expensive handbags. The Universe noticed and sent me a warning in the form of a Birkin bag: “Are you sure you want to go down this slippery slope, Anita?”
We are given many opportunities on the mat as in life to let go of baggage. Although I can’t let go of the bag, I am traveling lighter; but once an addict, always an addict. I can go for long periods without ‘the urge’ but recently I saw a Bottega Veneta bag and my heart almost stopped. Nobody’s perfect, not even a yoga teacher (ha!).
We don’t always get what we want when we want it, but we always get what we need when we need it. In my case I actually got what I wanted, but more than that I got the answers I needed. I am truly blessed.