By Geeta Rao
Is there an inherent conflict in the pursuit of God in Gucci or Prada or whatever newbie designer of choice may be the flavour of the month? Can one ever attach a sartorial quotient to one’s search for God or the truth?
When the editor asked me to write about my fashion evolution on the spiritual path, I had an extreme out of body experience. Did tough journeys, renunciation, conflict, turmoil, yo yo samsaric seduction, teachers, mentors, all devolve into a fashion moment? But having passed that judgemental moment, I decided to give it some thought.
In India faith does have some clear sartorial codes – black if you go to Sabarimala, white if you are a Haji or an ashramite, orange if you become a sadhvi. Long ago, or at least it seems long ago, I went through a phase where I felt being on the path needed a uniform. Crisp khadi kurtas and churidars, pure shawls and delightful muslin dupattas to match my belief in being a designer renunciant. Fragrant candles to create the right atmosphere. But as most people quickly discover, it is easy to look the part, and much more difficult to be the part. And for anyone on the path, my advice would be to watch as things fall away rather than fit into some preconceived notion on what dress code spirituality should have. These are distractions and often a prescription for internal conflict.
I did notice some things happening as I went deeper into my practice. My love for jewellery fell away. I continued to love the beauty of jewellery but on other people or in books – I felt no desire whatsoever to buy jewellery. I did see a falling away of my attachment to my favourite colour black, though I still have a lifetime’s supply because it is carried over from an earlier age, and it is a convenient uniform in the corporate world. But it has not been replaced with a love for white – another great attachment in the early days. It has been replaced with a love for bright colours in clothes and delightful bright make-up. I find myself wearing brighter colours now than I did 10 years ago. Red, though, has suddenly become an oppressive colour. I sit and watch all this – these are phases to be experienced and left behind. I wonder which will fall away next? Or come up for that matter? I don’t particularly like complicated flowing garments. I personally like simple, comfortable lines but so would most people my age. As the externals start dropping away, though, it doesn’t really matter. Spaghetti straps, salwar kameez, Reebok yoga gear, black, blue, pink eventually nothing matters when you sit down to meditate. Watch your own reactions to fashion, to clothes, to cuts and colour –whether it inspires you to feel judgemental, resentful, happy, celebratory, rejecting, controlling, beautiful. Watch whatever comes up and watch when it falls away. That is all that matters.
Geeta Rao is a seeker in the Vipassana tradition and an advertising and media professional.
She is currently Health & Beauty editor at Vogue, India
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