Anthony Bourdain Was a Yogi

Posted on in On Our Radar by Shelley Karpaty

Although Anthony Bourdain didn’t practice yoga he was a true yogi in my mind. I’m not sure he’d like it if I called him that but maybe I can convince you. He’d probably be shaking his head thinking, “Another yogi who thinks they know me.”

I began watching Tony’s “No Reservations” show back in 2005 on the Travel Channel. The show’s introduction was an image of Tony skidding across the ice toward the viewer to the sound of a heavy metal guitar and a voice screaming, “I’m Anthony Bourdain, I write, I travel, I eat, and I’m hungry for more. Noooo Reservations.” It was edgy, just like Tony. He allowed viewers to be the voyeur peeking through the window into other countries and their foods. I listened to his lyrical narrative descriptions as if he were speaking only to me. I was hooked.

We all know that Tony was an avid carnivore, a lover of meat in any form. His self-awareness was apparent in every country he visited. In the Mozambique episode, he was acutely aware that he was a perfect metaphor for Africa. The privileged white guy there to observe, commune, and eat. In one rural village, he points out that the people wake up daily at 3 am to make do with what is available to them, trading what they catch or what they grow. “What promoters of vegetarianism may not realize is that much of the world is already living a vegetarian lifestyle and they ain’t too f*ckin happy about it.” Animal protein is a lifegiving luxury, eaten when available.

Although I’m not a regular red meat eater I do eat animal protein. I am educated on the effects of global warming and all the benefits of being vegetarian or vegan. From a bird’s-eye view, I am a conscious consumer who eats animal protein once a day and I’m still reducing my carbon footprint. Any extremism or core fundamentalism that brings judgement upon others is a narrow way to look at the world’s diversity. Being accepting and open to everyone doing what is right for their body and respecting the earth is possible. The theme of hunting and consuming the entire animal was not uncommon in Tony’s travels and while I’d never want to experience that, I accept it for others. Tony explored the earth bringing foreign people and ideas closer to us through culture and food. He could go from eating in a Michelin-rated restaurant to sitting in a village on the dirt floor of a hut, all the while not judging but observing, accepting, and narrating every moment of it. He painted the picture on top of the picture and gave it depth and substance.

Anthony Bourdain

Tony lived by very clear truths
» I don’t have to agree with you to like you or respect you.
» Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park, enjoy the ride.
» Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom…is realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.
» That without experimentation, a willingness to ask questions and try new things, we shall surely become static, repetitive, moribund.

While he had very clear and cutting things to say about vegetarians, it really doesn’t matter, does it? Being a yogi is accepting all that is in equanimity and humility. It appeared that Tony loved and accepted everything he experienced. Was he a yogi connected to God? No. However, his personality to me is literally yogic. Joining, uniting people in the most literal sense. A yogi in the sense of contentment with what was directly in front of him. Perhaps he had this unknowing partnership with his ego that connected his heart to his surroundings. Tony’s inherent belief systems did not dominate but guided him into the journey of humanity and cultural exploration. Through this journey, he became more aware of himself and his place in the world. We all may be small and insignificant beings in a massive world and he brought the world closer to us. He exemplified the basic human desires for love and belonging through his eloquent use of language.

He was no stranger to suffering; he had a past of drug use and alcoholism still taunting him at his passing but he lived his life with truth and conviction, all along exploring, developing deep relationships, and living to the fullest. Tony lived the example of being limitless. He will remain one of my heroes, an American icon and example of someone who lived a full life. I will always have some sadness knowing he is no longer walking on this plane and honor his memory by writing about him, reading about him, and watching his explorations.

Please reach out if you need help. Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Shelley Karpaty lives in Silicon Valley where she has worked for 15 years as a tech industry recruiter. A yogi at heart, she considers herself a seeker of truth, knowledge, compassion, empathy, happiness, laughter, and anything to do with the human condition.

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