Aras Baskauskas saunters into Real Food Daily restaurant in Santa Monica carrying a giant bowl of strawberries and smiling. Tanned with a scruffy beard, piercing brown eyes, and gentle hands, he’s wearing board shorts and a faded Jackson Hole T-shirt. When the waiter approaches, Aras doesn’t lift the menu. “I know what I want,” he says: a pot of chamomile tea. In May the twenty-four-year-old yoga instructor won $1 million on CBS’s hit reality television show Survivor: Panama—Exile Island. Before spending thirty-nine days sparking fires and tapping coconuts, Aras received his M.B.A., played Division One basketball, and opened a donation-based yoga studio in South Africa. His asana practice eventually led him to Buddhism. When someone approached him to be on Survivor, Aras agreed, thinking it sounded like a “heck of an adventure.”
—Caitlin Van Dusen
Professional sports, business school, and Survivor are all team pursuits, yet Buddhism is a solitary practice. How do you see these parts of your life complementing each other? The best way to be a good team member is to carry your own weight. I sat every morning while I was on the island; it was that much easier to do what I needed to do as an individual, and I was that much clearer on the way other people interacted with me. The way I approached Survivor was: How much can I stand in truth and love with a million dollars in my face?
Can you tell me about the time you scolded your teammate Bruce for wasting time building a Zen garden? Well, at that point we didn’t have a fire. It’s great to develop consciousness, but if you don’t have water, it doesn’t matterhow much you sit, that’s not going to work out.
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