Soul Survivor

Can Vipassana practice help you survive on a desert island—and win a million dollars?

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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

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