A student messaged me last week saying she felt disgusted with herself and angry, as she still longed to buy beautiful clothes and have beautiful things. I popped it up on Instagram in our stories with my brief answer asking if anyone else wanted more ideas on dealing with the material world. The responses came in hard and fast. It seems this is a really big topic for so many of us, myself included!
I went through a phase where I decided living like a monk might be a good idea. I slept on the floor next to our bed, (Arran LOVED this of course, I mean seriously, I would hop down there on my yoga mat no pillow and call up, night night, hahaha WTF). I was vegetarian, mostly vegan, no stimulants passed my lips and I did yoga 5-6 days a week. I Namasted. I used Ayurvedic toothpaste and oil pulled. I didn’t buy anything ‘unnecessary’. I wore a lot of white. I was being very phoney holy to go with it. And in truth I turned into a quietly judgemental bitch after awhile. Which no one would have known cause I was so busy being ‘compassionate’ and ‘caring’ on the outside (through gritted teeth). I thought I was better than everyone ‘out there consuming’ and that wasn’t ‘on the path’. Thank God this phase didn’t last. And I found my peace, grounding within and realised that life is meant to be enjoyed and that anything that is going to make me a worse person is not my personal path at all.
Then, after all that, Arran and I ran an experiment a few years back where we gave away or sold about 90% of what we owned. It was in answer to the question, do we own our things or do they own us. I thought it would be really cathartic, uber spiritual and I would be like a saint after. The reality was it was horrific, filled with sorrow at all we had consumed, and really bloody hard work. I cried a lot and I had to make peace with a lot of life decisions that had bought me to that moment. I had sacrificed a lot of life to work to buy those things and it was devastating to reconcile that. But, it forever changed us.
And what I learnt finally is that, it’s not what we have, it’s our attachment to what we have that is the problem for us.
The material world is a huge part of our lives. Having beautiful things is a wonderful privilege. But if our happiness is tethered to the material, than we are in strife, because it’s fleeting and it weakens our connection to true happiness which lies within us. This presents as when we buy something when we are stressed. Or we ‘reward’ ourselves for doing a great job with a new product. Or we feel we can’t go on that date until we buy something new to wear. Or we feel sick until we finally have that particular artwork hanging on our wall. Which is all really human behaviour, and we all have iterations of this examples ongoing to work with.
A long time ago, I got divorced then and nothing teaches you non attachment like having most of what you have removed and going bankrupt. Chuck in being a single mum and I would have expected this would have taught me ALL the lessons I needed about non attachment. But no, it’s an ongoing process. It’s something we get to work with every day, and evolve with, and we can make it horrifying or we can make it a curious process, forever learning. For me, there hasn’t been some enlightened moment where I no longer want anything. And I STILL got anxious on our last trip to LA, returning to a store to try on a kimono jacket three times and in all honesty, losing sleep over whether to buy it. (I did, and it’s utterly fabulous). But this is the work we get to do, to understand ourselves better.
So often we think that living consciously is living monastically, without anything, like Gandhi, 7 possessions. It’s not. Living consciously is whatever you decide it to be. For me, it’s about integrity, authenticity, love and compassion. For Arran and I, we love beautiful things. Every item we have though now has meaning and a story, and we don’t consume just for the sake of it. I always ask, what am I seeking in buying this? Is it validation, or security, or to fill a hole? Am I grasping or attached to this, if so, why?
Depriving ourselves of beauty is pointless. Hating ourselves for wanting it, is utterly useless. Being grateful is key. Life is meant to be beautiful, abundant and wonderful. And if obtaining something doesn’t create friction and strain, enjoying it is part of that beauty.
Sent with love,