It’s an emotive topic at this time of the year and no less for me. Perhaps more so for those of us who have been on a consciousness-awakening journey and no longer consider ourselves to be attached to owning and accumulating “stuff” or material possessions. After all, we probably spent the last few years shedding our material things, clearing our cupboards and the corners of our houses from detritus collected over the previous portion of our lives, marvelling at how we managed to accumulate so much that we didn’t want or need. I know I have; equating each clear out with an energetic layer of myself newly released to the skies, leaving me feeling lighter and freer somehow and with more room to recover (and discover) my true purpose in life and thus my health.
Our current life and our future-envisioned life has been painted in all the fresh colours of a new kind of simplicity. This newly evolving picture has been achieved through the conscious appraisal of what we really want or need to lead a fulfilling and mindful life that neither weighs us down with responsibilities nor imprisons us in a work-mentality lifestyle in order to pay for them; nor do our choices impact harshly upon other beings caught up in the consumer spider’s web, which has only made it harder than ever to know what it is ethical to buy in recent years. We have prided ourselves, in a way, upon a need for less material embellishment than ever before and our mental image of our future is of a pristine and uncluttered living abode where nothing that is neither useful nor beautiful is kept. We have imagined a capsule wardrobe, using things until they wear out, valuing function over appearance. And yet…where is the joy if we go too far along this road?
There is an equation I have noted many times and it came up for a review this last couple of weeks. At times when I have been through a particular physical struggle or am just coming out of it, I often swing back into a phase of wanting “stuff” again, by which I mean material things and also new and aspirational circumstances such as wanting desperately to travel or move house. Some of the most life-altering travels of my life were masterminded in the thick of times when I was going through terrible physical challenge and hardly able to get up from my sofa; as though I was using the process of making these travel arrangements solid as a means to keep myself here, gripping on to the incentive of “more experiences” up ahead. One of my go-tos at such times is to crave to give myself a make-over or revamp the clothes that I wear, setting off on a “spendy” that seeks to express some new and burgeoning aspect of self that wants to come out to play as colour and form worn “as me”. It partners with that urge I wrote about yesterday, to stop being such a hermit and get out more. The fact my attention, this year as an artist, has been all on designing fabrics and creating clothing and accessories has helped fuel this urge since why would I create such for other people to benefit from if not to model them myself…and yet all of this, inevitably, leads towards accumulation of more-than-just-practical things and “wanting more”.
Then in sweeps remorse at what I have spent and what I have amassed in relatively short time, demanding to know of myself “was it really that necessary?” And so I start rebuking myself and sending stuff back, gnashing my teeth and resolving to do better next year; only to feel like I am thrown back into the mire of pointlessness again. Made all the worse because it feels as though the only way I, temporarily, made myself feel “better” for a short time was to have plunged into this desire-a-thon which is, I try to tell myself, like watching “old me” come back to surface again; discontented and ever greedy for something different. In other words, I make myself wrong….
Or do I? Because all of what I have described are eminently positive urges and I should not, at any level, feel the need to suppress them in myself…not really, though we do; turning our desire to accumulate into a guilty little secret, which then forces it into distortions such as addictive behaviour as we self-medicate our own guilt with even more erratic desires built on top of the originally pure ones (“in for a penny, in for a pound”). As guilt and self-loathing builds, we only lose sight of ourselves more and overwhelm quickly takes over; self-actualising our worse self-image because we believe we have stooped to low to recover. I’ve seen this take place in myself all too intimately since it was a whole way of life in my most miserable early adulthood. However, that is not where I am now; nor do I need to fear it as though it were – because I am a conscious consumer these days. I desire to consume…yes…but there is a very different motivation for it; one which is life-affirming since I recognise in it the revival of the “yang” aspect in my yin-yang equation. This masculine “striving and aspiring” urge is a very-necessary part of any recovery process as it amounts to half of what it is to be human! Denying it is to want to be so spiritual as to virtually not be here, in physical form, at all; and, as someone whose health has made me feel that way more often than not for the last decade, anything that makes me feel like I am here is a bonus.
Because it makes perfect sense to me, from where I currently am, that when you have been through a physically challenging time and almost left the body, literally or figuratively (as I’ve said before, chronic long-term pain can be like a zillion near death experiences) you seek to ground yourself as part of your recovery, using whatever means you have at your disposal. “Wanting material things” can be like ballast to your balloon at such a time, providing a very literal and tangible “reason” why you might want to stay here in a human body on the surface of the earth rather than flying away into the ether. After all, experiencing and relishing things in the three-dimensional material sense is a huge part of that incentive. We have to use whatever means we can to get excited about life all over again and looking only to the most spiritual means is, possibly, not quite enough to bring us back down to earth since we can be fully spiritual without a human body. We need to want to take part in the human-material experience again; whatever that takes.
Those things that we want can become like a symbol of the very desire to stay here; a sort of holy grail that combines the spiritual inspiration with the physical place marker that gets us up and feeling optimistic every morning. One of the first fixations of my friend who pulled-off a remarkable recovery from stage three cancer last year was a desire she had for a particular car, even taking it out for a test drive to make it more real. Why not, having been taken to the very edge of her human reality? To think about such stuff at times like these is not to trivialize or miss the point but to anchor the very desire to be here playing the human game. The material thing we focus upon is not symbolic of all we are about (as it would be if all we cared about were these material things, as could be said of so many of the people that have not been taken to such an edge) but of a desire to provide our most expansive perspective something wonderful to drive around in, or be dressed up in (or whatever), here on planet earth so that it stays around longer…in physical form. We don’t define ourself via this thing nor are we “attached” to it in the way that has become such a dirty word in spiritual circles. Rather, it’s like we are saying to our spiritual aspect “hey, you know pretty much everything there is to know but do you know what it feels like to be behind a wheel of a beautiful car or to walk down a street wearing clothes that turn people’s heads”. Whatever the physical incentive we offer to our spiritual aspect, to induce it to become part of who we are as a human being, we can be sure we are on the right path if we feel excitement around it. As soon as we feel that fizz in the pit of our stomach around the acquisition of a material thing (and that includes an experience or life choice), we know we have hit pure gold and its “game on” for making our life start to work, perhaps, better than it has been doing. In a health context, this could mark the start of a whole new recovery phase. Feeling we must always “give up” what we crave can have quite the opposite effect on our ability to thrive, especially if we feel we have already given up so much of what it means to be a human for reasons that have felt beyond our control, such as illness.
“Renunciation” has such a religious connotation and we may laugh it off but I suspect it is a deeply embedded impulse due to the likelihood that most of us have been through past lives where giving up all that we possess was equated with holiness (including, but not only, when we took holy orders). That belief system was of its time and is now obsolete so it is time to throw it off yet so many of us still find it hard to do so. I notice in my husband that the more he take on a spiritual perspective, the more he craves owning nothing at all and romanticizes a life of just simple clothes and the sunlight on his back, living in a tiny or even mobile home in which we pretty much eat and sleep, immersing in nature. Though I love to be in nature, this is not quite my idea of heaven and I tease him for it but there is a very real place in his psyche where he equates that lifestyle with total freedom from responsibility and thus ultimate earthly liberation. I, however, imagine mostly the extreme hunger and the cold. We all come into life bringing a slightly different emphasis of perspectives from past-life experiences and, I intuit, I have spent many lifetimes where I have been, as it were, a version of the Little Match Girl peering in through a cold and misted window pane at those who “had” when I “had not”. My husband has no problem at all with me expressing through material form; it is me that feels the conflict, as though he is more “holy” than me for not desiring as much. This distorted viewpoint (when I allow it) makes me feel doubly guilty around the topic of accumulating or caring about “things” and yet, from a recovery perspective, I maintain that I must have the means to materially express myself in order to be who I am as the artist and as the embodied spirit that was enticed to earth by the prospect of expressing through such material means. There is unfinished business in me when it comes to playing my own part in creating beautiful things, as an artist, and I must allow myself to pursue that…without guilt or defunct belief systems tripping me over!
So at a time of year when spending and accumulating “things” become emotive topics, this is a theme that I wanted to flag up from this alternate perspective; especially to those who are on a recovery path. If you feel, at some level, that you are flailing around looking for a foothold on reasons to stay here in human form, wanting possessions is not this terribly “bad thing” that we are still so entrained to think it is (whether from a religious or even a new-age spiritual perspective; both of which trend towards this outmoded stance). What if the desire for more is the most direct way that we get to bring our most spiritual aspect into human form and induce it to stay, fully involved in life; which is what the world needs most right now. When we fuel this material desire with our most conscious perspectives yet, we get to dramatically change the world instead of leaving the more material aspects of human existence to those who are still sleep-walking through life without giving the rhyme or reason for consumerism a moment’s consideration. Just some seasonal food for thought!
3 thoughts on “Wanting “stuff””
Very interesting food for thought Helen, it’s true that getting rid of all our possessions is seen as an enlightened thing – and I’ve had the urge many times to become a hermit or nun of some kind and live ‘just’ a spiritual life. Another side is that I also sometimes feel guilt for spending money on myself (that, I believe, comes from my upbringing). But yes, I do like nice things too – not cars, not so much clothes, but things like books, paintings, etc. It’s good to have that balance of knowing the dangers of consumerism but being able to enjoy the things of the world.
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Yes, and I think the play off against our childhood belief systems and limitations makes us consider “what is our own stance” even more carefully to reach that ideal balance. Happy New Year to you Andrea, hope you are having a wonderful Christmas.
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And to you Helen.
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