This topic is close to my heart, and I would like to begin with a lesson I learned from a Zen koan I read long ago of which I am also fond of, though I cannot remember the exact storyline or origins.
The story, however, is still relevant.
Simply put, there was a Zen master silently meditating in his living quarters when a thief broke into his home.
The master did not move, though he was aware as the thief quietly made his way through the house.
When the thief got close, he accidentally created a noise which piqued the already-aware master’s attention.
The man asked for the master’s valuables, even threatening the master.
Rather than returning with words of hatred or contempt, or even refusal or fear of the man stealing his material possessions, he simply annoyingly turns to the man and said, “Please, sir, take anything you would like from me, just please allow me to practice my meditation in quiet.”
The story went much more in-depth, obviously, but the meaning is still the same. It amazed me reading this as a child because of the fact I was raised materialistically and never saw this as an alternative line of thought.
It’s in our culture at this point to feel materialistic, pause and take the time to consider the number of holidays, work events, and normative social paradigms which include giving and receiving gifts. There are handmade presents for holidays that are great and thoughtful, but I am referring to another monster.
- The kids that get a mountain of name-brand toys at Christmas and their birthdays, leading these children down the path of materialism at an age which they could never comprehend the psychological implication of excessive toy-receiving.
- The exhausted parent who will give in to most of their child’s now materialistic desires, spending money on frivolous toys constantly to bring their child a sense of joy which they feel incapable of causing. Even if those elated feelings are short-lasting. There are always more toys to buy…
- The hollow advertisements allowing us to believe that the product is much more valuable than it is. Psychologists work for these companies, and with their knowledge of the human psyche, they are employed to make commercials more appealing to their audiences and making every useless infomercial product seem like a commodity.
The incessant need to just have more stuff, regardless of how it affects our lives.
We teach our kids this as well, and it will lead them down the same path.
Materialism seems to me to be rooted deeper than we realize, especially when there is anxiety involved in money, whether spending or hoarding or owning materialistic possessions in excess.
We have an issue spending too much money, and I do not mean the random shopping sprees that we all indulge in. I am referring to those of us that spend aimlessly and endlessly, buying anything because it is convenient. It makes our lives easier or better, or rather gives us the illusion of doing so.
All modern humans have become are enemies of inconvenience.
Otherwise, if we have issues hoarding money it is because we have been hurt with money in the past.
Money is the root of materialistic values, so perhaps a parent constantly scolded you for “how much money you cost.” Or saying things like, “having kids is expensive.”
We grow up listening to this and first gain new unnecessary feelings of inadequacy. It becomes a part of us to believe that we simply are not worth much.
We are not enough for our parents because they struggle to pay money over us, or at least won’t shut the hell up about it. We sit in our room, afraid to ask for anything or be a burden. We strive for autonomy, which creates the second issue in this scenario.
It allows you to fall into the terrible delusion that money is more important than you.
Which is simply not true.
The third major issue caused here is that the child does not have the strongest grasp of the concept of money, so situations such as these cause that much more confusion for a developing mind.
But here’s the kicker, is it really the caretaker’s fault?
What do we generally do when we grow up feeling like there’s something fundamentally wrong with us?
Blame the caretakers or parents for making us materialistic
They raised us and taught us more than any other individual, so it must be their fault.
But changing to the perspective of the parent, it is not much different. They are also a product of their conditioning, which caused them to condition the children the way they were.
Not only do the conditioning and environment play a role, but moreover the reaction to traumatic or stressful stimuli.
We know that any situation and instance could really occur when it comes to child development, so we teach them to react by being more kind, more compassionate, and more understanding. Otherwise, we’re allowing another bit of negativity manifest itself in our social sphere.
So, the parents are not to blame, but who can we blame?
The idea could be seen as the Buddhists idea of an afterlife and heaven.
What does it matter?
What does that do for us here and now?
What will blaming anyone really help?
Will it change the fact that throughout the entire course our lives we were lied to and provided with faulty knowledge and wisdom?
Not at all
Blaming your parents won’t change anything, so, first of all, isn’t worth it, and it really cannot be seen as justifiable because they also were a result of fallacious conditioning.
So, we blame ourselves.
That is the only person who is logical to blame, it is obviously us. Whether through a repressed experience or a chemical imbalance, something is wrong with us, that must be the issue.
That also is not fair to yourself.
As I said, humans have the unmatched ability to have a will which allows us to react accordingly to things, rather than by instinct.
I was not aware of this as a child.
I do not remember hearing a single person speak like this, we just silently continue to place blame on ourselves and push us into first self-loathing, then apathy.
So, blaming yourself is not the key.
Now we may be able to see that there truly is no need for blame in this matter.
Materialism is just like any other concept that plague our minds, once the root is discovered it can no longer manifest any bear fruit.
Why is it important to not be materialistic?
Humans have an unparalleled ability to be self-aware, or in this case to be able to disconnect themselves.
So, when money or material goods replace other important areas of our psyches, what we are essentially doing is disconnecting ourselves from reality.
The money is a concept, which is marked with higher importance than other objective realities.
We may not even realize this; many people just continue to feel the ways I have described. They have disconnected so much from reality that trying to explain this point always falls on deaf ears, they are simply unaware of another mode of existence due to fallacious conditioning.
So, what do we do about it now?
Well isn’t that a hard question?
We must effectively continue life with a new paradigm view which is unlike any prior mode of thought.
Must we be cheapskates or hermits, never allowing ourselves to spend money on material items out of spite?
Must we forget our concept of materialism completely?
We must spend our days striving for the middle path, the area of life that allows us to comfortably sit between both extremes of any given situation.
When thoughts or stresses as the ones discussed arise, do not judge these thoughts. Simply allow them to flow freely just like all other energy in the universe and listen to what they have to teach.
These thoughts will lead you to the cessation of these anxieties, once you follow them long enough you will see that they lead to intuition.
Allowing your mind to work naturally
will assist in understanding profound inquiries.
Spend time focusing on the things that require the least financial burden.
Do not burden yourself with a flash and glamorous vacation because reading a book in the backyard can be just as healing.
We simply do not believe this because we have been taught to think that we need to do certain activities for vacation, all of which being pretty expensive.
We have spun ourselves into a series of delusions, and we cannot talk people out of delusions.
However, if we continue to follow our folly it will lead us to wisdom.
This is similar to the methods of a Zen Master, they cannot simply tell you and explain enlightenment within simple terms because it is not something that can be gained through the voice of another. It is something within the individual that forces a paradigm shift, opening an entirely new perspective on our lives.
The Zen Master would trick you into your own foolishness until you finally understood how truly useless it is to think the way we do.
We trick ourselves into thinking we need more because we believe it will ameliorate our lives when realistically the more money and materialistic wealth you have the more problems regarding money become attracted to you.
Take time to enjoy the little things
I know, this sounds highly cliché, but trust me, little things are all that matter. The pieces of the universe in which we find our will manifest.
- In our art
- In our music
- In our actions
- In our compassion
- In our beliefs
Take time to sit and enjoy your plants, watch them for a bit every day as they continue to grow. Notice any small changes that you may see in them, perhaps a new leaf has begun to emerge, or a new sprout has begun from the parent plant.
Plants grow unintentionally, and consequentially peacefully. They are naturally virtuous, as in they provide oxygen and many health benefits for no return.
They do not expect anything in return,
they simply act out of universal compassion.
Take the time to exercise, regardless of your time scale or physical situation.
I understand, sometimes we don’t have the time or energy to work out.
I am that guy all too much
I typically find time to do small things, however. That may be a quick sprint interval session, a short jog, all the way down to just doing leg raises while grabbing my coffee.
We can implement this in our daily lives because we can do it in a way which does not require flashy gadgets.
Weeding, seeding, digging, and all other things you do in your garden will help you physically, so that’s a work out to enjoy.
Just being outside in the sun is truly beneficial for a lot of reasons.
I do apologize for how many tangents I go on. I try to stay on the topic but often find myself skewing off so much I have to put the bulk of what I just spent the last 2 hours on into an entirely different article.
Anyways, my point here and as well as other writings I do related to general anxieties such as those surrounding material possession, time, or money.
We need to understand which thoughts and desires are ours, and which ones have been conditioned.
This is important because until we can realize this point, we will live our lives blindly and in a constant state of delusion and discontent.
I am not judging anybody because I have been caught up in these same stupid loops.
If finally feel I have reached a point where I know what my thoughts are finally my own. This is important because in my past I had heard from extremely opinionated people and had been conditioned throughout my whole life with these thoughts.
To get more personal, though I may have not enacted in all of these, what I am discussing are the following types of common conditioning.
- The false idea the only way to live is by working 40+ hours a week and feeling miserable
- You need to sell yourself for a job that offers a good retirement plan so that in 30 or 40 years from now you will be happy and free.
- That any sexual orientation, race, religion, or ideology is lesser because it is not the shared opinion of any majority.
- That we must live a conventional lifestyle, and we are just damned to repeat the same cycles and be the same perpetual discontent and sorrow.
I know that I am not the only human who has been taught at least one of these, though there are countless more flawed lines of thinking that many of us follow.
Our consciousness is simply muddied by these thoughts
and we have the privilege to clear the waters.
If you have witnessed this act in nature, the water which has mud kicked up has had some type of aggravation. Something was moved too fast or pushed too hard, and the only way to clear this water, much as our mind, is to stop trying and allow nature to return to its natural and peaceful state.
It is not an easy process, even when you have your initial understanding of transcendental topics there is still a long path ahead to complete comprehension, if that may ever be attainable.
So, act with genuine compassion, without ulterior motives. This is the path to true peace and enlightenment, and it requires no materialistic possessions!