Clothes, shoes, books, cds, earrings, handbags, sheets, cups & glasses, towels, credit cards, bank accounts, memberships, email addresses, social media profiles, mobile phones & techno devices, diaries, agendas, photo albums, notes…
We always seem to want more. We want to have things, to own them, to go shopping, to replace the older objects by newer ones and no matter what service we are getting from the current ones we always seem to wish for the latest, on a non stop spiral of wishing-wanting-getting.
We want to be here, there & everywhere at the same time. We follow a thousand people & accumulate hundreds of ‘friends’. We talk through our mobiles when we walk on the street and even when we are driving. We go on holidays and keep posting comments & photographs of where we are and what we are doing. We have dinner with the family while the television is on & feel proud to say that we can actually multitask.
What’s the purpose of all these? What do we get out of it? Everyone finds his own piece of heaven I believe, a personal pleasure or satisfaction and I am not one to judge it. What I wonder is if this crazy constant wave of arithmetic (or even geometric?) progression brings true happiness to us as human beings, if it is connecting us to what we truly are or if otherwise it is guiding us to becoming unplugged from our source.
Jesus Christ was born in a stable, laying in a manger, belonging to a humble working family. He would not reject rich people or luxury but defended the fact that excessive attachment to wealth (greed, waste) would get us away from our purpose and lead us in the opposite direction, away from joy & fulfilment, especially if it meant not sharing or not helping those who were not fortunate enough to be as wealthy. As a consequence, coherent Christians practice simplicity living & austerity.
Siddhartha, on the contrary, was born within a royal rich family, surrounded by gold & gems & sophisticated scents. He was isolated from the real world, living a luxurious life where everything was perfect & beautiful. Until one day he saw the poor sick elderly people on the streets of his town and he realised that there was something else in life, something that up to that moment was hidden to him. So the prince left the royal palace to experience what living with nothing meant and this is where he found the stillness & the peace of mind he needed to be. He became The Buddha, the Enlightened, and Buddhist followers find one of the main keys to wellbeing when they detach themselves from material things .
In a more contemporary (chronologically) approach, Dr Wayne Dyer always tells us in his books & lectures about the importance of living on purpose, connected to our Source, sharing & helping others, being grateful, experiencing joy through the simplest of things around us. This man truly touches my heart. I love listening to his deep honest voice, I love seeing him on stage delivering such talks full of easy-to-understand & undeniable facts based on his personal experience & wisdom through the years. If you are not in love with him yet I encourage you to watch this talk divided into two parts (around 25 minutes in total) and I bet afterwards some of you will become unconditional Dyer’s fans forever (if that’s the case, look for the movie The Shift and enjoy every minute of it, please).
My friends Ani & Javi are at the moment in an Asian travelling life search. What are they searching for, you might wonder? I guess they are pursuing true experiences related to human interaction, wherever they go. They travel light & rely on people’s good will & generosity. They don’t need much of the material things I’ve mentioned above. Two months on the roads already and so far the experience has been amazing (they are building up a fantastic blog, in Spanish only, where they share their adventures & photographs). In one of their posts they talk about the official definition of poverty, as apparently the UN considers Mongolia one of the poorest countries in the world. However, and according to their experience, if poverty is living with your loving ones (people of all generations together, learning from each other & helping each other on a daily basis), sharing what you have, looking after your home & animals, respecting nature & being grateful, then most of that type of poverty should spread out all over the world. I could not agree more with what they say.
Is this not what Jesus Christ & Buddha were preaching? Living a plain life, experiencing simplicity every day, detaching ourselves from the dispensable… How much easier would it be for those suffering the consequences of hurricane Sandy to keep going ahead with their lives & to recover after the storm passes if they were living a more simplistic existence? (Travelling to work by metro or plane, needing internet connection & telecommunications all the time, relying on energy suppliers for everything we do…). I know, I know: easy to say, hard to do.
Over the last 3 years I’ve been going through what began as a very tough exercise for me. Not so hard anymore. The exercise consists of going through my belongings twice a year (once at the beginning of the summer season, then again in January with the New Year), packing away those things (you know: books, clothes, sheets,…) that I haven’t been using. Some go to the bin, others I give away. The start is the most difficult part as everything seems to have its uses, and how could I get rid of it if I might need to use it at some point next month-year-life…? Never mind, toss is. I choose to leave space in my reality for all the good things that are still waiting to get in. They have no room, for God sake! How are they going to feel welcome? Once I pack the first bag or box then the energy starts to flow clean and then I just want to open more drawers & wardrobes so I can let more things go.
Another little practice I am going to share with you (even though when I risk it, I submit myself to the critics) comes from something I used to do with my friends when we were little. When our birthdays used to come and we didn’t have any money to buy each other presents (at that time we didn’t always have money in our pockets, as young kids seem to do these days) we would pick something we already had, something that was very dear to us for whatever reason. It could be a doll, any toy, a book maybe, a stamp that was very difficult to obtain, a beautiful hair clip… Anything that meant something to us, and that, well prepared & wrapped, would become the birthday gift to that loving friend. I keep collecting perfumes, make up, books, cds that I struggle to use. And I also keep with me (pure attachment) all these objects that I love for whatever reason. So when those two times of the year come, I put to one side some of these things, mainly thinking about people I know who might enjoy them, so I can give them away as gifts when the time is right. It might sound stupid, ridiculous, stingy or pathetic to some, I don’t care. I know that to me it can still be hard sometimes to get detached from these things, so the exercise helps.
You might agree with me, maybe not, but I would just like you to ask yourself these few questions: How many of those things that you possess are really necessary to you? How many of them do you actually use on a regular basis? Do they actually make you happy? Could you live without them? How would your life be without them? Would you give it a try?
Daniel Defoe said that "All our discontents about what we want appeared to me to spring from the want of thankfulness for what we have." Mongolian people have nothing but everything they need. Who is the poorest then?
"Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay."