In these economic times, cutting spending on creature comforts, and getting rid of unnecessary stuff, have become high priorities for many of us. With this in mind, many of us have been reading up on techniques for writing eBay listings, holding garage sales, decluttering our living spaces, and so on.
While these techniques are useful, few of them address the real reason we find ourselves looking to unload our stuff: our gnawing hunger for possessions. We bought all these things—whether they’re plasma TVs, lettuce dryers, robot vacuum cleaners, or something else—because of this craving, and unless we do something to dissolve our stuff-hunger we may have trouble staying frugal.
In this post, I’ll offer a simple three-step process for getting to the root cause of, and overcoming, our stuff addiction. My goal is not just to help people want less stuff, but also to show how spiritual practices like meditation and self-awareness can have important practical uses in our lives.
Step 1: Get Familiar With Your Hunger
The next time you feel a burning desire to buy something, pause for a few moments and notice how that desire manifests in your mind and body.
In other words, ask yourself questions like these: What do you find yourself thinking when you’ve “got to have” that car, sofa, pair of jeans, or whatever it is you normally crave? Are you dreaming about how others will compliment you on your new chair, how people will admire the way you look in those pants, or something else?
What sensations come up in your body—is there an ache, tension, heat, or some other discomfort? Perhaps the desire feels like a gaping hole inside that you need to fill with some new possession. If so, where is the hole? How big is it?
As you start getting familiar with how you experience your craving, you may notice it beginning to feel more comfortable and manageable. The more deeply you understand your hunger for stuff, I think you’ll find, the less power it will have over you. As Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj said, “you cannot transcend what you do not know. To go beyond yourself, you must know yourself.”
Step 2: Burn In The Urge
Once you’ve got some idea of the contours of your craving, the next step is to spend a little while simply allowing that desire to be. Don’t buy the item or turn your attention to anything else—stay where you are, and fully experience your need for the thing. No matter how intense or painful that need seems, keep breathing, relax your body, and allow the craving to persist until it passes away.
I think you’ll discover that allowing your desire to be, without doing anything about it, can’t hurt you. And when you let yourself fully experience that yearning, it actually passes away quickly—much like any other thought or feeling.
In the past, to avoid the discomfort of that unmet need, you may have been in the habit of immediately reaching for your credit card. But when you understand that you’re strong enough to experience your stuff-hunger without doing anything about it, you’ll find yourself giving into that urge less and less often.
Step 3: Notice That The Hunger Is Insatiable
Another useful technique is to reflect on your life, and recall moments when you’ve let your urge to acquire stuff pull your strings. Each time, you may have expected the things you bought to make you happier, or fill a hole within you. And perhaps you got a short-term high from your purchase. But did you get any lasting fulfillment out of it?
If you take an honest look at all your past acquisitions, I think you’ll find that the answer is no. While getting more stuff may have temporarily “taken the edge off,” in the end it only saddled you with more things to maintain and eventually sell or give away.
I’m reminded of this every time I pass by my neighbors’ yard. For what seems like years, they’ve been landscaping and remodeling their home, and at least three construction vehicles have been on their property at any given time. You’d think my neighbors would eventually be pleased with the results, but each time I talk to them all I hear about is their frustration with their gardener or architect.
If you repeat the simple process I’ve described each time you find yourself consumed by the urge to buy something, I think you’ll quickly begin to see some changes. You’ll feel more in control of your stuff craving, and become able to simply let it flow through you and pass away.
|Steve's Quest, the animated musical comedy, is coming soon. To stay updated, sign up via the show's Facebook page or follow the creator on Twitter.|