Materialism: so you think you’re not hooked?
‘Understanding ourselves, we come to understand all things, but if we seek to understand all things without knowing the nature of our own awareness, great will be our calamity.’ David Frawley
What does addiction have to do with a simple, low impact existence?
You probably know at least one person whom you regard as addicted in some way. And perhaps you feel deep compassion for them and those around them whilst at the same time breathing a deep sigh of relief that addiction has not touched you. Or has it?
Addiction is a seriously loaded word. It carries with it such strong emotions around the destruction of lives, livelihoods and key relationships that it can be difficult to face head-on or to believe that we might in some way be caught in it. Despite all that, I’m inviting you to consider for one moment where that might be happening to you. Why? Because such an exploration can be an important route to removing obstacles in our lives. It’s key to us fulfilling ourselves and delighting in the beauty and the sanctity of life itself. It’s also one path to unearthing our individual purpose and to establishing sincere connection with others. What could be more worthwhile than that?
We usually associate addiction with a chemical dependency: alcohol, sex, drugs, gambling etc. And we have a tendency to recoil from these ideas because they cause such obvious pain. In spiritual terms, addiction is more subtle and all pervading than that and therefore futile to attempt to avoid. From the perspective of spiritual intelligence, addiction is the dependency on anything external to fulfil our needs. For example, we might be hooked on following a particular career path, on being with a particular person, on a status symbol such as a flash car or luxury home. Whilst the chemical relationship might not be there, the dependency is still apparent to the trained eye and enquiring mind. This kind of subtle addiction is at the heart of materialism.
How do I spot where I’m caught?
Observing ourselves and how we live and earn a living is key to identifying where we’re getting stuck in our compulsive habits.
What do you habitually do each day that you’re sure you couldn’t change?
What would feel stressful to let go of?
What must you have in your life?
What must happen for you to feel ok?
What must you achieve for you to see yourself as worthy and acceptable?
What do you crave?
What’s your story?
Any addiction, however subtle, apparently harmless and even socially acceptable, leads to suffering because we’re constantly striving to control something outside ourselves and that’s never guaranteed to work. So, trying to make it happen leads to constant anxiety.
What’s the remedy?
The answer is to become more intelligent, not in a traditional, intellectual way, but emotionally and spiritually more clued up. The intellect can be very useful in the world of practicalities, and I’m not suggesting that we dispense with it. But the intelligence of the mind is not the correct tool for understanding life at a soul level – on a plane where we feel fulfilled and where life holds true meaning for us. Spiritual masters from most traditions will explain that we can only know the truth of who we really are through direct perception. We can only really know our true worth, potential and purpose this way too, not through external gratification or artificially imposed identity, however compelling. And direct perception can only happen through slowing down our lives enough so that we have time for inner work such as reflection, contemplation, prayer and meditation. Slowing down and simplifying our lives go hand-in-hand. A simpler external world is more conducive to quieting the mind. A clear and peaceful mind is nourished by a low-stimulus, straightforward outer life.
Any form of addiction, obvious or subtle, is a method we use to distract ourselves from perceiving life directly, from facing our demons … and our joy. The antidote is to turn instead to self-enquiry, to traverse any obstacles we find and to transform our painful patterns into authentic self-expression in how we live, play and serve others.
Although material success might be a part of our path, enduring happiness and true satisfaction cannot be derived from external achievements and acquisitions alone, but only by transforming ourselves and living and working from a place of integrity and love.
© Sally Lever – www.Sallylever.co.uk
Sally Lever is a professional coach, writer and facilitator who specialises in working with those who aspire to a simple, sustainable and sacred life and livelihood. She coaches internationally by telephone or Skype and offers groupwork on the “inner reskilling” necessary for thriving, harmonious groups and communities.
The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's