In the plane, on my way back from Paris, I finally got to read “Eat, Pray, Love“, the book by Elizabeth Gilbert. Charlotte was so enthused by it, that she had been wanting me to read it, for quite some time. Now, I can see why. “Eat, Pray, Love” is not only fun reading, it is also a very thought provoking book. It has made me aware of the lack of active spirituality in my life, and of the connection between the state of one’s spirit and one’s attitudes and behaviors towards the environment.
Years back, I went through a period of intense spiritual seeking, that left me wanting and disillusioned. As much as I yearned for a reconciliation with the Catholic Church of my youth, there was no way my rational mind could reconcile with the tenets of the Catholic faith. Sufism, Tibetan buddhism, and last, Vipassana meditation, held me for a while, but not long enough to convince me. In the end, I declared myself an agnostic, and learned to become suspicious of anything with a spiritual label. Science and the Jungian model of the Self became the two pillars that sustained me in times of doubt. To this day, I am still religious about recording my dreams, and I use them as the rudder for how to conduct my life. I am finding, that is not enough to still my mind, and free it from the tyranny of my negative thoughts, those recurring thoughts responsible for most of my unhappiness. I know them all too well:
I don’t have enough
I worry I could end up destitute
If I accumulate enough material things, I will be safe
I am separate from the rest of the universe
I might as well get the most I can
I love all that gives me pleasure
I hate all that takes away from my pleasure
I am terrified of death
I worry about all the things that could go wrong
I am out of love
In the end, I am most concerned with myself and my most immediate family
These are just examples of the thoughts that keep me angry, afraid, wanting, and unable to see my needs in the context of the needs of the greater whole. Thoughts like those, are the ones that make me at war with my green conscience. I am reminded of Amanda‘s comment a few weeks ago:
The fundamental solution . . . is to remove the shopping urge, the desire to have more “things”. As you’ve probably come to realize, the satisfaction brought by material things is short lived. Once you “own” the thing you’ve longed for, you enjoy it a great deal for a period of time, then its thrill fades, and then you have to go on another mission to find the next “thing” to fill that excitement hole. The vicious cycle goes on and on.
The whole society encourages this consumer pattern and we in the middle don’t feel anything wrong about this habit but blindly follow it. You, on the other hand, woke up one day and realized that this is not right but feel powerless against the trend.
Actually, I was like that before. I loved high-tech toys, expensive fashion items, and cool outdoor gears. And it was impossible to press down my shopping urge; I just gotta have them or I couldn’t go on function normally. I didn’t like my shopping habit at all, but there was so little I could do about it.
But all this changed late last year, when I started searching for the meaning of life and eventually became a Buddhist. I have no intention of persuading anyone to become a Buddhist (I found that it was very unpleasant when people pushed me to join their religions), but there is a lot of wisdom in Buddha’s teachings that everyone can benefit and apply in everyday life, including killing off this irritating shopping mania silently. It wasn’t even my plan to stop having this material desire, but somehow it’s just gone. Poof. Now I look at catalogs, window displays, or the real things on co-workers, my mind is calm and I don’t feel envy or jealous at all. I don’t have to press down the shopping urge, because there is none. It’s all very strange and hard to explain, but the end result has been marvelous.
There is more to green than meets the eyes. In the absence of external controls such as rules, regulations, and taxes, one is left to fall back on one’s own internal controls, basically one’s ability to truly love others and the planet. Writing this blog is taking me to places I did not anticipate, such as the need to pay more attention to the life of the spirit.