I recently bought a new pair of in-ear headphones. I am a vivid reader and while I’m not writing, I’m reading a book. This, however, interferes with my girlfriend’s TV schedule. In order to be in the same room and both be happy with what we do, I wear my headphones while she watches TV shows. I have, now, 3 pairs of headphones – one pair in each room. Still, I’m currently looking to purchase a new pair of Bluetooth headphones (facepalm). I simply can help it. My current headphones are with wire and I think that getting a pair with no cable will save my life. I know, it’s a really stupid way of thinking. That’s why I thought that I should write a piece of content about our always wanting more mindset. Hopefully, this will dissuade me from purchasing one more thing that I don’t really need.
One of the main differences between Buddhism and other religions is that Christians, for example, worship a superhuman power, god, and other supernatural entities. The central figure of Buddhism, on the other hand, is not a god but a human being called, Siddhartha Gautama.1
For the most part of his young age, he lived inside one of the three palaces of his father, away from all the pain and suffering happening in his kingdom to be.2 When he was finally introduced to things happening beyond the walls of his existence – sickness, pain, death, which are an essential part of our existence, he decided that is time to escape the realms and find a way out of suffering for his people.
Gautama run away from home at the age of twenty-nine, leaving behind his family and possessions. He traveled as a homeless bum throughout India, searching for ways to cure pain and find peace. He spoke with different gurus and visited ashrams, but all he found was still lacking the essential ingredient for life without suffering. Finally, after six years of meditation, he realized that suffering is not caused by ill fortune, by social injustice, or by divine whims. Rather suffering is caused by the behavior patterns of one’s own mind.
Siddhartha insight was that no matter what mind experiences, it usually reacts with craving, and craving always involves dissatisfaction. When the mind experiences something distasteful it craves to be rid of the irritation. When the mind experiences something pleasant, it craves that the pleasure will remain and will intensify. Bottom line, our minds are always dissatisfied and restless. This is very clear when we experience unpleasant things, such as pain. As long as the pain continues, we are dissatisfied and do all we can to avoid it. It’s also very noticeable when we experience pleasant things. Let me give you an example from our current way of living: When we post something on our Facebook wall, we get instant satisfaction after the first few likes, however, we also crave for that feeling to remain and even intensify – get even move likes and hopefully a few cheerful comments. There is also the feelings of fear and dissatisfaction – we fear that our post won’t gather a huge amount of likes. Even if it does, it will be never enough and we then feel dissatisfied.
As you can see for yourself, a large portion of our lives is a never-ending loop of dissatisfaction. We never feel satisfied or truly happy. No matter what we achieve, we are never content with ourselves. Those who live in poverty dream of riches. Those who have a million dollars want two million. Those who visited half of the countries in the world want to visit the other half. The sad part is when we do get those one million dollars, or when we do visit all countries in the world, instead of feeling satisfied and complete, we will want more.
Why we’re never satisfied?
Mainly, the reason for our chronic annoyance and displeasure is caused by one force that helped us reach the technological heights of the 21st century – capitalism. This economic system allowed people of all classes to create their own private ownership which will potentially lead to making a profit.
Currently, thanks to the global organization of banks, the low transport fees, the internet, one can easily create his private property and sell something to other people, all around the world. Of course, since you’ve taken money from the bank, you will need more customers to cover the fees and keep the operation going. You will be looking for growth in every aspect. More customers, means more money, which means more investments to get even more customers, which means even larget bank fees.
Ok, but where does it all start from?
There are a lot of repeating events that occur while we’re still young that enforce us to want more stuff when we grow up.
Raised by always wanting more mindset
I was born in 1988. My parents told me stories about how people had money but there weren’t enough goods to buy. They had to wait for at least an hour to buy milk for me and my brother – and occasionally fight, verbally, with others who were trying to cut through the line. There was a demand for everything: groceries, clothes, services, tech stuff (tv’s, refrigerators, washing machines, etc.). A lot of people understood that and invested money in different business aspects. By the time I was 7 years old, factories were already booming and producing more than we can consume.
I remember begging my parents occasionally to buy me something: a new pair of sneakers, GameBoy, toys, new “cool” clothes, camera, and other things I didn’t really needed to own. When you’re young, your little mind is influenced by all the commercials you see on the TV but most of all, by the kids around you. When someone had a new cool toy, everybody from the block wanted the same toy.
Envy is the unpleasant emotion that can arise when people are exposed to others with superior possessions. There are a lot of reasons people can feel envy, one of them, is caused by our survival instincts. When we see others who possess things we don’t have, we fell threaten in a way. We think that with this new tool, or a hat, will give the owner more power, more followers, thus we will lose our position on the battlefield called life. Another more realistic example is when two males compete for a woman. In the animal world, the fanciest male wins, or the strongest one.
Women, by nature, are more attracted by physically strong males. Why? Well, a weak dude back in the days had fewer chances to survive an animal attack or remain alive for long enough to take care of his wife and the baby. That’s why women naturally will feel more attracted to a man who has big arms and a six-pack. Obviously, a muscular male can better protect them from the outside world, rather than someone, who can barely lift his shirt.3 The feeling of rivalry is amplified in females. In order to survive, they were dependent on males, meaning, they had to win, seduce, the strongest man around. That was the only way to ensure their own safety and the safety of their children, thus makeup was invented.
The Impact of Modern Technologies
As I mentioned earlier, while we were young, we constantly desired what the kids around us had. Even though this wasn’t good either for us or four our parents, things got even worse when the Internet took over the world. At that point, you no longer wanted what your neighbor had, you were now competing with kids all over the world. Social media channels allowed us to see what others possess, which results in more dissatisfied children all around the world.
If we follow that logic, we will think that the richest kids were the happiest one – since their parents have enough funds to buy them what they fancy. Well, that’s not quite right. I am sure that all of you knew a kid with rich parents back in the days. Or you were that kid? He had tons of toys and he was also the first that got a car – how can you not envy this dude? Still, can you say that they were happy and satisfied with their lives? I bet you can’t.
We’re back to the basic – when we earn one million we now want two. However, we now additionally want 1,234,233 other stuff. Not because we actually need them, but because, “this other dude who I follow on Instagram has it and it looks pretty cool.” Also, technologies are so advanced that there are new awesome things produced every day: drones, jetpacks, electric bikes, slick cars, and etc. It’s really hard not to want a piece of this new advanced technology in your hands.
How to escape consumerism?
In short, you probably can’t. We were raised with the idea of constant growth. It’s basically in our DNS – the desire to want more land, more food, more resources. In the prehistoric, and later in medieval times, more things meant higher chances for survival.
The facts are against us and we can do very little to resist the temptation of wanting more. Or can we?
Siddhartha Gautama found that there was a way to exit this vicious circle of constantly wanting more things. If, when the mind experiences something pleasant or unpleasant, it simply understands things as they are, then there is no suffering. If you experience sadness without craving than the sadness go away, you continue to feel sadness but you do not suffer from it. You simply embrace it and you learn from it.
But how? How can you accept things as they are, without craving for better feelings and more likes?
Gautama developed a set of meditation that trains the mind to experience reality as it is, without craving. These practices help the mind to focus all its attention on the question: “What am I experiencing now?” rather than on “What would I rather be experiencing?” In other words, understand your current situation, become self-aware of your current feelings and embrace them.
One of these meditation techniques is called Vipassana. In a single sentence, vipassana is: “To watch your breath with awareness.” That’s all. It is just simple. To be watchful of your breath as it comes and goes.4 The video below will help you get the basics and start practicing the simplest form of meditation:
How can we escape consumerism in modern times?
I was really fascinated by the story of Siddhartha Gautama – Buddha. Even though his scholarship is amazingly simple and powerful, it’s really difficult to be implemented in our current time and by the masses. Actually, 99 percent of Buddhists did not attain nirvana. Probably you can achieve enlightenment and be more satisfied if you follow Buddhism. Still, here I want to focus on some simple techniques that can be implemented and practiced in our current time:
Breaking Free from Consumerism in 3 Easy Steps
Shop fasting – The traditional fasting is a great way to clean your body from all the shitty food we daily fill our bodies with. Shop fasting is simply a way to say “no” to everything: every commercial you see, every new gadget filling your feed, everything. Commit for a certain period of time – 40 days for example – that you won’t purchase anything besides essential things, like food, toilet paper, washing powder, books (I can’t imagine a world without books). Of course, after the period is over, don’t go on a shopping spree to fill your closet with stuff you don’t actually need. Rather, try to extend the period even more. The idea is to understand that you don’t constantly need new clothes to walk around other people. You probably already have enough clothes for at least several years in advance.
Learn lagom – I recently read a book called: Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living. Lagom roughly translates to “not too little, not too much, just right.” It’s a Swedish concept that teaches people who to be satisfied with what they have and how to learn to live a more balanced life. Imagine eating the right amount of food or buying a practical car. Even though it’s not the most beautiful on the market, it’s exactly what you need. It’s something like being a minimalist, but not that extreme. You can still open your Facebook and Twitter, but don’t spend your entire day scrolling through the never-ending avalanche of statuses.
Keep a journal – Keeping a daily journal helps us in many ways. One of the benefits is that you can become more satisfied whit what you currently have when you write it down every day. When you wake up, instead of checking your phone, take your diary and write down a couple of things that keep you moving and make you feel happy. This can be about a conversation with your wife, experience with your children, the excitement of the project your working on, or other things. When executing this activity daily, you will become more aware of the things you already have and suppress the need for more clutter.
There are definitely other ways that will help you become more pleased with yourself and feel more complete. Meditation is one of them. However, don’t imagine standing on the ground whispering “ommm”. Meditation is far more from that. You basically schedule time with yourself. Time, where you can think, talk, and become aware of your current state.5
We’ll probably never reach nirvana, cleanse craving entirely from our lives, or find complete liberation from suffering, but we can at least try. The world is moving forward very fast, which means that newer and cooler stuff will emerge. Flooding our feeds and our minds with not so pleasant thoughts: “You’re not cool enough if you don’t own the iPhone”; “You’re fat because you’re not following my training program”; “You’re not smart enough if you don’t read my blog.”
No outside things can make you truly happy. To be satisfied with yourself, you need to first feel comfortable with yourself. Of course, some work will be required.
We need to train our mind for clarity, free of fantasies and delusions. Be mindfulness and accept what life brings you. The Enlightened One, Buddha, encapsulated his teaching in a single law: suffering arises from craving; the only way to be fully liberated from suffering is to be fully liberated from craving, and the only way to be liberated from craving is to train the mind to experience reality as it is. A person who does not crave cannot suffer.
- Gautama Buddha, also known as Siddhārtha Gautama, or simply Buddha. He is the founder of Buddhism.
- Asita, hermit ascetic, who predicted that Siddhartha could become a great king, even an emperor. Or he could become a great sage and savior of humanity. The father of Siddhartha, eager that his son should become a king like himself, was determined to shield the child from anything that might result in him taking up the religious life. That’s why he was never allowed to go outside.
- Women are also attracted to males who have the coolest feathers, so to speak. This can be easily observed in the lives of the peacocks. The male with the best coloring wins the female. There is a whole theory invented by a guy who calls himself Mystery. He calls it peacocking. It’s described in details in his book – The Mystery Method.
- You can see more about this technique on this site I found – LINK.
- I’m using an app called Headspace. It’s like meditation for total beginners. I’m highly recommending it – LINK.