What led to our current problems? Pretty much a lot of people buying things that they couldn't afford. Some shady CEOs el al took it from there. Things we didn't need. Cavernous houses, shiny new cars, stuff, matter, atoms and now some people are losing jobs so the things that aren't paid for become an even steeper and more costly burden. It's stressful to have too much, whether it's someone handing you a huge plate of food, too many gifts over the holidays, so many items to sort and place and clean and try to use. How can we get out of this cycle? We didn't enter in consciously, we were born into it. But to exit this pattern, we will have to be very conscious and proactive.
Yoga can help us let go of our consumerism by sharing with us the yamas and niyamas, the first two of eight limbs within the yoga philosophy. Particularly, aparigraha and satya will remind us of what we need to gain the strength to stand strong against the cultural drive to buy buy buy. Aparigraha can also be called non-possessiveness and is about letting go of greed, and taking only what is necessary. This might mean we chose to live in an apartment for now, or purchase a used car that will get good mileage, or maybe drive our current car until it honestly won't go anymore. This means we will have to resist the urge to give in to another cultural pressure, conspicuous consumption, aka keeping up with the Joneses. Satya can help us by highlighting truthfulness within ourselves. We must ask what really makes us happy at the end of each day. When we honestly answer, the breathless rush to acquire will be stilled .
I am not saying this is easy. I am not saying we can always attain it. This is years of ingrained pressure from tv, billboards, and people around us. However, I am making an effort to consider what I have and what I really need, and working to give away what I do not need. Here are a few ideas to try. If you already do these, see if you can make it better, or more frequent.
- Consider having an exchange with friends. Bring any items you don't want or need any more (clothes, books, gifts you could not use) and see who might have a real need for it. At the end, box everything up and take it to a place where it will be used, salvation army or to a school in a poor area, they will find someone that needs it, trust me. There is so much need in these places that it can knock you over if you don't steel yourself. A lot of the need isn't even material. Think about giving your time to someone, friend, family, or stranger.
- Recycle. Have two trash cans so it just flows easily. Make a list of what can be recycled and take a little time to make sure the system you create works and is manageable. Make a visit to the recycling center something enjoyable, go with a friend and have coffee after. Allow yourself to feel so good about letting go, just as our culture makes us feel good when we bring home bags of something new.
- Sort mail and cancel any magazines you don't really buy from. Usually you can just email them to remove you from the list. Make a stack of 10 and it will take you 10 minutes. Think of all the recycling you won't have to do later!!
If you have any other ideas, please, comment here. Here's resolving to practice aparigraha and satya in 2009. Please practice these New Year's Eve too, and I will see you for yoga soon :) Thank you for being open to "producerism". May we all create rather than consume in the coming year!