I wanted to begin this week’s thread with a quotation from the Indian teacher, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj:
“All you want is to be happy. All your desires, whatever they may be, are a longing for happiness. Basically, you wish yourself well… Desire itself is not wrong. It is life itself, the urge to grow in knowledge and experience. It is the choices you make that are wrong. To imagine that some little thing–food, sex, power, fame–will make you happy is to deceive oneself. Only something as vast and deep as your real self can make you truly and lastingly happy.”
The message here is perennial: we fill ourselves with stuff, following a misguided strategy for happiness.
This got me thinking about three main areas where consumption might benefit from a re-evaluation: material objects, Internet use, and social schedules.
1. Material Objects: I’ve recently been reading Francine Joy’s book,The Joy of Less, A Minimalist’s Living Guide. And as a result, I’ve been inspired to mobilize a large-scale purge of personal possessions, including everything from cutlery to clothes, from books to music. Every week for the last month, I’ve carted two large bags of STUFF to the Goodwill store, and my apartment is taking on a wonderful feel of airy spaciousness. This translates to inner-spaciousness and relaxation.
2. Internet Consumption: Last week, my friend, Amy Gutman, had a great blog in the Huffington Post:Message to Facebook, I’m Taking Back My Happiness. The gist of Amy’s article was a meditation on how we engage with the Internet and social technologies, a theme I’ve mentioned in the past. But in the article, Amy cited an application called Freedom which can block you from accessing the internet for a prescribed period of time. It’s BRILLIANT… best 10 bucks I’ve spent in a long while, increasing my productivity many times over. If you struggle with self-regulating your internet time, check it out.
3. Social Schedules: Even though socializing is a wonderful way to connect and engage, I’ve been wondering if my own heavily saturated schedule of dinners, coffees, discussion groups isn’t just a well-rationalized system of self-avoidance. Opening that question, I’ve tried to re-instill a practice from Julia Cameron called The Artist’s Date. An hour or two a week to be alone and do whatever strikes my fancy. It’s a wonderful reminder of the deeper sources of joy.
So this week, consider letting go of your familiar forms of consumption and see what emerges through the release.
Originally published on February 16, 2011