Who doesn’t want to reside in their dream house in a sought-after neighborhood? Or drive their dream car(s) or have the kids attend private schools? How about taking extravagant vacations or splurging on furnishings, jewelry, art, gourmet delights, designer accessories, and hobby equipment? We want for ourselves what our neighbor has, or a friend or colleague has.
“I want to live the life of my dreams” is how we justify it. And why not? Every generation aspires for the upcoming generation(s) to live a better, more rewarding life. To get where they are, some individuals have overcome physical adversity such as a disability; others have struggled with emotional misfortunes such as abuse or the loss of a loved one; yet others are victims of circumstantial hardship such as poverty and crime. But nearly everyone has dreamed of a good life for themselves and striven to align their priorities toward achieving those goals.
Wealth, popularity, and power are primeval attractions. Earnings and job prestige make life convenient and comfortable; they also promote professional and social visibility. Professional success directly correlates (and vice versa) to an individual’s sense of purpose, belonging, job satisfaction, and financial security. Marking notches on the social fabric has the power to enhance an individual’s sense of social acceptance and emotional safety.
Often, in the rush of life, individuals lose sight of their purpose and start moving—reflexively or, at times, by choice—in an orbit different from the one in which they started. Why? Unconscious living encourages individuals to disregard risk, make troublesome choices, and engage in impulsive actions and behaviors.
Consider this: from holy men to the common man, the populace is fast becoming a generation of hoarders. Soap, shampoo, clothes, shoes, electronics, cars, real estate, gold, international currency—the human thirst for “stuff” and money is insatiable. People own multiples of everything and, yet, want more. Most people don’t realize the extent of their hoarding until they stumble over the wall of cereal boxes behind their pantry door or get caught in the clothes traffic jam in their closet, for example. Consumerism (or should I say over-consumerism?) has most definitely resulted in clutter—both physical and mental. How many times have we bought something, only to realize that we already had it? How many times have we made promises, but neglected to keep them? Confusion has some people clamoring to get things done at the nth hour.
More significantly, consumerism has increased debt and disease. The present-day US debt is in the ballpark of $15 trillion. Ouch! Our hearts and waists are waiting to explode from all of the gastronomical delights in which we have unconsciously indulged. When used irresponsibly, the path of upward mobility has the power to entomb people in unconscious living, depressing their sense of purpose and eroding their sense of self, thus feeding into the collective emotional bankruptcy.
Need I mention the environmental degradation factor?
Second, sense gratification, by nature, is addictive and can ensnare individuals in a perpetual trap of “want-and-seek.” Addiction spans the gamut from trivial to overwhelming. It used to be that we’d arise in the morning and reach out to the greater powers with a prayer of gratitude. Today, we simply reach out to our BlackBerry or iPhone. Know anyone addicted to the internet, alcohol, sex, drugs, medication, gambling, cigarettes, or plastic surgery? Those are the obvious ones, some of which serve as sensational fodder for the media. One glance at the evening news on television or the front page of a daily newspaper will reveal the pervasiveness of these afflictions.
How about the obsession with video games and texting? Kids as young as ten have become adroit texters. Many adults text and drive, or drink and drive, despite understanding the repercussions. Exercise has become a form of addiction for some. Celebrity glitz, glamour, and gossip have firmly emblazoned people’s minds. The flames of bitterness, anger, guilt, and depression have consumed many a people. Granted, certain mental conditions have a genetic component, but modern-day addiction is more of an acquired condition that has become deeply ingrained over time. Addiction has elevated greed and anxiety to an all-time high and plunged apathy to new lows, making gratitude and contentment a thing of the past.
The human pursuit of pretense, fraud, glamour, sensationalism, and other stodgy holdups has resulted in the loss of moral bearings, dysfunctional behaviors, the collapse of family life, disease, mental and emotional stress, restlessness, frustration, incoherence, anguish, and dissatisfaction.
Your life is filled with work, possessions, and diversions, but is it also filled with balance and contentment? Your social image is as well-manicured as your front lawn, but does your inner image resemble scenes from a Hollywood disaster movie? You delight in gastronomical indulgences, but do you still feel empty inside? You hold the power to change the world, but do you crumble in the face of emotional hardships and challenges? Does your “net worth” stack up against your “sense of worth?”
Questions are for you to ask; the answers will come find you. Freedom from the trappings of the external world can lead to freedom from mental anguish. Vipassana meditation, the passport to freedom, teaches the individual to become aware of the mind, body, and emotions—a conscious engagement that awakens the conscious mind; arrests compulsive thoughts when they arise; thoroughly cleanses the mind of old beliefs, habits, and programming; helps to release feelings of perfectionism, unworthiness, and inadequacy; helps to make decisions based on fact rather than on fantasy; and overall helps to consciously create the life that we were meant to live.
May the force of silence be with you.
Until we meet again….