We are living in a material world, but must we be material girls?
What a time to examine our attachments!
It’s me again, here to talk to you about the next of the kleshas! The third of the five kleshas is Raga, translated to attachments. This is generally interpreted to be attachments specifically to material things. The teaching of the Sutras is that this attachment creates inherent insecurity because material things are fragile and can be lost
or broken. When we inevitably lose that thing, it causes suffering.
The sutras teach if we can soften or even release our attachment to material things, we will experience less suffering, but HOW? It’s an interesting concept to ponder in the wake of the pandemic we’ve just been through. There was an explosion of consumerism as lockdowns took effect in 2020. Material goods that could be delivered to our front doors without a risky excursion outside the home brought comfort to millions of people feeling scared of this new virus shutting down the world.
As vaccines allow us to start to re-engage with activities and more life outside of our homes, it’s an excellent opportunity to examine our relationship with material things and perhaps bring some more mindfulness into our choices. When that urge for some soothing retail therapy hits, what would a pause for a deep grounding breath and a quick body scan do to slow down the impulse buying?
For me, this usually looks like placing both my feet on the floor and noticing the grounding I get from bringing all of my attention to the sensation I experience by pressing them down into the unlimited support of the Earth underneath me that can’t break or get lost. That brings me to a more reflective place where I can ask myself some discerning questions about the item Instagram insists I should purchase to bring instant happiness. Questions like: do I need this? Is it worth the impact to the environment to acquire it new, or could I find a second-hand option? Would it be better to save that money for the big trip I’d like to take next year? Sometimes the answer is yes, it is worth it, and no, I do not want to save the money, and that’s ok! It’s not just about acquiring more minor things but setting yourself up for success to experience less suffering from that attachment. If we lose touch with the mindfulness practice altogether, we are more likely to be swept up in advertising lies that would have us believe a product can fix us or that we are lacking. This leads to the most intense form of the suffering that raga brings, which is when the attachment to the material good was more than it could ever provide. No makeup will remove all the insecurities you’ve ever felt. No item of clothing will turn body shame into love. There is no object bright or shiny enough to distract us from an inner pain forever.
The ultimate teaching from the Sutra is that when we remove our attachment to the material and devote that energy and resources to our relationship with the self, a truer, more enduring happiness can emerge. Have you ever heard of buyer’s remorse around therapy? I haven’t! What about a meditation or yoga retreat? Joining a support group? These paths towards work on the self require so much more time and effort than buying a new thing that we hope will make us feel better, but the returns are exponentially greater. Let’s take advantage of our ability to join together in community again and invest in ourselves instead of our stuff in 2021.