What is commonest and cheapest and nearest and easiest is Me,
Me going in for my chances, spending for vast returns,
Adorning myself to bestow myself on the first that will take me,
Not asking the sky to come down to my goodwill,
Scattering if freely forever.
– Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
I used to have recurring dreams of not finding an outfit to wear. I would panic finding one to small, too big, and a pair that do not match. Sometimes the dresses I was forced to wear were not mine. In dreams, clothes symbolize the exterior or the cloak you cover your inner self with. I realized that these dreams were a symbolism of my need to please others. I was compelled to put out a front and wear the perfect dress. Not finding one, I would be frantic. My soul was crying out for a dress that would fit, that was mine, that was me.
Society infuses our mind with the image of a perfectly content person. She is clothed in the latest fashion, struts around with a glitzy gadget, sleeps amongst gazillion silk thread sheets and even wears her best friend, Diamond! I am reminded of a recent quest to find a dress to wear to my friend’s wedding. Aghast with the price of gowns (it’s a whole month’s salary for some people!!!), I settled for a simple dress. Still, I found myself scouring for earrings, a cuff, the necklace, shoes to match, and even intended a trip to the parlor. Then I stopped. I had to remind myself of my overindulgence. I did not need one-time purchases that would gather dust in the closet. I had enough accessories and shoes to last at least three weddings!
Consumerism seems to penetrate every dimension of our lives, seeking us out, in every way, in our homes, through television, the internet, magazines, just everywhere! How can you resist the temptation to buy, especially when your purchasing power is equated with who you are. I mean what would my jet-setting friends think if I strutted in, clothed in a simple frock and without the required bling-blings?
The other day, after my trip to the superstore, I felt miserable. I felt deprived of a life of luxury. Honestly. I always feel that way when I spend time in retail stores. It is the allure and seduction of milk and honey. Our world offers us pre-packaged identities. What we are is now defined by our material possessions, as though we are what we consume. What we have is a flawed identity and a misdirected search for happiness. Think of it this way. That day, if I spent my hard cash on the things I desired, when I return to the store next week, I would go home miserable anew. Why? Well, there will be new things to buy. The lure will be great. It will never be enough. What I will find is temporary satisfaction and a need to consume even more. Consumerism promises us a better life but it is all an illusion. The illusion is that our needs our met, but the truth is, only our material needs are being met, while the deeper, more personal needs are not. Fool’s gold. But how do we resist it? Look within, not at the glitzy super-mall, and true contentment will no longer be elusive.
Be still. Silence is a way to know thyself. When you quiet down, you can take heed of the subtle whispers of your soul. I will never forget a friend’s comment. She once told me that the reason why I numbed myself with noise and mayhem, surrounded myself with my loyal troops and occupied my days with constant soirees was that I was afraid to be alone with myself. Spending time with yourself removes you from the distractions that give you a false sense of self. By being still, you begin to see the difference between the facade you mask yourself with and your real authentic self. Serenity connects you with your inner voice, and if you are lucky, your soul or spirit. Once you learn to slow down, you will hear what your heart calls you to do. Knowing yourself allows you to distinguish what is authentic.
“Slow down and everything you are chasing will come around and catch you.”
Take heed of this quote: “experiences are drained of all life and vitality when [one] is surrounded by such bland uniformity” and that “inner selves are reflections of outer reality”. If you are aware of your great self, of what your worth is in the tapestry of life, then you will find authenticity and transcend the need to be like everyone else. You will realize you do not need to wear society’s perfect party dress. Think about it. There is nothing more liberating than knowing that you no longer have to keep up. You are released from the bondage of an insatiable desire to accumulate. Remember though that letting go should not be seen as deprivation. If think of it that way, you will feel poor in your simplicity. Instead, your perspective should be that you give up possessions to experience the richness of life that ensues from it.
Slowing down and letting go can reward us with an enriched life. But it is not easy. It requires us to live deliberately with an full awareness of every moment. It requires us to unlearn society’s lessons, some of which are deeply ingrained in us. It asks us to be deaf to the siren’s song. I constantly remind myself everyday. I need to incessantly look at the details of my life, finding ways by which I could live simply or adjust. I often struggle with myself, with others, with culture, with society. But in us lies an authentic self that yearns to show Oneself, to be Oneself. We often fail to listen to what our hearts really call us to do. If we do, we will find that we do not need to wear the trendy dresses that do not fit us. So I’m off to my friend’s wedding tomorrow in a simple grab, and without the bling-blings! You can be radiant in your simplicity.
“Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.” Oscar Wilde
*Quotes and inspiration taken from The Simply Living Network.