My Mindful Week- Day 7: Dealing with Materialism

It’s a lazy Sunday evening and you’ve just finished a great movie with your friends. You intend to go home but something sparkling caught your attention from the shop window on your left. You turned around and there it was, lying so gracefully, a wristwatch you’ve been drooling all over ever since it was out.

Why are we so attracted to things, especially if they are expensive? It’s one thing to want to own something because it’s practical, but it’s another thing altogether to hoard 2 closets full of brand clothes that you don’t even have the occasion to wear.

Why are you slaving your days away just to get yet another new iPhone just for internet and calling like your last iPhone?

Why should you spend 8 hours a day sitting in front of a computer like a zombie just to afford a brand new hybrid car in 8 years?

The thing is that we chase these things because we think they might give us happiness. While I do agree material comfort does give us happiness to a certain level (I mean, you can’t be exactly happy without food in your mouth and a roof over your head), but materialism is just way too much.

You know in the deepest crevices of your brain that it’s not the right thing to spend 2,000 bucks on a bike, but your heart gives a flutter when you see it.  When there’s a conflict between the mind and heart, that’s when mindfulness comes into play. Here’s how I’ve learned to deal with the urge to splash my paycheck for things I don’t even need using mindfulness:

  • Spend some time just sit and breathe.
  • While breathing, think of how everything is subjected to impermanence and change. Your house might be blown away by a hurricane or bombed to dust in an air strike. Your beloved car might just be stolen tomorrow, and your clothes may all be consumed by a house fire. If these things are very unlikely, just think about once you’re dead, they are not yours anymore.
  • While meditating on the changing nature of ownership, continue to keep tap of your breathing. It is essential to not lose sight of yourself among all these imaginings. If you’ve strayed, don’t blame yourself. Gently nudge your attention back to breathing and imagining.
  • Realize that the only thing that you will always own in your life is your body, and subsequently your mind. That’s it. You don’t need a lot to be happy. Having many things actually generate more anxieties as you fret over ways you might lost them in the future. You just need to be a friend to yourself to be happier. Materialism is all about showing your worth and status to other people.
    Why so?
    You want validation from them.
    You want them to think you’re worthy. In a previous post, social validation has been promptly dealt with, so I will just tell you what I’ve learned here. It’s this: when you seek validation from people, you’re handing a key to them while locking yourself up in a cage. When you stop seeking acceptance from them, and be content with what you have? That’s when you break the cage and boy is it a sweet feeling.
  • Look back into all the stuff that you own. Which ones do you really need and which ones you wanted just to appear in a better light in the eyes of others? Maybe it’s about time to get rid of them.
  • Every time you are about to buy something, ask yourself the same thing. Do you really need it to fulfill your basic needs, or are you doing it to get accepted?

Well, that’s about it. I’m proud of you for making it this far! Again, you are going to struggle being mindful and it’s natural to feel frustrated (and yell about at yourself for being such a loser, or was it just me?), but please, realize that mindfulness is a life change! Be patient with yourself. When you’ve strayed, just gently come back. My posts will always be here for you.

Six Things I learned from One and a Half Year of Smart-phone Free Life

In 2015, I gave my ancient Iphone 3 (yes, these things still exist) to my sister, adding up to a long list of hand-me-downs she’d received from her big sister over the years which left me with a  red 20-dollar Nokia phone.

This decision was prompted one ordinary afternoon, when I caught myself instead of enjoying the fresh scent of money tree in my school’s garden after a fresh afternoon rain, I was instead, busy replying to Instagram comments about that same garden.

One and a half year have passed, and here are the things I’ve learnt so far from roaming the outside world without a smartphone:

  1. You feel much much lighter when you go out: I don’t know about you, but I usually feel quite anxious and pressured when there’s a chance, however slim, of people sending me urgent messages. Of course, I didn’t go completely off the line, I still had my normal Nokia phone (which is amazing), but the fact is that, people are more reluctant to send not-so-important messages to your number which means you have less chance of being interrupted (rudely) by those annoying ping ping just to be updated of a classmate’s breakfast picture.
  2. The less frequently you reply, the less people chat to you: this seems pretty obvious in hindsight, but when you’re caught up in the whirlwind of inbox messages, it might seem like the whole burden of the world is resting on your shoulders. You might feel like if you don’t reply that one freaking message, their whole life will be in ruins. I’ve learnt that after people go through the initial shock of not getting an instant reply, they pretty much leave you alone until there’s something important to talk to you. Even then, if they have important things to say to you, they should know to contact your number.
  3. It can become very very inconvenient sometimes: of course, sometimes you can get quite frustrated, say, your boss just sent you a file, and you have no way of accessing it because you’re outside and without a device that can connect to the internet. It’s extremely frustrating especially if you are freelance worker like me who relies on the internet for work inquiries. However, I’ve managed to survive by informing my bosses that they should contact me through the phone. I don’t think they are very happy about that, but at least it’s not an impossible demand.
  4. Less photos: the thing about not having a smartphone is that unless you have a camera with you, you are not likely to be able to snap the interesting moments that are happening in your life! It used to upset me that I won’t have photos from a wonderful hangout or a beautiful concert to post on social media later. However, I’ve grown to appreciate the fact that I have a wonderful hangout or a beautiful concert in my memory in the first place. It works well for me too since I’m more inclined to use writing as a way to immortalize my experience rather than a photo. However, I also remember to bring my camera with me if I have plans to capture shots.
  5. There’s a sense of security especially if you live in a theft infested city like Phnom Penh. Frequent cases of phone robbery are a norm, and so, without a smart phone, you feel much safer going out, and receiving calls in public.
  6. Short trips abroad suck without a smartphone: seriously, I’ve gone on a solo trip before with nothing but a Wifi-iPad, and I found it hard to find places to go and things to do. Indeed, you can use the old face-to-face communication to find out more about the place, but if your trip is time sensitive, a smart phone with an internet connection is a very helpful device to have.

I guess the biggest lesson I’ve learnt from this is the sense of control I have over my life and present moment after I eliminated the time I spent on smart phones out of the equation. Of course, I know quitting smart phone cold-turkey is a little bit extreme. You might argue that learning to control it is a better option, and that’s true. But for people who have been trapped in one side of the scale for too long, maybe going to the extreme opposite side is the best option in bringing a new perspective into their sense of balance.