Changing Your Relationship with Stuff, through Language?

As a writer, words are very important. As you find out when learning a new language, certain words have nuances and connotations that you can only learn with time, practice and exposure to the new language. But we don’t always pay attention to the words we use in our own language.

Taking a slight detour here, if you are a person engaged in any amount of self-improvement, I’m sure you’ve heard about the importance of eliminating negative self-talk. (You’ve got to stop saying, “I’m fat,” “I’m stupid,” “I’m ugly,” or “I don’t have any good ideas.”) The reason why psychologists, bloggers and anyone with a keyboard in front of them says this is because they know how powerful words are. I think you know, too. We learned when we were little kids the chant, “I think I can,” from The Little Engine that Could storybook/movie.

The words you choose may end up dictating (pun intended) the outcome of the situation. Yet, have you ever thought about how you talk about stuff/merchandise/products and the objects that surround you in everyday life? For instance, it seems as if I’m always donating stuff, but I still have a ton of it. Why is this?

The words I choose to talk about “stuff” ends up guiding my actions. If I’m not careful, I walk around saying “I need this,” or  “I have to have that.” If I say and believe I absolutely need something, I’m going to end up buying it. That’s a problem right there. I say things like, “I need a new hair scarf.”  I don’t absolutely require a new scarf for survival, I just want one to match an outfit I have. I’ve been saying lately “I need a new laptop.” Do I really need a new one if I can go to the library and type for free, or use my netbook at home? No. I want one for my comfort and convenience. Yet somehow, whenever I think about something to buy, it’s always phrased as “I need.” Do you do the same thing?

I’ve been thinking about where we learned this curious behavior. I always like to blame my parents and other older relatives for my ingrained faults– like modeling the “I need” behavior when I was a kid. But I remember my Mom always saying “Do you really need that?” whenever we’d ask for a toy or candy.  As much as I’d like to, I really can’t blame them for this.

Advertisements and the media could certainly shoulder most of the blame for brainwashing the public into believing we need specific merchandise to have a great life. Example: I need razors to shave my legs. Why? I’m a woman and the rule of society says I have to shave my legs. If I don’t shave my legs people will think I’m weird and possibly ostracize me. If I want to fit in, I have to shave. Yes, shaving one’s legs is best done with a razor. But I don’t actually need to do it. I want to and I choose to and that’s why I buy the razor.

We actually need very little. We have a ton of wants that help us fit into society better: like those uncomfortable work clothes that let us keep the job that pays for our giant shelter. But we probably don’t need those work clothes, or that job to pay for that shelter. We could find a smaller shelter that costs less, that we could pay for with a job that didn’t require those work clothes. See what I’m suggesting? Most of the things we think we need, are actually choices we’re making to indulge our wants. When there is a choice, and not a need, there is always another option. I try to remember that when I speak about my wants and my choices. That way I’ll be more deliberate with my actions.

At the end of the day, though, this is how our American society works. It’s how the human society has advanced. Humans have actual needs, kind-of-needs, mild wants and extreme desires. We invent things to make life easier, fun and more comfortable. And that’s okay. The key is to know what is really a need or a want (or a choice), why it is so, and speak about it appropriately. Words dictate actions.

We have to change the narrative regarding our wants and needs. If you think about it, most of the stuff we “need” is something we want very badly for comfort and convenience. Call it the modern conveniences of society, or first world problems.  The first step to changing the narrative is to THINK about the words we are choosing. Then, if we’re trying to save money, buy less stuff or whatever, knowing and speaking accordingly makes it easier to resist buying when necessary.

I can blame the media, our society or whoever. I can even blame myself for being easily manipulated by the system of our society.  But that doesn’t solve the problem either.   I have to be honest. I’m not really sure how to banish my desire for things. I don’t know if it’s possible, even if I’ve become a Nirvana seeking Buddhist who has denied all earthly attachments.  But I can stop saying that I need things that aren’t required for the survival of my earthly life. I can change the way I talk and think about stuff. And thus I can change my actions henceforth.

POSTSCRIPT: After writing all of this, and going to review it before posting, I remembered something in a book I read that I wanted to share.  In The Mastery of Love,  Don Miguel Ruiz (I’m so obsessed with this book right now) differentiates between needs of the body (what I call actual, legitimate needs) and needs of the mind (which I’m calling wants). The needs of the mind, he says, can’t actually fulfill the mind, because all the mind needs is love (I’m talking about you chocolate craving). If you’re interested, check out the book. His discussion on needs of the mind on pages 126-129. It’s a very good read/re-read.

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8 Methods of Grounding and Connecting to the Earth’s Frequencies

8 Methods of Grounding and Connecting to the Earth’s Frequencies

Quite an interesting tidbit from the article:

The economic system is set up to keep people inside generating information, in large buildings of stone and metal that disconnect us from the Earth. We surround ourselves with machines and technology that constantly bombard us with electromagnetic radiation, i.e. telephones, computers, televisions, etc. We are sold pieces of insulating plastic or rubber to put onto our feet when we are out in nature, hindering the flow of energy from the Earth up into our physical vessel. Pollution and invasive procedures within the Earth distort the electromagnetic field.

I know why you are so unhappy…

Everything in your life stands as a barrier to happiness: That high-powered corporate job, or blue-collar service job, your cell phone, your iPad, your money or lack thereof. Everything in our world, everything artificial, stands in the way of pure happiness. Everything you do has no purpose. You work to pay bills, to get stuff and keep stuff, and then what?

The purpose of life is to enjoy the universe.

To those of you who scream: YOLO whenever you do something stupid, that is, drink too much, smoke too much, party too much, do too many drugs, drive recklessly in the BMW you can barely afford, that is not enjoying the universe. None of those things matter.  You waste your time.  I ask my students all the time Why do you party? The best answer I ever get is to forget my problems. That is exactly right: people party to escape the world, the transient, ephemeral, superficial, artificiality of the world.  Well, what’s wrong with this world? We have all of this stuff to keep us company.

I used to believe my mom was wrong for not wanting to celebrate Christmas.  What was the point in being here if you weren’t going to enjoy the experiences in it? How could you forgo the unabashed grandeur of it all? Our consumerist culture truly is the way to happiness right? NO!  It is just a barrier to keep us from enjoying the universe.

I guess I’ve been watching too much anime or something.  I’ve been watching this one where this girl goes back in time from modern day to the feudal era.  (wow, I sound like a total geek right now, bear with me, I have a point).  Anyway, she is without all of these modern technologies, and enjoys sleeping under the stars. And in this one episode, she is forced back to modern times and is slowly forgetting her adventures in the past era.  And for some reason, the rote monotony of her modern life hit a chord with me.  All of this crap we do everyday has no point whatsoever. Toiling away with these trivialities makes us generally unhappy.

Now for all of you naysayers out there, I must point out: you may argue that it is how one perceives all of these trivialities is what determines whether one is happy or not. That may be true, but at least for me, I have to argue that I feel imprisoned sometimes by the monotony of everyday life.  I want to be outside, get fresh air, eat food I’ve grown myself. Living in an apartment (without a balcony no less) creates barriers and prevents me from connecting with the universe in the way I believe people should.

Every history class I ever took in school had me believing that the Native Americans were crazy. Don’t you remember learning that their religion was called animism: which, according to wikipedia, “is the worldview that natural physical entities—including animals, plants, and often even inanimate objects or phenomena—possess a spiritual essence.” Who in their right mind thinks that a tree has a spirit? We learned that Christianity was normal, and that the Native Americans were kooks. (Because one old white man who sees over every man, woman, child and every other living creature, and dictates their fates, answers their prayers, and judges what will happen to them in eternity, makes A LOT more sense).  I think they were (are) on to something.  The universe, in its natural state, anyway, is such a rich place.  We destroy all of its riches to create all of this artificial crap. 

The reality is that in the last 500 years we have spent so much time closing ourselves off from the natural world that we are completely unaware of the natural essence of things. Have you ever stood before a great tree that made you silence your thoughts because its power was just so awesome. What about the thrashing waves of the ocean on a cool summer night?  How does being in the presence of powerful, natural elements have such an effect on you? How could inanimate objects contain so much power?

There are too many barriers keeping us from the universe and the world in its natural state.  We are unhappy because we are imprisoned by useless junk and we don’t take the time to just be with the world.  The earth can provide everything we need to survive and thrive. We just have to take the time to get to know it.

Barbados

I Stopped Fighting, But I’m Not Giving Up

I spent a year and a half fighting for my graduate thesis. Fighting for  every line and every word my adviser had something to say about on my draft.  It was my writing after all. It was mine, and I vowed, at age 10, that I would never again let someone coerce convince me to write something that I didn’t want to write.  I saw it as selling out. I probably could have finished my thesis “on time,” or early, if I had been willing to walk the path of my predecessors– you know, the one of smile and nods, and just doing whatever they want me to do, just so the work can be over with. In the end–of my thesis, anyway– I got on the conveyor belt, and behaved how a good graduate student should.

My entire life, I’ve never been quite fond of rules.  I complain endlessly for society trying to push me into line.  Don’t get me wrong, I agree to common courtesy, honesty, kindness, and following the law. But sometimes I just fight. I really just don’t like doing what I’m told.  My mom always told me, “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.”  Nonetheless, that’s what I do when I get pissed. It’s definitely not slow-paced living at all.

Today, after a less than favorable job performance review– I have to say, probably my first– understandably, I was devastated.  I want to do well in my place of employment. I was actually desperately in need of some confirmation I was doing okay. And I got the complete opposite of that today.  So the fight within me starts- I’m ready to pound my fists into the wall.  I’m thinking, “How the hell can I still do this my way?”  and “How am I such a failure?”

Why do I always have to do things the hard way– which is mostly my way, I suppose? Here I am, about to make the same mistake I made with my thesis. Fighting tooth and nail for what want, knowing that in the end, I’m not going to get what want, and I’ll be climbing up the steep side of the mountain all for naught.

I’ve spent a significant portion of the last couple class periods telling my students that they may not like their system of education, but they have to take what they can get from it– mostly, learning the discipline to do things they don’t want to do. Because, you know, if you don’t suck it up and do things you don’t want to do, how are you going to be able to push through the challenges and least interesting parts of achieving your goals?

Now aren’t I the silly hypocrite? How can I know so much and express this to others with exceptional clarity, but have a fog in front of my eyes. I’m trying to learn from Taoism- to stop fighting, to live in harmony with the universe, and to let the wind carry me in the direction it blows.

As of this moment, I’ve stopped fighting, but I’m not giving up. I’m going to do what I have to do to turn the review around (I have a second chance, ya’ll).  I’m going to get in line, and walk deliberately with the flow of traffic.  Although now, at least I know where I am, and can hop off the conveyor belt when I choose to do so.Image

(sorry for the accidental, unfinished post earlier… “Why I stopped shopping at the mall” should be up soon).

The Tao of Pooh, The Stonecutter, and More Thoughts on Keeping up with the Joneses

I recently read The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff.  The book is a great introduction to Taoism.  Essentially, the book encourages readers to not fight the happenings of life, to just go with the flow and not try so hard.  

Actually, I was reading this book when I was researching the “Keeping up with the Joneses” post. In The Tao of Pooh there is a story which exemplifies being satisfied with your current situation, and not trying to live another person’s life.  You may be familiar with this story, or maybe not. I wasn’t when I read the book, and I found the story to be a great delight, which is why I’m sharing it here. The story is a Chinese or Japanese parable of unknown authorship. This version is excerpted from The Tao of Pooh. 

The Stonecutter

There was once a stonecutter, who was dissatisfied with himself and with his position in life. 

One day, he passed a wealthy merchant’s house, and through the open gateway, saw many fine possessions and important visitors. “How powerful that merchant must be!” thought the stonecutter. He became very envious, and wished that he could be like the merchant. Then he would no longer have to live the life of a mere stonecutter. 

To his great surprise, he suddenly became the merchant, enjoying more luxuries and power than he had ever dreamed of, envied and detested by those less wealthy than himself. But soon a high official passed by, carried in a sedan chair, accompanied by attendants, and escorted by soldiers beating gongs. Everyone, no matter how wealthy, had to bow low before the procession. “How powerful that official is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a high official!” 

Then he became the high official, carried everywhere in his embroidered sedan chair, feared and hated by the people all around, who had to bow down before him as he passed. It was a hot summer day, and the official felt very uncomfortable in the sticky sedan chair. He looked up at the sun. It shone proudly in the sky, unaffected by his presence. “How powerful the sun is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the sun!” 

Then he became the sun, shining fiercely down on everyone, scorching the fields, cursed by the farmers and laborers. But a huge black cloud moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer shine on everything below. “How powerful that storm cloud is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a cloud!” 

Then he became the cloud, flooding the fields and villages, shouted at by everyone. But soon he found that he was being pushed away by some great force, and realized that it was the wind. “How powerful it is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the wind!” 

Then he became the wind, blowing tiles off the roofs of houses, uprooting trees, hated and feared by all below him. But after a while, he ran up against something that would not move, no matter how forcefully he blew against it — a huge, towering stone. “How powerful that stone is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a stone!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a stone!” 

Then he became the stone, more powerful than anything else on earth. But as he stood there, he heard the sound of a hammer pounding a chisel into the solid rock, and felt himself being changed. “What could be more powerful than I, the stone?” he thought. He looked down and saw far below him the figure of a stonecutter.

 

I love irony. We go day in and day out never being satisfied with what we have. What if, we were content with the current situation we were in? I’m not saying we shouldn’t aspire to be more, and eliminate all goals. But if we enjoyed what we were doing at the moment wouldn’t we be happier?

I think, I just graduated with my Master’s degree and I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do now for money.  Shouldn’t I savor the moment where I’m really getting my freelance/tutoring business started? Even if I’m not making any money yet, isn’t there there so much possibility? Creative and inspiring business ideas are flowing through me like a flower about to bloom I shouldn’t envy other successful small business owners. I haven’t been where they’ve been or gone through whatever trials they’ve gone through. I can learn from their mistakes, but I’m on my own journey here. I’m just getting started.

Bon Voyage!

Life in the World Outside of Grad School: When Will I Have Time to Blog?

I would like to apologize to my readers for being MIA the last week and a half.  I had every intention of posting my series bi-weekly.  Unfortunately, (or fortunately, rather) life got in the way.  Last week I started a new job at a summer camp and don’t have as much time as I’ve had previously. And this past weekend I graduated with my Master’s degree (YAY!!!) and got to spend time with my out-of-town family.

I hope to be blogging again soon.  I tend to get hard on myself when I don’t do the things that I intended. I feel like I’m letting myself down, and I’m letting my readers down by not having my posts up and ready over the last 10 days. However, the reason why I started this blog in the first place was because I realized I can’t do everything all at once.  I need to take it easy and do fewer things at a time.  That’s not to say that I wont be back blogging at all this summer. I will be back soon with the rest of the series, “What You Need to Stop Stressing About Right Now,” #4-10.

I need to take some time to get acclimated to this new schedule and get a bit ahead on some new posts.

Cya soon!

Must Be the Feeling: A Romance of Stuff

my thoughts exactly…

Annamal house.

There are few things I love more than spring cleaning. Something about cleaning house from floor to ceiling and hauling away boxes of junk fills me with an indescribable sense of serenity and relief. Perhaps it speaks to a deep need for order in my life, but something about walking into a clean, organized room fills me with the same excitement I get whenever I get to buy a new notebook.

The process of cleaning and removing stuff is rarely a simple one.

Every time I do a thorough clean-out, I’m forced to reflect on my relationship with stuff: our long history, and all the hopes and expectations I have surrounding it. I have courted stuff my whole life, and it has courted me. It has called to me, tantalized me, and I have pursued it with passion, only to feel disenchanted…and yet determined to pursue it further. A kind…

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