“A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.”
Stuff, things, pretty things, expensive things, nice things, old things, entertaining things, desirable things, unnecessary things, all these are part of the average lifestyle of the first world country human being, from beginning of life till the end, we are overwhelmed with stuff. We value the concept of ownership tenaciously, and most of us strive to expand our sphere of ownership in various ways – mostly through career and money – but also through experiential ownership in the form of memories, spiritual, religious or adventurous experiences, thoughts, education, and more. Objectively speaking, ownership is a not a problematic or consequential concept what-so-ever. To own is simply a verb that defines the action of having physical or mental control/possession over something. However, when ownership becomes feeling/emotional-based – and when we start to define OURSELVES – WHO WE ARE – according to our possessions, that is when this lifestyle must be put into question.
I recently read an article about a wealthy person that had been part of a long and tumultuous divorce process stretching over several years – and in the process – he had lost most of his belongings to his former spouse. What I found fascinating was how this individual, even though years had passed, was still investing time, effort and energy, in pursuing more court procedures, attempting to get back the things that he had once owned. In this person, I could clearly see the disturbingly addictive quality that money and ownership can have, where without us being really aware of it, what we value and pay attention to slowly changes from ourselves HERE – to what we own, to our things, and what we want to have, and what we already have. What takes a back seat is LIVING – and what becomes the primary focus is MONEY and expanding our sphere of OWNERSHIP.
As I read this article, I could not help but reflecting on my own life, and how I have changed in many ways similar to this person since I was young. Because, when I was younger, from my years as a baby to my later teenage years, the focus within me was more on PHYSICAL living – and as I aged – this focus slowly started to change into money and ownership. I could see this pattern playing out even clearer as my partner and I built a house together. When the house stood finished, I started to have experiences and thoughts that were previously unknown to me. For example, a mistake that had been made in the building process, the shower was not placed correctly and as I had imagined it, that started to gnaw on me, and emotions came up of regret, judgment, fears and anxieties, all because my greatest and most valuable possession (the house I live in) was not built as perfectly as I desired, and thus, was not worth as much money as I had expected.
I took a while for me to realize what was going on, and how, instead of me using and owning my possessions as a practical part of my daily life, my possessions were internally owning and possessing me through constantly being in the back of my mind.
“He who looks after, takes care of things; forgets by and by that things were meant to serve him, and it does not strike him now when he started to serve them.”
Osho made some interesting observations about ownership. One of these is how we make ourselves a slave to our things when we relate to them using emotions or feelings, and thus make them part of WHO WE ARE – and by implication – making ourselves dependent on our things to be WHO WE ARE. For example, a master can only be a master if he has a slave, if the slave disappears, the master looses the thing he used to create his self-definition – thus causing inner conflict.
What can be learned from all of this? The way I see it, the point to understand is that possessions, things, stuff, are not part of WHO WE ARE – we were not born with them and we will not be able to take them with us when we die. The house that I built, and that I now live in, the various physical parts that constitutes the house were here before I was born, and they will continue to be here when I have died, maybe in the form of a house, maybe in some different shape – in any case – the house does not define me. Sure, I use the house, I live in it, and I can appreciate the various creature comforts it provides, but it does not define me. And that is the key to joyful living – to be IN this world – YET – not OF this world. To keep our jobs, care for our possessions, tend to our bodies, yet never forget that these things does not make us.
Children are inspirational examples that show what it means to be in this world yet not of this world. Children, they are not yet defined, limited, and confined within a certain lifestyle, position, or career – they are free to express themselves regardless of where they happen to be at the moment – and that is something we should all strive to create within ourselves – the FREEDOM to express even though we happen to live in a limited system that seldom allows us to bring that point of expression into full application.
I would like to end of with sharing one important point of consideration that I have come to realize with stuff. Many seem to believe that it is the stuff we own that ties us down, makes us materialistic, egoistic, possessive, and self-interested – that makes us forget the unconditional joy we could access as children – however – this is not the case. We must not accept and allow ourselves to blame our stuff, or believe that we through getting rid of stuff can erase and change our relationship with this reality and the stuff that populates it. Because the problem is and has always been ourselves, and our relationship with ourselves. Most stuff that we desire and want are but projections of our own inner state of lack, only there because we have not created ourselves to live according to our utmost potential – and thus – our desire to consume and acquire more things is in actuality a misdirected attempt to fulfill ourselves. It is the same process that occurs when people start to mold and shape their bodies to resemble images portrayed in media, believing that by attaining such a picture perfect body image they will feel whole and fulfilled – that is not the case – it is an illusion.
Hence, if you notice movements within yourself in relation to the things you own, it is a cool cross-reference point, because then you know that there are still points to work with. A feeling of desire towards owning more entertainment gadgets could imply that you are not yet sufficiently capable of entertaining yourself, or creating an entertaining life for yourself. The correction is thus not to sell your television, but rather to look at the underlying issue that creates the experience of desire.
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