Consumerism vs Spirituality

How our desire for more and more stuff is sabotaging our spiritual growth

by George

Do you have an iPhone X? Do you have the latest Armani perfume? Have you watched the latest season of Game of Thrones?

Who cares? Well, if appearances are anything to go by, quite a lot of people. Let’s be honest, if you walked past a young person using an ancient Nokia brick for a phone, part of you would probably laugh. It’s almost certain you would find it a bit strange to say the least. We live in a society that thrives on consumerism, and I don’t just mean things. TV shows, films, memes on social media. We don’t just consume culture, we downright devour it.

It is inherent in human nature to want to be liked, respected and feel included, and there is nothing wrong with this per se. Much of what we see in society now is simply a response to pressure from advertisers and media companies to get us to buy certain things and meet a certain image. Yet how often do we stop to question how healthy it is, not only for us as individuals, but also for our minds, to blindly follow the crowd? Inside all of us is a small voice talking to us every day about who we really are, if only we’d stop to listen.

At the end of your life, will you sit back and think, “Look at all the stuff I had!”?

The issue with consumerism and cultural devouring is it leaves little time for our minds to be still and to appreciate the world for what it really is. Consumerism isn’t interested in nature, it’s not interested in your mental health, and the only balanced life it’s interested in is one that involves the products it so desperately wants you to buy. Following the crowd also takes you away from your true self and makes your own personal identity harder to establish. As was mentioned in last week’s post, discovering who you truly are is essential to living a life of ease, joy and purpose.

There’s another issue with consumerism and cultural devouring I haven’t yet highlighted on; that of fostering competition and isolation from others, rather than a sense of community and coming together. People talk about the things they have as if someone is keeping score. If someone announces they’ve just bought the latest iPhone or spent £200 on a fancy pair of shoes, it’s almost as if an internal jealousy trigger gets pulled, and we start to think about what things we could buy just so that we can look good. If you do indeed have a Nokia brick not only will people probably think you’re a bit weird, but there will be many things you can’t do in this consumerist world. You may find yourself feeling more isolated from the world than others who use more modern devices.

We think we need things to feel good about ourselves. On some level we think that if we have the latest smartphone or those fancy clothes, or a nice new car we can show off to our friends, that somehow all this ‘stuff’ is going to make us feel more whole and complete. Yet in reality, it never does. We just end up wanting more and more stuff. What’s really missing here is spirituality.

Many people hear the word ‘spirituality’ and are immediately turned off by thoughts of religion. Yet the title of this post doesn’t mention religion, but spirituality – that true, ever-present connection that we have with ourselves, the Universe and the world around us. The bond that binds us to others, whether we want to be or not. It is a human being’s nature to want to be connected with others, but we seem to be living in an ever-more isolated and lonely world because we aren’t even connected with ourselves. As you can probably imagine, I apportion a large amount of the blame for this to overuse of technology and our current consumerist culture.

When I spent 10 weeks volunteering in Nepal two years ago, most days I didn’t even use a phone. Not once. Funnily enough, I didn’t die and am here writing this post right now. I didn’t watch any TV for 10 weeks, even though others in my group were streaming season 7 of Game of Thrones and paying through the nose for data. Many of us seem to have forgotten how to simply be in the present moment, without the need for constant technology and other distractions. We struggle to make conversation with others without getting our phones out as soon as we feel we’ve run out of things to say.

We need to develop a healthier, more balanced relationship to technology and ‘stuff’ if we ever truly want to connect with ourselves on a deeper level and feel more connected to others and the world at large. We can start simply by making a conscious effort to spend less time on our phones, especially if most of the time we’re on there simply scrolling to kill time. We can spend less time on social media and other sites where the focus is mainly on striving to look good and creating a false image. Instead of spending money on needless stuff, we can save that cash for something that really matters!

Tree roots in the earth
Our connection with ourselves and the Earth is one of the most precious things we have.

I know we talk about this a lot on The Morning Mind, but meditation is a really useful practise to begin if you want to develop a greater connectedness with yourself and the world. We need to take the time to still our minds on a regular basis not only to feel calmer and more relaxed, but also to separate the real from the false in our lives.

If you identify as someone who uses technology a lot, I strongly encourage you to take a break from it once in a while. Go out in nature, spend quality time with friends and family, or try volunteering and making a difference to others. Perhaps try a detox from social media for a month. Meditate and go inwards.

The more connected we are with ourselves, the more connected we are with others. The more connected we are with the Earth and nature, the safer we feel, and the greater our innate sense of belonging. Technology and nice things will never give you a true sense of safety or belonging. They’re just temporal and fleeting, and will inevitably go out of fashion to replaced by something else. Your connection with yourself, however, is constant. The Earth itself has been around for millions of years. The more connected you can get with these things, the better and more serene your life will become.

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