I am meandering in an old town following the road that will take me to my ultimate destination: Home. I know the road although I have never walked its full length before. As I stroll along the road I pass through an open market with stalls put up on the sides of the road but also along side streets and alley ways intersecting with it.
The stalls are many and the merchants try to sell me all sorts of things and stuff while giving me tantalizing reasons of why I need that stuff, how it will make my life better and ultimately lead me to inner satisfaction. Everyone is buying. It is the norm around here. So I give in to buying this one thing – “only this one thing” I say to myself. I put it in my ruck sack and carry on. There are all sorts of things to be bought and ideas to be had from the stalls, people, sellers and signs around the market place. It overwhelms me and I get more and more seduced by the incessant call of the merchants to allow myself to be shown one more thing which they so self-assuredly tell me I really need if I want to stand out from the rest and make my life happen. They assure me it will satisfy me and make me happy.
Long before I know it, I am paying attention to more signs and merchants calls. I am floating from one stall to the next buying more stuff and adding it to my increasing inventory of things in my sack. Suddenly I am derailed into cobbled stone side streets away from my original route. Navigating through the side street becomes complex and my ruck sack heavier. The whole experience makes me forget my route and my destination. I became enthralled by the market life and hustle and bustle of everyday life. I succumb to the forces that sway me off my course. It’s no longer a deviation. It now becomes a way of life.
The Spell of Consumerism & Consensual Reality
The above is of course a simplistic metaphor to what actually happens to us in our hyper consumerist society. We get distracted and derailed from our authentic course – our true purpose in life by the captivating force of the market place and the media. Our attention is constantly hijacked by the merchants or the advertisers and we are gradually sucked into a different sort of reality. The consensual reality is one which tells us that we ‘need’ this or that object to fulfill our desires and fit better in that environment. It is the norm and should we hold back from following that reality we are going to be set back in disadvantage. Our ego suffers as it makes us believe that we are losing out on being better, smarter, fitter, cooler and more successful than others.
“We are enthralled into buying more stuff and accumulating more as we move along.”
This is the predicament with modern day society. We are led astray from our authentic goals and purpose in life. We get side tracked from our path and led into a complex network of alleyways which have nothing to do with our original course. We lose our bearing as we accumulate more stuff and get heavier with things – both physical and mental – that we don’t really need and do not authentically belong to our purpose.
Needs vs. Wants
Very often people tell me – “but knowing my life purpose is no straight forward thing” or more pertinently and to the point “how do we know our life purpose?”. It’s a question that concerns most people especially when they get a feeling that there is something more to their life than the automated life they are living. Knowing your life purpose, your path or course, does not entail doing something or acquiring something. This is the wrong model of mind we have inherited from socialisation.
“Being in tune with your purpose entails, on the contrary, simplifying and discarding those inessential stuff – things, wants and beliefs – that have obstructed the view of your route and destination.”
It is that simple! We have only made it more complex, cumbersome and hidden under layers of beliefs laid down to us by others. To get back on course we need to simplify and get lighter. We need to shed away some stuff and be aware that most of the things being told we need at the market place are really not needs at all but wants.
In my course entitled ‘The Art of Simplicity’ I dedicate a whole lecture about the distinction between needs and wants because it is quite relevant to our everyday living. Our over consumeristic society has sold us wants as needs. “You need this if you really want to be accepted by your peers” or “you need this latest gadget or accessory to fit that role in society and look trendy and awesome”. You get the idea. Society has blurred out the basic distinction between needs and wants. In reality we have a small list of needs to attend to but a massive list of wants. The greying out of this distinction has led us into consuming or rather being consumed by many things that are not authentic to us. But the belief that this is perfectly all right has been rooted deeply in us so we rarely see how it has swayed us off course.
Only in moments of introspection or clarity do we feel an inner disharmony between the life we are living – with all the things, status and beliefs we have accumulated – and our truest purpose. We all have a life purpose and it is not difficult or impossible to find. But the inauthentic way of living carved out for us by our consumeristic society has led us into this disharmony hence our confusion.
Simplifying your Life purpose back into view
How do we find our way back to our original course and follow our purpose? The answer is simple or rather it is in simplification itself. More and more people are becoming more aware of this and have boldly dissociated themselves from these social forces to lead a simpler, more authentic life. Some are following the road to simple living – that of getting closer to the bare essentials, or in other words, identifying the real needs and discarding all those wants and clutter we have accumulated throughout life.
If you think that simple living means living a life of scarcity or absolute denial of the good things in life – may I say that this is another misconception crafted by society at large.
“Living a simple life is in fact one which goes hand in hand with abundance.”
Abundance by the way, is not an over-supply of goods but an always available supply of things that are essential to our true happiness. Simple living entails shedding off all the inessential stuff, de-cluttering our way from distractions and silencing the noise so all we are left with is an abundance of things that truly belong to us.
Everyday living becomes easier because we focus on the things that propel us forward in our purpose. More importantly, if our life purpose was once unclear, living with simplicity is the key to make our life purpose easily clear in view since we have much less noise, distraction and obstacles confusing us. It’s like trying to identify someone in a large crowd. It’s difficult but if all the people except the person you want to see clear out of the view altogether, you are only left with your target – clearly and openly in sight.
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Author: Gilbert Ross
Gilbert Ross authors http://SoulHiker.com, a blog dedicated to sharing insights and helping people achieve positive life transformations.