From the moment we are born, we are indoctrinated by our parents, our school system, the media to think that success is defined by material gain. Happiness, contentment, and relationships are secondary to income. Because our culture values material success the most, we currently live in a world that is enslaved to the dollar.
Slavery is when your work is no longer an opportunity for economic advancement but is instead an act of mere self-preservation.
Most people are owned by their material pursuits, and spend their entire lives trying to pay off debt they earned from purchases and bills that have piled up over the years. If you are reading this, there is a good chance you work a 9-5 job and are sick of it. Maybe your are psychologically trapped in a world of numbers and material concerns and want to break free from mental slavery.
Whatever your specific situation is, the truth is that the vast majority of people who read this are fed up with debt, long work hours, and being programmed by advertisements to buy things they don’t need. The good news is, just because you live in a consumerist society doesn’t mean you have to live as a consumerist.
Here are 3 ways you can break free from materialism and reclaim your soul:
1) Leave the rat race
Who wrote the rule that said we have to work 9-5 Monday through Friday? Who wrote the rule that we have to graduate school and hop right into a full time job? Who wrote the rule that said we have spend 40 years of our life working fulltime and can only retire when we are 60 or 70?
You don’t have to do what society thinks you should do, and you don’t have to do what your parents think you should do. If you are sick of the rat race, then leave it. Nobody is putting a gun to your head forcing you to work 40 hours a week at a job you don’t like. But the bills need to be paid, right? That brings us to the next point.
2) Don’t live to impress
The only reason we need to work 40 hours a week is because we buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people around us. Because we are taught that success and value is defined in material terms, we figure we need to accumulate as much possessions as we can. If you cut your expenses in half and lived for yourself, you would only have to work half of the hours you work now.
Do you really need to finance that new car? Or should you buy a used one? Do you really need to live in a 2000 square foot house with all new appliances? Do you really need that new television? Or those designer clothes? The newest iPhone? That expensive laptop?
A lot of the times, we enslave ourselves because our egos want to be seen as successful in the eyes of other people. We define our sense of worth and value on how we measure up to other people. In the same way kids on the playground used to say “My dad can beat up your dad”, adults say “My houses is nicer than your house.”
As you can see, some people don’t grow out of this playground mentality. And because of this, many people live paycheck to paycheck. This pursuit of egoic self-glorification is ultimately what enslaves us to the dollar and steals our happiness. This brings us to the next point.
3) Transcend the material
Don’t define yourself in relation to other people, the materials you own, or the lifestyle you live. Define yourself in relation to your relationship with yourself and with God. Are you spiritually fulfilled? Do you feel whole and peaceful inside? If not, how can this be called success?
Once you experience the part of yourself that is deeper than the material, the material world is a joke to you. Once you tap into that infinite space of grace and peace during meditation or communion with nature, there is no longer a need to carry on with the endless pursuit of material gain. How many Buddhist monks do you think are in debt up to their eyeballs?
The same culture that tells us success is measured by material success is also the most unhappy, overweight, stressed out, and in debt culture in the world. Suicide is currently the 10th leading cause of death in America. I suspect a good percentage of depression comes from people being bright up in a dead-end society that is hollow, boring, consumer driven, spiritually void, and enslaved to a piece of paper.
You don’t have to be a slave to capitalism, materialism, or consumerism. Be brave. Ditch the rat race, live within your means, know when it’s time to scale down, and start practicing yoga or meditation, and you will open yourself up to a whole new world of possibilities you didn’t even know was there.