Are you living excessively?
We live in a world of excess.
We eat too much. We drink too much.
We shop too much. Buy too much. Own too much.
We work too much. Work out too much. (Perhaps to compensate for eating too much.)
It’s the American way:
Work yourself to death so you can buy all the things, eat all the things (but let’s be real, it’s mostly Cheetos and fast food because we’re too busy for anything else), do all the things … and what … be happy because you’ve finally “made it”?
Hold on, something’s not adding up here. Well, there’s a lot adding up but what’s it adding up to?
Brahmacharya, the fourth yama in the Yoga Sutras, addresses moderation.
This yama says “Put that bag of Cheetos down and let’s get mindful and shit.”
(OK so maybe that’s not a literal translation. That’s my translation.)
Yoga philosophy asserts that we don’t need all that stuff. Of course, we have basic human needs. Food, water, shelter.
But everything we need to be happy, to be at peace, to be whatever it is we are searching to be and to truly “make it” — whatever that might mean, is inside of us. It’s not found in any of that stuff.
It’s not in that bag of Cheetos. It’s not in that dress … yes, even if it’s your favorite designer and it’s on sale and you basically haaaave to have it … it’s the universe’s plan, right? Wrong.
It’s not in your job promotion or the number on your paycheck. It’s not in the number of miles you’ve logged this week or the number of times you’ve gone to the gym.
I’m going to sound like your granny for a moment and say that times have changed.
Things used to be simpler. And even though I was born in the ‘80s, I have still seen (and admittedly been a part of) a society that has grown more and more attached to stuff and things.
Our closets are an example of this evolution.
My parents live in a house that was built in the 1800s. It’s a charming home. The closets? Tiny. Back then people only owned a few items of clothing.
When I got to college, I was thrilled to have a bigger closet in my dorm. While other girls complained about the lack of space, I was elated! So of course, I filled it with more stuff. And then I “needed” a larger closet to house all my important things.
When my husband and I got a place of our own with a large closet, guess what happened? I filled it with more stuff. We even had an extra room in the duplex we rented, which quickly became an “exercise room” — AKA a storage unit where our excess stuff went to die.
Then we bought a house with smaller closets. And what did we do? We got rid of stuff. (GASP!) And we are not less happy, less peaceful or lesser people because of it. We survived. I know, it’s shocking.
The fact is, closets in homes are getting bigger and bigger. And now, you can even buy storage units to fill with all your excess stuff. Or a storage pod. Or build a 6-car garage because you need somewhere to put all those cars and Christmas decorations.
Why? Why are we clinging to this excess?
I’m not saying you should live in a tiny home and get rid of all your belongings. But I am suggesting you do the hard work yoga asks of us off the mat and ask why.
Because I believe that asking why is the key to growth and progress, as a society and as individuals.
It’s the first step toward understanding and it’s the first step toward change. It’s always the first step.
So … why? Why do I feel compelled to eat this entire bag of Cheetos? Why is it that suddenly I can’t possibly live without the dress I didn’t even know existed five minutes ago? Why am I so attached to this thing outside of myself? What void am I trying to fill?
Seriously, ask yourself. When you find yourself knee-deep in a bag of Cheetos (we’ve all been there), pause and ask why.
When you’re at the store and feel like you “need” something, something you didn’t even intend on buying today, ask why. When you start making plans to expand your closet, ask why.
When you’re working late into the night — again — ask why. And don’t just make it a passive ask with a half-ass answer like “because I want it." Dig deep.
You might be surprised to uncover your whys.
Mine vary, but here are some of the answers I’ve found:
- These Cheetos are filling the emptiness that my sadness has left inside.
- This dress is substituting the self-worth that I’m lacking.
- All these hours of work are distracting me from addressing the scary dark corners of my mind.
Those are just a few of my “whys”. And knowing the why is the first step toward actually fulfilling your needs. And it doesn’t require anything outside yourself to truly feed those needs.
It’s harder to ask why.
It’s harder to acknowledge sadness than it is to eat Cheetos. It’s harder to find self-love than it is to buy a dress. And it’s harder to work all the time than it is to explore those dark corners of our minds. But that stuff is just a bandaid. It’s not healing the wound, it’s just covering it up. And once those wounds heal, I believe that’s when we find that nirvana — that true peace, “the end goal” if you will.
Here’s a mantra for you to try on that I’ve used this week in my personal practice and in my classes:
All that I need is right here.
Close your eyes, rest a hand on your heart (the “here” in this mantra), and repeat these words out loud or silently. Repeat it when you find yourself in the “too much” zone. Whether you’re at the mall or in the bag of Cheetos. Know that all that you need is right here — inside that beautiful soul of yours. You don’t need anything else for fulfillment.