My practice of non-greed is more potent when I see myself as part of a whole web of life. For example, my relationship to the things in my possession takes on new meaning when I think of the well-being of others. Do I really need this item or do others need it more? Could I be sharing these things that have come into my hands?
It is not difficult to see that greed is rooted in a sense of incompleteness and lack, a search for security, and ultimately a failure to experience the sources of fullness and peace within. Our world is full examples of powerful multinational corporations monopolizing natural resources to produce more and more profit, enlarging the gap between the rich and the poor. We can also observe how the capitalistic economy we dwell in and the whole industry we call marketing is designed to convince us to feel lack and consume.
Of course there is nothing wrong with having and enjoying things. But when we depend on acquisitions as the source of our happiness, we end up in a relentless effort to acquire that goes beyond our actual needs. On the other hand, when we experience the joy of giving and serving others out of love, we discover a source of contentment independent of anything outside of us.
Even my relationship to the goals I pursue has taken on new meaning in light of practicing non-greed. I am reflecting on whether I am doing things just for myself or also considering how my choices affect others. It’s sometimes surprising to see how often I gravitate towards what suits me best and then try to rationalize how it could be good for others as well.
First, we have to acknowledge that our whole culture is caught in the grip of unnecessary desires and recognize the poison of accumulation for what it is. We are conditioned and pressured to want more and more–this is the myth of continual economic progress. This myth has become a monster destroying our ecosystem, taking our money and our life energy.
Second, we have to have the strength to say no. To go against this toxic flow, to resist the power of its empty promises and the corporation behind them, we have to regain an essential simplicity, return to what we need rather than what we think we want. Only then can we begin to hear the music of life, be attentive to the inner and outer need of the earth. Only then can we become alive with what is sacred and true.
Third, we have to learn to discriminate, to clear our inner and outer clutter. As we clear more space in our inner and outer lives, we become more attuned to what is necessary, more aware of the deceptions and false promises of unnecessary “stuff”.
The practice of meditation and mindfulness can clear the clutter of our minds. A few trips to Goodwill can clear the clutter from our homes. And then continual attention is needed so that the currents of accumulation do not fill the empty space we have created. Do we need more in our lives than love?
Practicing simplicity doesn’t mean giving away all our things, quitting our demanding jobs, and moving to a mountain hut or living off the grid. It simply means being very honest about what we value within our lives, what sustains us, brings us joy and meaning, and devoting ourselves to those activities, people or things. While we might end up having fewer possessions or changing some of our habits, simplicity compels a return, not a rejection–a seeing through and within, rater than looking somewhere else. When we live from a place of simplicity, we naturally find we need less and instead are more open to life.
excerpts from an article in Common Ground magazine by LLEWELLYN VAUGHAN-LEE