There’s a framed quote in my house that says, “The best things in life aren’t things.” It reminds me to notice and value what really matters—love, relationships, our basic needs being met. When I do, I’m filled with such a sense of abundance.
That said, I live in a world that really values stuff. I’ve realized that to counter our consumer culture takes intention and deliberateness.
One of the biggest changes we made when we moved across the continent last year was that we gave up using Amazon for our day-to-day shopping. Over the years as Amazon Prime became a regular part of our consumer life, it had slowly infiltrated almost all of our buying habits. Like many of us, it started with books but soon we were buying everything on Amazon, including school supplies, electronics, clothing, groceries, pet food… the list goes on an on.
How many of us have had an Amazon delivery show up at our door and have had no recollection of what was inside the brown box? That was happening to us again and again as the deliveries became weekly, sometimes daily, occurrences. Anything we wanted was literally at a click of a button. The time we spent thinking about whether we really needed something or if it was good value was basically eliminated. What I realized was that Amazon made it far too easy to spend mindlessly, so we used our move as a moment to reset our relationship with Amazon. In the end, we decided to break up.
For those of us focused on living more consciously, we might notice that a tool we can use to cultivate more awareness and presence is the ability to create gaps between things, which makes us less reactionary and gives us more time to respond thoughtfully. Technology has closed many of those gaps, prompting us to react almost instantaneously, often to our detriment.
Have you ever responded to a text while in a reactionary mode and later regretted what you had sent? Have you ever posted something in social media and later, after thinking about, went back and deleted it? I certainly have. Technology allows us to act quickly, and that’s not always a good thing. Sometimes we need a little time and space to access our intuition and discernment. Cultivating pauses that give us a chance to be mindful can be a real asset in our struggle to live more consciously.
Amazon shopping, especially its one-click option, tends not to be a slow, methodical behavior. We pick up our app, find what we want, and within a few clicks the item is on its way to our doorstep. Take a look at your buying history over the past three months and see how many items you would have passed on if you had taken the time to think about it.
But also think about what would have happened if you had chosen to purchase that item elsewhere. Perhaps you could have supported a local business or a artisan. Maybe you could have gotten a better price or a better product once you had the opportunity to actually hold the item in your hands. Maybe you would have forgotten about it all together, realizing it wasn’t worth the errand. Or maybe, and this seems revolutionary, you could have cultivated the ability to do without.
I’m not anti-Amazon. I think it’s a fascinating company. What I am is pro-mindful spending and Amazon’s platform makes it just too easy to spend without much thought. So, instead of using it a few times a week, as we did previously, we only use it a few times a year.
While buying nice things and not wanting for anything may seem to make us feel happy, the truth is that true contentment comes from being grateful for what we already have. To shake the endless need to buy things and have things is a valid aspiration. As much as possible, we should aim to liberate ourselves from wanting things all the time, because constant yearning focuses our resources and energy on all the wrong things. But deliberately cultivating gratitude and appreciation for the little things in life is what creates lasting contentment and happiness. Our sense of abundance doesn’t come from our ability to get whatever we want, but from our sense that we want and appreciate what we already have.
TRY THIS GRATITUDE PRACTICE
One of the best things we can do before we fall asleep at night is increase our sense of abundance, calm and ease. When we cultivate a gratitude practice at bedtime, we navigate the mind toward positive thoughts, calm the nervous system and gently guide ourselves into rest.
Once you’ve climbed into bed and are ready for sleep, take the last few minutes before closing your eyes to think of three to five things you are grateful for. Reflect on your day and the interactions you had. Think of your meals, the weather, your home and your surroundings.
Listing things we’re grateful for gives the mind a positive project to engage in, especially if we deliberately amplify our positive emotions along the way. Close your eyes, feel your feelings, use your senses. The more vibrant you can make your gratitude practice, the more deeply it will sink in. Let the feelings of gratitude enhance your sense of calm and peace as you drift off to sleep.
Keep a gratitude journal on your pillow as a physical prompt for this practice. Every once in a while, read back on what you’ve written over the past few weeks or months.