June 16, 2015

How Buddhist Ideals Helped me Overcome my Shopping Addiction.

shopping ideals photo

I shopped. I shopped hard. If I had $10 to my name, I made it happen.

I got myself into uncontrollable debt. I lied. I spent money that I had no business spending. I once got busted by my husband obtaining a credit card behind his back. That made me feel like sh*t, but it didn’t stop me. I even saved the credit card info to use for online purchases after my husband confiscated the physical card.

That wasn’t the end of it. I was approved for an extended limit on the card which, at the time, I excitedly, although guiltily, accepted.

Through these fiascos, I always knew what I was doing wasn’t right. I always felt extreme guilt and even anxiety while spending money.

As a student of yoga, Buddhism and the Universe, I began to feel like I was betraying myself by wasting money away frivolously on things like home decor items and apparel.

I began to look deeper.

What I found was a plethora of realizations, which can be summed up in a neat little list:

Buddhist ideal #1: Craving causes suffering.
Craving comes from being dissatisfied with now. This can be remedied by practicing mindfulness. Experiencing the present moment and accepting the present as true reality eliminates the feeling of wanting things to change, wanting more.

Fulfillment (and everything else) starts from within.

Feeling fulfilled takes some practice.  Fulfillment ties together with gratefulness.  When we wake up each day and list off things that we appreciate in our lives, we start to realize that what we already have is enough.

Buddhist ideal #2:  Right effort.
If we believe in something but do nothing to support that belief or even perform actions that are against that belief, we cause ourselves suffering.  Putting forth an effort with positive intentions, for example, intending to better ourselves and others, helps to make choices much easier.

Being a conscious shopper is extremely important.

This is a concept that is fairly new to me.  I didn’t really consider what was behind the products I bought before. Knowing about companies that make the products we buy helps us to make an informed decision on what we choose to support. I’m not trying to be preachy, but just knowing the ethical (or not so ethical) practises that companies operate by helps us choose whether or not that’s what we are about, i.e. whether we support their practises or not.  This can be as simple as switching to cruelty-free make-up, or as complicated as boycotting the companies that make the majority of products we use on a daily basis! Being a conscious shopper helps us eliminate unnecessary purchases, especially products that are produced in an unethical, unsustainable manner. Even a small change makes a huge difference. Remember what Voltaire said: “no snowflake in an avalanche feels responsible.”

Buddhist ideal #3: Everything flows in a continuous cycle.
Nothing ever ends or begins, everything is a cycle of life.
Up-cycling items is awesome; what better way to appreciate what you have than to make it new all over again!

Buddhist ideal #4: You are enough.
Again, mindfulness comes into play here. Practicing appreciation of the present moment and what it offers us allows us to be grateful for everything we already have, therefore eliminating the desire (okay, not entirely, but enough) to want more.

Gratefulness is essential to finding true fulfillment.

Appreciating what we have is, believe me I know, much easier said than done. “Everything we need we already have in this moment” is a tricky concept to teach ourselves. Of course we require things from time to time to, you know, live, but what we truly need we already have. Expressing gratefulness for things in our life whether material or not, helps us to realize that we really don’t need more than what we already have.

Buddhist ideal #5: Accept what you have.
Resourcefulness is a virtue.

Instead of going out and buying something new, we can get creative with what we already have. Making good use of what we have helps us to appreciate our current items. When we use our current items in new ways, it gives the items fresh purpose or life.

#6: This one is something I taught myself with the guidance of my wise husband: wish lists are great.
Having a wish list allows us to decide what we really want. We can always add to it, subtract from it and it gives us a chance to really think about a purchase before making a commitment to it. I use wish lists to sort through items that I really really want, then I decide on a few that will serve myself and others well. For example, do I really need that new super cute dress, or should I instead go for the new book which, with the latter, I can learn from, share my newfound knowledge, and pass on to someone else for them to do the same.

Buddhist ideal #7: Non-attachment ends suffering.
Practicing non-attachment is key to feeling a sense of fulfillment. Accepting that everything moves in cycles and nothing is ever permanent helps us to detach from things, whether they are material or not.

And always remember: there are better things to spend money on in this world than clothes and nicknacks!

I have now reached a level in my life where I realize it is pointless to regret. You need to experience things to learn, to expand, to grow.  Besides, you didn’t know what you didn’t know. Tweaking the way we think about things in respect to consuming will change our spending habits for the better. The much better.


Author: Ashley Hankinson

Editor: Caroline Beaton

Photo: Author’s Own

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