If you were stuck on a deserted island, what would you love to have with you? This question in a variety of versions comes up frequently in workshops, classrooms, parties… they are interesting ice breakers and an entertaining way to discern specifics about yourself and what you value. Throughout my life I’ve participated in the fun, but never thought about it much beyond that. When I step back and look at my life, though, I realize that specific question is in fact a very major governing factor in the way I am moving through my existence.
The essence of the question is “What things do you truly value?”, and consequently, “If everything was stripped from you, what would you first like to have back?”. For me it helps to think of placing my Self in the center, and then wrapping it carefully with things I love. One of the reasons I like this analogy is that the more I let material things become a concern in my life the heavier and more cumbersome the visual picture of my Self becomes. I am definitely a person who has a need to feel grounded and connected in life, but I realize that by maintaining a light and less-weighty Self, I am able to be more flexible. Being too bogged down in materialism creates a very high level of stress, and the old adage of “you can’t take it with you” rings true.
If we stay focused on what is essential to our happiness we will find it hard to stray. Generally we will find that what is most essential is not a material item. Dr. Viktor Frankl (an amazing man who survived the concentration camps), in his book Man’s Search For Meaning, said that “If a prisoner felt that he could no longer endure the realities of camp life, he found a way out in his mental life - an invaluable opportunity to dwell in the spiritual domain, the one that the SS were unable to destroy. Spiritual life strengthened the prisoner, helped him adapt, and thereby improved his chances of survival.” Frankl also wrote that "Love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire...The salvation of man is through love and in love."
It is useful to remember that the things that keep a person going in the worst imaginable situations have nothing to do with material things. If the immaterial are the most important, shouldn’t our time and energy in daily life reflect this?
Outside of this very sacred, transparent layer, we should carefully choose what we next wrap around us. We should make sure that the things that we keep reflect our true selves and not take lightly the ramifications of the things we have. Every thing in our world comes at some price to another thing, and we need to understand the interconnectedness that exists. Each day is a precious and wonderful opportunity to live our values and strive to have our choices reflect them.
May we all take one step closer to our true selves on this day.
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
-Leonardo da Vinci
If you hunger for a deep change in your life that moves you in the direction of less stress, more health, lower consumption, more spirituality, more respect for the earth and the diversity within and among species, you are not alone.
Man’s Search for Meaning, written by Viktor Frankl, is a moving examination of existence within a concentration camp from the unique point of view of a psychologist who is also a prisoner.
David Wann's book, Simple Prosperity: Finding Real Wealth in a Sustainable Lifestyle, is an interesting book on exactly what its subtitle promises.
Here is a useful resource list for sustainable living on a site that helps connect like-minded people: http://www.culturalcreatives.org/connections.html