Back to my Saturday night in Bali. I was having moments of immaturity. Inside me was the whiny voice of a child, wanting to be taken care of. Wanting the streets to be clean. Wanting other people to be in the street with me. Wanting an Indonesian-style cafe to be open not one catering to Western hippies. (I love Indonesian food.) Wanting there to be more lights on. Wanting to have my own scooter. Wanting to have Secret Cameraman with me.
Fortunately, I was able to recognize this as an opportunity for consciousness. I went into the cafe, and was greeted by a lovely Balinese woman, smiling and welcoming me. I found the nasi goreng on the menu, in between quesadillas and spinach soup. If this were a Hollywood movie, Secret Cameraman would have walked in the door just as I started to eat, and we would all live “happier ever after.” But he didn’t. Nonetheless I experienced happiness. My desires had been met – warm, delicious food, a little human company, and the remaining walk home was now quite short.
With maturity comes an understanding of life that we live here with limits and boundaries. It’s that plain and that simple. In early childhood, we were not aware of those limits and boundaries. We humans have come to identify the limits and boundaries as the thieves or restrictors of our happiness, but this is not so! So many research studies have shown that people with extreme limits (quadriplegia for example) are just as happy as those who have four functional limbs. It further shows that people in less developed countries are happier than those in the United States. Liitle children and the candy counter think feel as if it is the end of the world if they don’t get that candy bar. Meanwhile people who have less stuff report being happier than those who have lots of stuff.
How can this be? Stuff does not bring happiness in and of itself; it is a means to happiness when co-mingled with consciousness of what it can and cannot do. Religions have preached that stuff will not make you happy, and it has been tinged with the opposite message that stuff is somehow bad. Having too much stuff is somehow worse.
Nonetheless we are drawn to stuff – whether it be books on meditation or a new Lexus tofu or top sirloin. You may judge others’ stuff as being more or less enlightened than your own, but to me it all falls into the same pot of stuff.
Stuff is not the problem you see. It is what we expect of stuff that is the problem. Have as much stuff as you want! Because stuff, like everything else in life, is personal and subjective. For me, I like to live in a space that is less cluttered. I like to acquire new stuff, but since I don’t like clutter, that means I keep my stuff in circulation. I don’t hold on to things for a very long time.
Other people are much more comfortable in the midst of clutter. The energy of the objects soothes them, where for me it disturbs. Maturity is being able to understand how stuff works, energetically, and being able to manage your individual, subjective, personal relationship to stuff with the background knowledge that we live in a world of limits and boundaries.
I would have preferred the streets to be clean, dry, and better lit, with more choices of restaurants and a few more people out and about. So while I didn’t get all of my first choices, I did get a deeply satisfying meal and a safe walk home. It turns out that I also like solitude, so this experience actually worked from that perspective, if not from the stuff perspective.