reconciling the worlds of style & spirit
I often find myself caught between two seemingly opposite worlds – the world of style and the world of spirit. Materiality versus spirituality. Form versus formless. I love both worlds, but have found myself wondering how I can be a spiritual person and still love fashion, shopping, home decor, and all-things-style. How do we reconcile the materialistic nature of the world of style with the formless nature of the world of spirituality?
There’s no doubt that I’m totally drawn towards the world of style. To me, dressing well in clothes I love is important. Surrounding myself with beautiful things is imporant. Creating a warm, welcoming home is imporant. I think visuals, when curated in a specific way, have a way of lending a particular feeling, that feeling depending on the visuals and how they’re curated, that gives us a positive experience and wonderful memories. Visuals are important to me. I would be lying if I tried to pretend they weren’t. I choose my shoes for a night out based on how I want to feel and what I want to project. But does the fact that I place a high value on visuals and the feelings created by them make me less spiritual?
I don’t think so. I think trouble arises when we start placing our self-worth and identity in material items…or anything outside ourselves for that matter. When we want Chanel simply because it’s Chanel. When we feel less than others because we don’t have the designer duds they do (hello, blogging). When we buy a new dress to look better than someone else. When we want that sofa because so and so has it. When who we are becomes what we have, what we wear, and what we look like. That’s where the trouble is.
So what do we do? How can I want nice things (designer labels included) and still be a spiritual person? I don’t think shunning material items and renouncing shopping is the answer (don’t worry!). Instead, I think the key is to not place our identity and self-worth in what we own and what we want. In A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle says, “We need to honor the world of things, not despise it…But we cannot really honor things if we use them as a means of self-enhancement, that is to say, if we try to find ourselves through them.”
Tolle suggests a spiritual practice of investigating your relationship with the world of things through self-observation. In order to honestly find out if our sense of self-worth is tied up in the things we own, we can ask a few questions (from A New Earth, p. 38):
Do certain things induce a subtle feeling of importance or superiority?
Does the lack of them make you feel inferior to others who have more than you?
Do you casually mention things you own or show them off to increase your sense of worth in someone else’s eyes and through them in your own?
Do you feel resentful or angry and somehow diminished in your sense of self when someone else has more than you or when you lose a prized possession?
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m attached and identified to plenty of things. Do I place my self-worth in my clothes and my ability to dress well? Um, yes. Do I want Louboutins simply because they’re Louboutins and I want those red soles?! I would be a big fat liar if I said no. Do I feel diminished in my sense of self when I see a blogger decked out in designer labels? Not as often as I used to, but sometimes I definitely do.
You know what, though? It’s okay. The most important thing is that I’m aware of my attachment. Tolle says, “How do you let go of attachment to things? Don’t even try. It’s impossible.” Great. He continues, “Attachment to things drops away by itself when you no longer seek to find yourself in them. In the meantime, just be aware of your attachment to things. Sometimes you may not know that you are attached to something, which is to say, identified, until you lose it or there is the threat of loss. If you then become upset, anxious, and so on, it means you are attached. If you are aware that you are identified with a thing, the identificiation is no longer total. ‘I am the awareness that is aware that there is attachment.’ That’s the beginning of the transformation of consciousness.”
Ultimately, being a spiritual person doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate material things. It simply means that you don’t try to find yourself in them. When we can acquire and appreciate material items for what they are and not attach our identity to them, when we stop trying to boost our self-concept with them, that’s when we’ve reconciled the world of style and the world of spirituality – the world of form and the world of formless.
We don’t have to move away from one to live the other. I absolutely think it’s possible to be a well-dressed, fashion-forward, stylish woman with a rockin life that doesn’t have any attachment to the material aspects of her life. There is appreciation and care but not attachment. I’m certainly not there, but I hope to be some day.
In the meantime, I will enjoy and celebrate the awareness I do have around my attachments so that those attachments may slowly fade away over time. I will continue to wear my heels, style my hair, and decorate my home, but I will work on recognizing their temporariness and that who I truly am has nothing to do with those things.