beyond the natural mind – a 21 day manifesto

Day Ten

“Today I will start to realise that the more I possess, the less free I truly am”

Possessions. They’re funny things. Even though I have let go of 99% of mine, there are still some that I can’t/ won’t let go of. The first is my laptop, which I write all these books for you lovely people on. The second is all my camping gear in case I ever need a place to stay. The third is my music in case I ever get asked to DJ again, fourth is my guitar, in case I ever practice enough to become good at it, fifth is several books on traditional thai massage and anatomy in case I ever forget how to massage, sixth is several books on growing fruit and vegetables, and last but not least, my shoes, and clothes.

I do not currently have my own place to live as I could not pay the rent asked due to the work I do, so I must stay with kind hearted family and friends, but if I did I’m sure the list would be in the dozens if not hundreds of items.

You see, houses and apartments take a lot of furnishing (just imagine the number of utensils one needs in a kitchen!). But all of these things seem necessary when you have your own place to call home.

So if all these items are important what’s all this talk of being free without them? Can’t I be free with all the possessions? Well, the definition of free is “not under the control or in the power of another; able to act or be done as one wishes” which on the surface does not appear to have anything to do with possessions, but let us investigate this further.

Me: “Not under the control of another” and “able to act as one wishes” are the two statements within the definition, so let me ask you a question. How did you get the possessions?
Man: “I worked for them. I don’t owe anyone a penny. Everything I bought is mine.”

Let us reflect on the definition once again, shall we?
“Not under the control of another” and “able to act as one wishes”.

Me: “So let me ask you the question again. How did you get the possessions?
Man: “That’s unfair, that’s a trick question! Alright, so I had to go out to work for many hours to be able to pay for the things I bought, but it was my choice to go out to work.”
Me: “And no one would disagree with you there. It was your choice. No one forced you. But I have to ask you the question ‘are you free?’”
Man: “Well, I live in a society where I am able to speak my mind without fear of arrest, and I am free to do what I want as long as I don’t break the law.”
Me: “That’s true, but that is the political state of affairs in your country at the moment, able to be changed on the whim of the next government. So what is this freedom you are talking about then?”

I’m sure most of you have your own definitions of freedom; freedom of speech being the one most people tout as the ultimate freedom. But I give myself that right, and if anyone wants to imprison me for saying something that they disagree with, then that is what they will have to do. For when we worry that we will be locked up or murdered for speaking out against terror, torture, or inhumane acts towards humans, animals, or the planet itself, then we must question our commitment to what we believe in.

So if you don’t mind, with that out of the way, let us go back to the task at hand, that is trying to understand why I am less free when I have more possessions.

Our first discussion was with someone who had worked hard and paid for everything with the money he had earned, but he quickly realised that the true cost to possession was the need to go to work every day to pay for it.
At least he didn’t buy it on credit, where he has now added another layer of complexity to his “freedom”. Now he must go to work, not just to earn money, but to pay back the loan, with interest, for the items he now possesses before he is back to the first layer of just working.

Let us assume that our person is a very forward thinking young man and decides to purchase a house. He already has the deposit from his savings that he has worked for, but must now borrow money from a bank for an average of 20 years, meaning he is tied to work for at least that time (unless he wins the lottery, or earns a lot of money).
But our person doesn’t care about that. It is considered a worthwhile task to purchase your own house. He goes about furnishing it with various loans, and soon he has a lovely home to call his own.

He only has a small two bedroom home, with one bathroom, one lounge, and one kitchen but already has more possessions than half the population of the world; not that most of them wouldn’t jump at the chance of having them! But that’s another story!

In time, our person finds that special someone and they decide to get married. It is a wonderful wedding and they receive many gifts, and move in together, but soon realise that if they are to have a family they will need a bigger house. They borrow more money, buy a beautiful new house, and purchase many more possessions and furnish a baby room (Our person’s wife is going to have a baby!)

But our person is only on a modest income, and his wife decides that if they are going to bring up their child well and give him a good life, she will have to return to work soon.

The child wants for nothing, and is signed up to a very good school (after all, our family want to give him as many opportunities as possible).
Car repairs, insurance, income tax, council tax, new carpet, new television, re-paint the house, more gadgets for the kitchen, new garden equipment, a holiday to de-stress… All normal things in the life of our family.

Oh did I tell you they are thinking of having another child?

Our person, born naked into the world, now has so many layers piled on top of him, all dependent on him keeping his job.

A lot of you will think that there is nothing higher in life than holding down a job, owning your own house, having a family, and giving your children the best start in life.

But we’re here to talk about freedom. The freedom to just be, free from restrictions, free from the burden of possessions. Whether you see it is up to you. Whether you unburden yourself is up to you. But remember that you can’t take the possessions with you (as the ancient egyptians found out).

Oh did I tell you our person lost his job last week. Then his world came crashing down. Everything has a cost.


by alan macmillan orr


Chinese (Simplified)