Recently I was listening to an expert on simplicity talking about a minimal lifestyle and cutting down costs and eliminating clutter. She encouraged readers to ask themselves what they were actually trying to buy when they spent money and in asking that myself, I realized that the answer was “peace”. The last handful of non-essential items I had purchased were paint for my bedroom, more houseplants (I already have dozens of them), and soft and comfortable clothing. I bought all of these things in the hope that they would make me feel more peaceful- more peace in my bedroom looking at the beautiful new decor that is more suited to me, peace in having more nature filling up my home, and peace in feeling comfortable yet stylish (my version of stylish) clothing. After pondering this, I had an epiphany that this feeling of peace is one that I’m always chasing after. I’ve been chasing after it for years, and probably even my whole life.
I’ll be the first to admit that my old ways of chasing peace brought the complete opposite, and most people I’ve grown up around would think I’ve actually been chasing complication and conflict because I was doing it in all the wrong ways. Seeking out the next adrenaline hit, using chemicals to alter my state (caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes), and spending money I didn’t have to find it. Thankfully, in the last five or so years, I’ve learned much healthier ways to try and find peace- yoga, meditation, stillness, time in nature, reading a good book, quality time with my family, journaling, etc. However, I’m still constantly chasing this sense of peace. I’ve gotten a much better handle on it and am finding it in healthier ways, but I still have a hard time reverting to some of my old ways. I think this is something most of us are doing a majority of our time. We are either chasing an emotion (living in the future) or running from one (the past), instead of cultivating the feeling within ourselves in the present moment.
In order to identify the core emotion you are seeking, start by listing out the last 5-10 non-essential things you purchased- this could be material items, experiences, or any other way you’ve spent your money that pushed beyond what you truly need. Think about why you bought them and what goal you had in spending your money on them. Or consider how you were feeling immediately before buying them. Find any commonalities between them. I would strongly encourage journaling this. Writing things down with pen/pencil and paper is such a cathartic experience and is a simple and effective way of connecting with your intuition.
Once you’ve determined the emotion, try to see the patterns and ways that you are (or have been) seeking it out. Then, determine whether you are chasing it or running from it. Once you are able to get to the root emotion you are seeking, you are better able to start seeing how it shows up in your life. And it shows up EVERYWHERE- in your work, relationships, finances, health, diet, hobbies, etc. The first step in overcoming an issue is to first identify it- name the emotion and then start to explore how it presents itself in your life. Once you’ve identified it, start to catch yourself when you start seeking that emotion out and determine whether you are seeking it in a destructive way or a healthy way. Instead of trying to chase or run from it, challenge yourself to find a way to cultivate it in the moment without seeking it externally. Good luck! I’ll be on this journey to cultivating my own sense of peace along with you while you cultivate whatever emotion you are seeking.