There’s a clear danger in becoming too attached to “things”.
When you’re too invested in a relationship, for example, you begin to rely on it for happiness.
When you’re too attached to your car or your apartment, your self-esteem can take a hit as you use these things to compare yourself to others… Your Honda doesn’t match up to your buddy’s Audi, for example.
And the real danger of becoming too attached to “things”, of course, is that everything is temporary. All relationships come to an end, all material “things” can break or be taken from us, and all people die.
This is why the eastern philosophies of “non-attachment” are so appealing. Buddhist monks rely on nothing but their own meditations for being content and feeling at-ease. They own minimal possessions, avoid intimate relationships, and don’t have to worry about losing anything as a result. They focus solely on the internal.
Western cultures have developed on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. In the US and Europe, for example, people are groomed to seek happiness and fulfillment through relationships and material-based success. Think about it, almost all of us dream to make a lot of money, drive a dope car, and have a smoking hot wife. We focus all of our energy on the external.
The problem with focusing only on the internal
The issues with deriving your happiness and validation from external sources, as we do in the west, are obvious. By relying on things that are outside of our personal locus of control, we sacrifice the ability to control our feelings and emotions.
The eastern philosophies like Buddhism avoid 99 percent of the problems that can cause us stress, pain, and anxiety by removing all external distractions, as discussed above.
While this may seem like a no-brainer way to live a better life, you must recognize that you miss out on the opportunity to have a ton of amazing experiences that will bring you unparalleled levels of happiness if you’re to adopt the life of a Buddhist monk.
You avoid the pain and depression of losing things and relationships, but you also sacrifice all of the positive emotions that these external sources can bring into your life.
Relationships are amazing and should always be pursued
There’s no replacement for interacting with other people.
No video game, movie, workout, or even meditation can come close to matching the intensity and excitement of experiences that you can be co-create with other human beings.
This goes for both friendships and intimate relationships. In fact, a crucial part of every man’s life is finding camaraderie with other men… and intimacy with women.
There’s simply no replacement for being a part of a masculine tribe where you can compete and grow together, whether that’s being on a sports team of some kind, or just going on a grueling hiking adventure together.
And similarly there’s no replacement for spending time alone with a woman you’re sincerely attracted to, and experiencing all of the excitement and intimacy that comes along with that.
No amount of meditation or introspection can ever match the massive amounts of happiness and fulfillment that human contact experiences like these will bring you.
Material objects and cool shit should never be the goal
The dark side of seeking validation and happiness from external sources is when you seek it through material means.
Simply put: material objects cannot offer you a lasting sense of fulfillment or happiness. No car, gadget, computer, or piece of clothing can have a meaningful impact on your life. This is one area that the aforementioned eastern philosophies are 100 percent correct in avoiding.
Whereas relationships offer an incredible upside (i.e. the amazing experiences and emotions mentioned above) compared to their downside (i.e. the pain of losing a friend or family member, or breaking up with a girlfriend), material possessions do not.
The upside of material possessions vary wildly from the buyer’s high of purchasing a new jacket to the convenience factor of owning an iPhone. And while some of these things can add measurable value to your life, they should never be the focus. The value they can add tends to be in the form of increased productivity or convenience – and don’t get me wrong these are good things – but they are not things that will bring you lasting happiness and tranquility.
So while there’s no reason you should completely avoid material possessions, they should never be your focus or your goal. When you get obsessed with your wardrobe, your smartphone, or your car then you magnify the potential downside of not having these things from a minor inconvenience to a big fucking deal – and there’s absolutely no reason to do this.
As a side note: actively being grateful and reminding yourself about the relationships and things that you currently have is a good way to avoid being caught up in the trap of wanting more and more – and the unhappiness and discontent that comes along with this.
Meditation should be used liberally as a personal retreat
To re-iterate: the problem with the western world is that we pursue happiness and validation through almost purely external means.
The eastern philosophies sidestep the many problems of becoming attached to these external sources by avoiding them completely and focusing 100 percent on the internal. They do this primarily through meditation.
One way to think of meditation is as a means of “unplugging from the matrix” and entering into your own personal existence. You close your eyes and submerge yourself into the endless abyss of your own consciousness.
Doing so is challenging at first, but when you’re able to remain alone in silence and turn down your own mental chatter, a deep sense of relief, contentment, and tranquility will overcome you. And his is the magic of focusing on the internal…
You realize that you need absolutely nothing at all in order to be happy and at peace.
This is the magic the Buddhist monks have embraced as a lifestyle. And, as I covered above, it’s silly to avoid building relationships and other external sources completely. But it’s equally silly to pursue these things haphazardly, and abandon your innate inner peace in the process.
And this is why you must meditate regularly, while still enjoying the pleasures of human experiences, and yes even material objects. This is the balance that is so fucking hard to strike that the eastern philosophies have decided to give up the enormous upside of these external sources.
So continue enjoying the company of other human beings and your toys, too. But remind yourself every day, through meditation, that you don’t need any of them to be happy and fulfilled.