Indulgence Versus Overindulgence by Tasha Halpert

  Stephen plopped another load of catalogs from the postman on the table. “The poor mailman must be tired having to lug all this stuff around,” he said as we prepared to recycle most of them. “I agree,” I said, “And it’s amazing how fast they found us at this address. We’ve only been here a few months and already we’re getting all kinds of stuff from our former address and other places too.” As I glanced at the shiny covers before dropping them into the wastebasket I thought about the catalogs from my childhood.

I remember when the number of catalogs my parents received were few and far between, not the quantities that arrive annually in the mail from October through most of December. For me as a child they were fun to look through and very helpful. My opportunity to shop in actual stores was rare. Young people growing up today have no idea what it might be like to have one car in the family, limits on gasoline, and no malls–only local stores.

Today’s plethora of opportunities for shopping indulgence can easily make for overindulgence. Tempting ads in catalogs, shiny online images of pretty items plus the ease of online shopping–not to mention the heaps of catalogs the postman delivers present would be Santas with a banquet of goods. Credit cards–buy now pay later, make it even easier to spend more than might be wise given one’s resources.

I remember how good I felt a number of years ago when I got my first credit card. Now I didn’t have to wait to buy something; I could have it right away. Prior to this I had to put things I couldn’t afford to pay for immediately on layaway, which meant waiting until the item was paid off to take it home. The opportunities to spend as well as the ease of access to goods makes for a potential for unexpected debt. It is amazing to me how even small purchases add up to a grand total that always seems more than I anticipate.

In addition, while the items in a catalog or online might seem quite wonderful by description, the reality may be quite different. I have all too often been disappointed in the actuality of the gift once it arrived and was opened. This is also true of food from catalogs which often is not nearly as tasty as it appears in the pretty pictures. It is not only easy but also more tempting to be less choosy when one is not putting limits on one’s indulgences.

However, as well as a downside, there is also a good side to this situation. The opportunity to indulge with limits rather than overindulge without them, can present a chance to practice restraint as well as detachment. Life, that marvelous daily Buddha, offers us many opportunities for important spiritual lessons. Reining in the appetite for spending as well as choosing wisely the absolutely perfect single gift can be a marvelous chance for spiritual practice as well as a way to save.

Deb's party food 2

What Do I Bring To The Present Moment

Recently I was thinking about my presence in the moment: a description of the Zen way of experiencing what is happening while it is happening, in all of its simplicity. It occurred to me that it is almost impossible to bring an empty mind and heart to any given moment because whatever I see, hear or experience is attended by what has gone before as well as sometimes in my mind, what is or might be to come.

 

Much as I want to experience reality from a place of “beginner’s mind” which is one way of describing a fresh, unprejudiced point of view, the best I can do is be aware of whatever judgments or previous perceptions I might have that can influence my observations. I first learned about the beginner’s mind approach many years ago when I went to a very special learning center and heard monthly speakers discussing Yoga, Zen, and other spiritual paths. Because it struck me as useful, I began to work on this.

 

Over the years I have learned to be more observant not only of what goes on around me but also of my own thoughts and responses. Usually it takes a while for me to see myself in action. Often it is only after tripping over my words or actions that I learn to notice my feelings and thoughts at any given time. Eventually I always hope to get to the point where I only think a judgment driven response rather than express it and then be sorry afterward for having said something I wish I hadn’t.

 

I recognize that I can only be aware of what I bring to any given moment. I cannot be present in any moment without bringing to it all the other moments it is attached to. My life is made up of all of its moments, and there is no escaping my recall that hauls up any related experience or judgment as soon as I observe what is in front of me.  Perhaps one day I will be able to have a mind that is truly empty as I bring it to bear upon the moment. For now, the simple awareness that I do not must be enough.