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Kelley Harrell

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Supersize Chi: The Spiritual Cost of Overconsumption

Posted: 09/09/11 09:47 AM ET

In a culture in which more is better and excess is revered, the ramifications of consumerist decadence on spiritual wellbeing are pervasive. The urge to overconsume is everywhere. Try finding a unit price of a single item that is cheaper than buying in bulk. Economic considerations aside, the commercial appeal to the baser hunter-gatherer mentality always pushes, "Why have one when you can have three?!" Value meals, bulk household supplies, combo insurance premiums, BOGO clothing ... You name it, we bloat it, then encourage all our friends to join in. We over eat, we over consume, we overspend, frequently all at once.

True to capitalist form, when we identify such a cultural dilemma we not only exploit it, we make it entertainment. Obesity, hoarding, and clutter litter prime time slots on network programming. Ironically, we sit on our couches and tune in to watch other people lose weight on NBC's "The Biggest Loser." TLC hosts the reality television show "Hoarding -- Buried Alive," programming that precariously peers into the lives of those who not only can't stop over-consuming, but can't throw away evidence of it. Animal Planet raises the bar higher, presenting "Confessions: Animal Hoarding," delving into the lives of people who keep pets as possessions, often to the detriment of owner and animal. The trend has even caught on in contemporary fiction. To be released next year, "Coveted" by Shawntelle Madison, is the first installment of an urban fantasy literary series about a female werewolf hoarder. To date, the main character is a werewolf who hoards holiday knickknacks. It's easy to look at these extreme examples of overconsumption and believe that these people are different, they are ill, unlike us. What does that judgment say about our culture, over all? We consider excess a cultural right, perhaps even a means to greater social mobility. Having more stuff fills our needs, right? If that's true, why, then, do we see the pattern of overconsumption and clutter creating immobility, and how does that stagnancy affect us spiritually?

Individuals who overeat, over-consume and hoard may be poorly balanced spiritually. The etheric field is comprised of the body, the chakra system, the body's meridians, and the subtly perceivable electrical and ethereal space around the whole works. What we call life force (chi, ki or prana, depending on your cultural influence) moves smoothly throughout the etheric field when we're healthy, connecting us with the etheric fields of others, of the planet, etc. When we're not well, the flow of life force gets out of balance; thus, we don't connect so well with our environment.

Looking specifically at the chakra system -- seven or more primary energy bridges roughly visualized along the spine -- we can see and measure our stages of development in the formed world. Roughly speaking, our upper spiritual chakras allow us to connect into the soul realm; thus, they connect us with our spiritual purpose. The lower earth chakras root us into the nature realm, giving us the tools to manifest our purpose. When chakra imbalance manifests in overactive Earth chakras and under-active spiritual chakras this state indicates more energy is devoted to material "stuff" than to tapping into the soul's needs. The imbalance can also occur the other way. An overactive crown and under-active root indicates too much emphasis on escapist dreaming of spiritual plans, leaving us without the motivation to actually enact them. When we fall out of etheric balance, we generally don't feel well emotionally, physically or both, and our lives stagnate. We care less about taking care of ourselves and our space. In short, when we stagnate life goes on, literally and figuratively piling up around us. Clutter without mirrors the clutter within. In our ideal state of divining our spiritual needs and bringing them into being, we're healthy, connected to our space, and balance our consumption according to true need.

Another spiritual factor influencing the drive to overconsume is commonly called soul loss, or what I think of as "soul shelving." When we suffer a trauma from which we feel we aren't moving on, the shamanic narrative interprets that state as a facet of the soul having become inaccessible. Everyone experiences soul loss at some point, as it is a natural state of healing and growth. When we need access to that soul aspect and can't reconnect with it problems arise, such as chronic patterns of depression, distress in relationships and in fulfilling personal obligations. If soul "loss" isn't recognized for the spiritual lack that it is, we attempt to fill ourselves with anything that will temporarily make us feel alive. In a compromised spiritual state, it's too easy to think that we can buy happiness. Superficial filling distances us emotionally from what we don't want to deal with. What we can't feel, we can't heal. Eve Ensler shared similar insight on emotional filling and its dissociating effect on the state of her health in a recent presentation "Suddenly, my body." Her story expresses the epitome of the common belief, "If I ignore it and fill myself with something else, it will go away." It didn't for Ensler. It doesn't for anyone. When we examine such stagnancy through the lens of soul loss, we become able to integrate our power into a focused, functioning drive toward wellness in our personal lives.

In an animistic worldview, all things are connected. What, then, is the collective soul price? The immediate impact lies in the earth, itself. Disregard for the self reflects disregard for the environment. In his book, "Green Psychology: Transforming Our Relationship to the Earth," Ralph Metzner describes that interconnectedness as resulting in ecocide. Modernized humans, by virtue of how we live, are at war with Nature. The trash from living lavishly has to be discarded in some ocean, some forest. The resources to supply our demand have to be extracted from some precious naturescape. By harming the planet we're harming ourselves, and vice versa. On a level closer to home, we look again at the etheric field, through which every thing is connected. What we don't heal in ourselves we pass on to others. It shows up in our relationships, our children, our work performance. It affects how we live in the space around us, how we treat ourselves and others. Our obligation to heal our spiritual wounds lies not only with ourselves but to every thing.

Promising is the fact that within that connection lies the power to heal over-consumption and clutter. When we begin to declutter our lives, we create a domino effect of wellness. By becoming mindful of our own living style, we can stop the cycle of excess. We become aware of what we need versus what we want. We become aware of others' needs. In that awareness we take better care of our surroundings and learn to foster their health, as well. When we make peace with the state of our physicality, we unearth the sources of emotional and spiritual needs and we begin the journey to heal them. We start to feel empowered. When we feel better we incorporate better living patterns for ourselves, our health improves, and we raise the life force of every thing. In that union, how we choose to live in our personal lives and space truly does affect the life force of All Things.

Bless us all with radiant wellbeing by taking exquisite care of yourself.

 

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