For a very long period of time, I was convinced that materialism and spirituality cannot co-exist. In fact, I thought that materialism is the direct opposite of spirituality, and that all materialists are inherently “shallow people”. With age, though, came new experiences and a new realization that the world is not as black and white as it may first appear to a teenager with a maximalist view of the world.

As a person that is very passionate about self-actualization, I believe that the topic of materialism and spirituality cannot be put aside. Self-actualization is all about becoming better and finding harmony, a balance in life between everything that it offers. Therefore, both, materialism and spirituality, should be handled with equal importance.

The aim of this post is to help those that might be having the same inner struggle that I once had. A struggle regarding the question of can materialism and spirituality co-exist in one person or can they not?

Terminology

Materialism

In order to understand what the problem is, we must first define, what is “materialism”. If you look at the Merriam-Webster dictionary, you will see some of the following definitions:

  1. a theory that physical matter is the only or fundamental reality and that all being and processes and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or results of matter (scientific materialism)
  2. a preoccupation with or stress upon material rather than intellectual or spiritual things

The first definition basically means that matter comes first, and everything else is there because of it. While this is the most accurate definition, it is not the one that is widely used by the public.

Definition two refers to someone that cares more about material well-being than spirituality or things that cannot be seen or felt. This is the definition that I want to discuss in the post.

Spirituality

Spirituality, at first glance, carries one meaning that is easily understood by everyone. Usually, it is quite clear what we mean when we call someone a spiritual person. However, if you look once again at the Merriam-Webster dictionary, you can see the following:

  1. something that in ecclesiastical law belongs to the church or to a cleric as such
  2. clergy
  3. sensitivity or attachment to religious values

Here is where the problems begin. These three definitions all refer to the church in some way. I am confident that many people will not agree with the fact that you need to belong to a church in order to be spiritual. I personally also think this way.

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But if you go deeper, then you will realize that there actually is no clear definition of what it means to be spiritual. Some say you need to belong to a church, second say you need to meditate, third say that you can be spiritual simply by helping other people, and so on.

When someone calls another person a “materialist”, they don’t usually have the scientific definition in mind. No, they say it to point out that the other person only cares about money or material things, and it’s most of the time stated with negativity.

When someone calls another person spiritual, it’s always a good thing. But based on the definitions above, who knows what is really meant with being “spiritual”.

Where am I going with this, you may ask yourself now. All I am trying to say is that both of these words, just like many other words in the language, are given the meaning by us that we feel suits them most. We add our own emotions to these words, and the person listening, may be of a completely different opinion than you of what these words really mean.

Words can and do mean different things based on our own culture and experiences. This idea is easy to grasp, but non-intuitive for most people. When we are aware of this fact, it becomes clearer that we are not struggling so much with the spiritual or materialistic side in us, but rather with the meanings that either we or someone else has given these words.

When we realize that the words materialism and spirituality are only words, the boundaries of how they affect who we are, begin to shatter and the inner struggle of “to which word we want to belong more”, also decreases.

My story

I was growing up no different from any other child, but at the age of 14, I experienced something that changed me forever. I had an astral projection experience, or in other words, an out of body experience. It wasn’t then yet a full-blown experience, but I felt these vibrations that precede astral projection, and I saw things through my closed eyelids. This experience was more than enough to shatter my life. You can read the full story here.

From that point on I become convinced that something exists beyond our life here in the physical realm. Of course, some will argue with me about this, but that’s really not what I want to discuss in this post. The point is that after the experience I went deep into learning about various esoteric practices, meditation, Buddhism, shamanism, etc.

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At the age of 18, I was already struggling with the idea of what it means to be spiritual. Because I had my extraordinary experiences and because I was reading a lot about what it means to be spiritual, I got this feeling of pride and that I knew things that the majority of people didn’t. All of the ideas about spirituality inevitably led me into thinking that in order to become more spiritual, I would need to stop eating meat. Of course, now I understand how silly was that thought, but I was 18. Nonetheless, the next morning I became a vegetarian. Full story here.

As expected, half a year after becoming a vegetarian, I saw that not eating meat was not making me any more spiritual. And although I understood that it wasn’t about living with a meatless diet, I never stopped being a vegetarian. I just love animals a lot and didn’t want them to die because of me. (P.S. I am aware of how milk and eggs are made, please don’t judge.) I am 27 today and still a vegetarian.

As you can see, I really was having an identity crisis. On the one hand, I wanted to be spiritual, but on the other hand, I still felt like being human and enjoying what life has to offer. The more I was “into spirituality”, the more I needed to take breaks from it. I was in between two lives. The only result that I was getting from being spiritual was a lot of mental pain. At the times when I was trying to be aware, calm and meditate a lot, I wanted to have fun and live a normal consumer lifestyle. And when I was being “materialistic”, I felt wrong about it and wanted the opposite.

I never figured then that the only reason why I was having an identity crisis, in which I was jumping back and forth between lifestyles, was because I had a wrong image of what it means to be spiritual and what it means to be materialistic. My “all or nothing” personality trait was seriously hurting me at that age. I just wasn’t able to find that golden mean.

My thoughts of materialism and spirituality today

Materialism and Spirituality 2Because I became older and more mature (I prefer to think so), I see that materialism and spirituality are what you make of them. In fact, life, in general, is what you make of it. Nothing more, nothing less. And that’s the beauty and danger of it at the same time. If you see the world through the prism of fear, hate and anger, then that is what you will attract. And if you look at the world with a smile and the desire to live, then you will be happy and successful. It’s how the Law of Attraction works.

With materialism and spirituality, it’s exactly the same thing. If you think that the road to becoming spiritual must be painful and a struggle, then that is what you will get. That is what I got.

Materialism and spirituality – “Money is the root of all evil”

There is a belief that money makes people greedy and evil. Many people, including the young me, would tell you this. Why? Because that is what many of us were taught to believe. The majority of people will never be rich, and that will raise jealousy in others. It’s a lot easier to talk trash about someone for the hard work they have done and the money that they have earned, then to go and try to achieve the same for ourselves.

It took me a while to understand that the majority of rich people are rich because they are extremely good at doing what they do and because they are hard workers.

If you think about it, why would anyone give up the possibility of having the riches if they spent years and years getting there? It’s hard to find a reason! In fact, if you ask almost any person out there, would they be willing to earn double or triple the amount they are currently earning, they would say YES! But at the same time, many of these people call others greedy or materialistic for being able to live a luxurious lifestyle. In my opinion, that’s just who we are. It’s in our nature to be jealous of others.

The moment you stop looking down at wealthy people, and the moment you start asking them for help and guidance, that will be the moment when your view of the world will shift dramatically. That is actually one of the characteristics of successful people – their desire and readiness to learn from others.

If you go even further, you will see that one other thing that very many successful people share is their generosity, their ability to give. Warren Buffett, Micahel Bloomberg, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and many many others, are all philanthropists that have donated billions of dollars to charities worldwide.

In much of the literature that I read written by successful people, I noticed how they all talk about the importance of being grateful for life, loving your family and the people around you. They talk about how you should take care of your body, eat well, exercise and meditate daily. They all teach how to love life and everything around.

Unfortunately, I have many times witnessed people thinking they are spiritual only because they consume psychedelics. And I don’t think this is a problem in itself, except that many of them are actually very unhappy on the inside. And they are the same people that are very negative about those that work extremely hard every day and have been able to achieve much in the materialistic sense.

Life is what you make of it. If that’s your definition of what it means to be spiritual, then that’s what it will be.

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Materialism and spirituality – final words

Today I understand that self-actualization is not about earning a lot of money, meditating 24/7 or having the perfect physical body. It’s about having inner peace and harmony, and being able to have balance in life while constantly improving yourself. It’s up to you how you get there, but it’s important not to cling onto words or what other people think of you.

Some of you may wonder then, but what about great beings such as Jesus or Buddha? They didn’t have almost any material belongings, yet they are some of the most known people that have ever walked this planet.

I believe that because everyone is different, living in their own time and place, everyone has their own life path to follow.

If you think that to become spiritual you must leave behind your family, castle, all material belongings and then become an ascetic, then you will have a problem with who you are today. On the other hand, what if you could help all of the starving people and animals of this planet? What if you could end wars or provide food and shelter to those that need it? Is there no spirituality involved here? What will be better, you living in a deserted place alone meditating for the rest of your life, or saving the lives of others and helping people become happy? Don’t ask me, I don’t have an answer, just ideas.

The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can’t are both right.       — Confucius

Thank you for stopping by and good luck!

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Materialism and Spirituality – Can They Co-Exist?
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