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Catalog consciousness

personperson Don't believe everything you think'Merica! Veteran

I like this concept I heard in a teaching by Joseph Goldstein. He describes the state of mind that he has gotten into at times when he looks through a catalog. After a little bit of browsing he finds himself not just seeing what is in there but he starts wanting to find things to want.

I went to the store today to just grab a plastic bin for storage, then I started walking up and down the aisles to see if there was anything else I wanted to buy. The idea of catalog consciousness came to mind and I noticed how I didn't really need or want anything else but with all the stuff there I just got into the state of mind looking for things to want.

I've heard Andrea Fella say something similar in that when we get something we want it temporarily makes us happy so we start looking for other things to want so we can get it and get that same rush.

IMO they've laid out in a pretty articulate way our consumer society and how we end up powering our craving in an attempt to get that jolt of happiness that comes from getting what we want, even the small things.

Joseph goes on to say that it is akin to an addiction and that being free from that addiction of wanting to want is a much greater type of peace and happiness. I've been able to get there sometimes when I can get away from life, but I don't know how or even if it is really possible to hold onto.

I was raised to be pretty frugal with money, but recently my income has gone up some and I've found myself looking to buy items that I would normally manage to do without, like a new air conditioner or nice hiking boots. Getting caught up in wanting to want things ends up getting exhausting.

Anyone else have experiences with looking for happiness in wanting to want things too?

JeffreyShoshinSnakeskinVastmindBuddhadragonCarameltail

Comments

  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    All my working life, yeah.
    When you live in the larger city type areas, it's just too much stuff to tempt.
    I grew up in a small town, but going to the dime stores (we had 2!) was 'the thing to do' and seemed to be 'where it's happening' in my mind, anyway. Now, my attitude is almost a 180 on that kind of thinking / dreaming.

    personShoshinSnakeskinBuddhadragon
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Must dash off to work; so much I can add to this - Will touch base later - watch this space - !! :D

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    I have a strict habit of only buying things I need, and I generally use stuff I own until it breaks, so catalog consciousness is largely unknown to me. When I read through a catalog I usually end up looking for things I didn’t know I needed, because I didn’t know they existed.

    Thanks for introducing me to another thought pattern to beware of! :o

    Snakeskin
  • SnakeskinSnakeskin Veteran
    edited February 18

    I'm unfamiliar with the specifics of Joseph Goldstein’s concept of catalog consciousness. Generally, though, it sounds reminiscent of discerning the aggregate of perception, in the sense of that which cognizes, names, identifies, recognizes … catalogs. As Andrea Fella also indicated, some perceptions associated with pleasant feelings may activate the latent tendency of desire, which spawns craving leading to dukkha.

    That raises a question of the wholesomeness of the desire. The second Noble Truth, for example, divides craving into three classes that I think may be interpreted as increasingly wholesome or skillful. Craving for sensual pleasures is less skillful than craving for existence, as in, e.g, the material attainments, and the latter is less skillful than craving for non-existence, as in, e.g., the immaterial attainments, which is less skillful than abandoning craving, as in Nibbana. Just as Joseph Goldstein pointed out, freedom from want is the greater peace and happiness.

    @person said:
    Anyone else have experiences with looking for happiness in wanting to want things too?

    Hardly an unengaged moment passes where I’m not looking for happiness in wanting to want, both outwardly and inwardly. I've always been frugal too, sometimes fanatically, so it rarely manifest at a store or with stuff, but that want is almost always there in some way. The Buddha identified this not only as a cause of dukkha in an internal, personal sphere, but also as the source of all outer conflict. In the same way I think it's equally applicable to consumerism. Whether outwardly or inwardly caught up in wanting or the opposite side of that coin, it's all exhausting. “It's enough to be disgusted.”

    So, I think the antidote is that whatever want or not want arises, it should be discerned and filtered in one way or another through the question: is this leading to dukkha or to it's cessation? Less something to hold and more something to do, sometimes with ease and others with equanimity.

    p.s.
    Unless you're immune to blisters, I would put nice hiking boots in the middle way category. :p

    ShoshinpersonBuddhadragon
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Catalogue Consciousness reminds me of a flipbook (catalogue=book) where ones desires and aversions operate in rapid sessions ...the self is drawn in (pun intended) and is propelled along, fuelled by desire & aversion... :)

    On a side note...When I go to the supermarket for a couple of items, I end up with a bag full of stuff I didn't actually need at the time ..I guess I'm a shopaholic... :)

    Snakeskinsilver
  • I said no.

    I'll take two. <3

    :3 Make that three precious jewels ... I am on a spree ..

  • pegembarapegembara Veteran
    edited February 19

    @person said:
    I like this concept I heard in a teaching by Joseph Goldstein. He describes the state of mind that he has gotten into at times when he looks through a catalog. After a little bit of browsing he finds himself not just seeing what is in there but he starts wanting to find things to want.

    I went to the store today to just grab a plastic bin for storage, then I started walking up and down the aisles to see if there was anything else I wanted to buy. The idea of catalog consciousness came to mind and I noticed how I didn't really need or want anything else but with all the stuff there I just got into the state of mind looking for things to want.

    I've heard Andrea Fella say something similar in that when we get something we want it temporarily makes us happy so we start looking for other things to want so we can get it and get that same rush.

    IMO they've laid out in a pretty articulate way our consumer society and how we end up powering our craving in an attempt to get that jolt of happiness that comes from getting what we want, even the small things.

    Joseph goes on to say that it is akin to an addiction and that being free from that addiction of wanting to want is a much greater type of peace and happiness. I've been able to get there sometimes when I can get away from life, but I don't know how or even if it is really possible to hold onto.

    I was raised to be pretty frugal with money, but recently my income has gone up some and I've found myself looking to buy items that I would normally manage to do without, like a new air conditioner or nice hiking boots. Getting caught up in wanting to want things ends up getting exhausting.

    Anyone else have experiences with looking for happiness in wanting to want things too?

    I am afraid it's worse than you think. Our minds are being manipulated in subtle ways and we have less control that we think.

    person
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    I have found that I can usually appreciate something without owning it. It's an active practice that I only recently put into practice. I was reading something about our lack of ability to be patient and the rewards that we get when we make ourselves wait. That anticipation is a huge part of the fun of anything we do or receive. Isn't that the truth? Vacations, weddings, graduations, holiday gifts...most of the fun is in waiting, and then it's over in a flash and we experience a sort of loss/depression/whatever over it. I've also noticed this applies in taking things from nature, too. For me, I might pick up a rock that looks so pretty only to get it home and not even be able to distinguish it from most other rocks. Because it retained it's beauty due to being a part of the whole environment. The water, the angle of the sunlight, etc. When I took it, it lost something.

    So it led me to a theory that I can appreciate something without having to have it. Without owning it. That the happiness comes in the wonder, joy and appreciate of the existence of something more so than in the ownership of it. I've found, so far, it works out pretty well. 90% of the stuff I'd buy, I'd get home and wonder why I buy it. Now that I understand I can window shop and appreciate without owning or pining/wishing I owned it, things are much easier, my home is simpler, we have less trash, less recycling and the bank account is happier, too.

    lobsterBuddhadragonSnakeskin1448
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited February 22

    Well said @karasti

    One day, like the precious stone we will return to nature. My catalog weakness is computers and technology. I do not need or really want a Chromebook ... but is so shiney ... :3

    What I need is a Jain catalogue ...

    Snakeskin
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited February 23

    OP, I think it boils down to the idea that developed sometime....IDK when, in the latter half of the 20th Century, of shopping as entertainment. Vacation destinations, for example, will advertise their shopping opportunities. Really? We're going on vacation to shop? But sophisticated venues and destinations do consider that to be a "thing". I get unsolicited catalogs in the mail (doesn't everyone, these days?) I put some of them in the recycle bin at my mailbox location, but I'll take a couple of them home, just to look at, like free fashion magazines to amuse myself with. I have no intent to buy, but if someone is sending me "free stuff" (the catalogs), I'll enjoy them for a passing moment, then let them go.

    I think it's good to be mindful of these things. You're on the right track. :)

    I just wish there were some way to stop the constant flood of these things into our mailboxes. Think of all the trees that are cut down, for those millions of catalogs sent out every month! Not only that, but paper mills are terrible polluters. The residue from paper manufacturing gets dumped into lakes and waterways.

    I never thought about it, until I recently saw a photo of a paper mill, dumping chemical waste into Lake Baikal, the sacred sea of the Mongol people, in Siberia. Baikal holds 1/5 of the world's fresh water, and harbors many rare or unique life forms, like one of only three types of freshwater seals in the world. In the 80's and 90's, the Republic of Buryatia, a Mongol (and Buddhist) territory in the Russian Federation, bordering the lake, was holding environmental conferences regularly, seeking to eliminate what little pollution there was back then, and to develop a plan for environmentally-sustainable economic development for the future.

    Their efforts appear to have been in vain. The west side of the lake is firmly under Moscow's control, so an old paper mill on the lake's edge is still operating. The caption on the photo I saw of this, said that the demands for paper in the many offices, educational institutions, and businesses in the region had grown, so the paper mill will stay open, in spite of decades of activism seeking to close it. Baikal's legendary clarity, the deepest lake in the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage site, is endangered. By the need for office paper, xerox paper. (Russia isn't on to direct-mail free catalogs, yet, thank heaven! They're too expensive to mass-produce, as yet.) Chemicals from the mill have been found in the fatty tissue of diseased, dead seals.

    Our mindless little habits have consequences. More mindfulness could have positive consequences that reach beyond our individual little lives. Keep up the good work, OP!

    lobsterSnakeskinCarameltail
  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran

    Yes I have noticed.
    We all live with inner shadows and fears ... and try to avoid facing them by distracting ourselves. It is part of human nature. This avoidance is the source of our desires. A running-away-from rather than opening up and living life vibrantly, pain and all. Our Western culture, is imbued with the idea that acquiring will make us happy.
    But since happiness is a state of mind, it comes only from within mind.

    So "catalog consciousness" is the first step towards the open awareness of mindfulness. Many many people never take this first step, not even if they live to be 100.

    The second step is to observe how this desiring affects us. Especially when we do not get what we desire. This second step is when we begin to understand the second of the Four Noble Truths: that suffering has a cause. And this is the insight that starts the slow inner transformations.
    Of course, first one has to become aware OF the nature of their desire, and you have developed great clarity of insight into yourself.

    lobsterpersonSnakeskin
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    It sounds like it made you happy, @DhammaDragon :)

    SnakeskinBuddhadragon
  • @DhammaDragon said:
    How I miss all this...

    You miss the things not in the catalogue? Who is surprised?

    A Zen master, Ryokan, lived a life of simplicity in his hut near the mountains. When he was away one night, a thief broke in only to find nothing worth stealing.
    Just then, Ryokan returned. “You have travelled far to visit me,” he told the burglar. “I cannot let you return empty handed. Here are my clothes, please accept them as my gift.”
    The baffled thief took the clothes and vanished.
    Naked now, the master gazed at the moon. “Poor man,” he sighed, “How I wish I could give him this glorious moon.”

    Moon in a teacup, not a mooning vessel
    Bull in a shop, no China

    Not my cat but a cat
    Not my mat but sitting
    Water falls
    Priceless

    HozanBuddhadragon
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    My ability to only window shop when it comes to adorable baby animals is, apparently limited. We went to visit a friend who had ferret kits and she had one adorable baby girl who was crying and crying because her littermates were all gone. We brought her home. :lol: We lost one of our ferrets recently so it's nice have a little one, even though I had sworn of getting more pets...

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    @Jeffrey Just read the link you shared. It's always interesting to me how people (in general) tend to think they own something because they believe their version of understanding it is correct. It's always been ironic and odd to watch just how much money is made off mindfulness in the US yet so many people who participate in that part of it think they are taking a break from consumerism. We have such a tendency to think that in order for us to learn something properly, we need a million books, apps, etc available to us. Then we just end up confused and don't practice anything because we don't know what to pick. yet mindfulness and meditation are always available 100% for free.

    I personally don't take any sort of issue with "McMindfulness" because I think something is better than nothing. Even if people are pretending and consuming their way to mindfulness, at least they are curious what it is. For a person to even get that far takes a degree of open mindedness that a lot of people still lack.

    lobster
  • Good post @karasti

    If you can give it away, you own it. If you can't, it owns you ...
    No wonder the best Sangha are impervious to ownership ...

    Buddha and wealth
    https://www.budsas.org/ebud/ebdha049.htm


    Private Ad

    For sale.
    One head. Never been used. B)

    FoibleFull
  • paulysopaulyso usa Veteran

    ive heard the advice live within your means.its useful in our mindfulness or recollect in the 8-fold component.

    Buddhadragon
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @lobster said:

    Private Ad

    For sale.
    One head. Never been used. B)

    I didn't know you were a politician, @lobster....

    lobster
  • 14481448 Massachusetts New

    I unfortunately have this struggle to what I might consider an extreme. One thing turns into another, and soon I have things I don't actually use. It primarily involves food, which is very wasteful. Every month or so I dedicate time to cleaning out my cupboards and donating the unused canned goods to our local food pantry.

    It doesn't help me either that I have a family who does this -- my mother is especially guilty of such things, and it has spread onto me. I become frustrated by consumer culture because when I feel upset, I go to browse stores and come in with something. I often feel rude and impolite to just leave a store without buying something. I wonder if this is a thing others also experience.

    It's difficult, too, because I am not financially very well-off, yet still fall victim to these sorts of schemes. However, I admire you very much for becoming mindful of these things. Awareness is one step closer to being able to solve the problem at hand.

    personKerome
  • CarameltailCarameltail UK Explorer

    Yea I have had that kind of experience unfortunately :anguished:
    It's a bit like trying to grasp at straws to make you feel happy temporarily. Buying small things which add up but are probably mostly useless.
    Like there is nothing wrong with enjoying material things in their own limited way but owning lots things for the sake of owning them without any real reason can get easily unhealthy. If i observe carefully I know that really it is a product of emotional issues.

    Though sometimes I have bought stuff just to see what something is like, I guess I like product testing and the experience of getting something or the inspiration you get rather than the item itself which I probably don't care much about, though i've had some fun with some totally useless items.

    I'd like to give away some of the things I bought, maybe as presents, well as long as people want them. That said I am generally careful with money though and don't like buy too many unecessaries plus I weigh up value a lot. I try to borrow books rather than buying if possible or second hand.
    Also if I can make something myself then sometimes I don't buy something.

    I do not like how shops dominate so much of the landscape though there only needs to be so many. It's so excessive.

    lobster
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    Feeling guilty for not buying something is entirely a storyline created in your mind. I have dealt with the same thing and mostly worked past it, but I've also worked a lot of retail, and no matter how big or small the store, believe me when I say literally no one cares. They don't pay attention whatsoever. No one goes home to their family and says "OMG. I had the worst day, this guy walked into the store, looked around, and then LEFT! Can you believe it!?" No one gives it a second thought and there is no reason to feel awkward about it. The only time I make an exception is if I am stopping at a gas station just to use their bathroom, lol, so I will grab a piece of fruit or something as a "thanks for letting me use the toilet" gesture, even though, again, they don't care. That we think people such as random store clerks find us so important that they worry (or even think about us) that we did not buying their products is kind of the epitome of ego.

    I think working in that retail system helped some with getting out of the cycle of buying so much. When you learn how they market and how they pay so much attention to every little detail in order to take advantage of you, it's easy to be frustrated with it and not want to participate, lol.

    ShoshinlobsterCarameltailHozan
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @karasti said:
    When you learn how they market and how they pay so much attention to every little detail in order to take advantage of you, it's easy to be frustrated with it and not want to participate, lol.

    This is something I noticed early in life and I made a decision only to buy what I needed, which I’ve mostly done except in a few categories of entertainment. I have quite a large dvd collection for instance... there is no such thing as perfection in how one lives life. You always end up looking back on previous decisions thinking, golly that was rash.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    It's the same with how they formulate processed food, fast food, etc. The timing of ads, the placement of products in certain spots and at certain heights in stores. It's kind of crazy how much they pay people to act as consumer psychologists to maximize their profit. And it works really well. It's all about playing on the pleasure centers of the brain and it's really interesting how easily we fall into that, shopping, relationships or otherwise.

    Hozan
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