Many of us are feel our brain might explode because of all the stuff crammed into it and competing for space--can I get an AMEN? Our minds are saturated with the barrage of data and technology that enters through every crevice of our lives. There is always "noise" around us. Unless you are a Benedictine monk, you probably have information overload.
Do you know a noisy, yet sneaky and insidious force that is constantly assaulting us? It is the almighty machine of Big Marketing. Numbers vary, but approximately $150 billion is spent on marketing each year in the U.S. alone. It's main job is to create dissatisfaction so that we will be compelled to buy some product or service. And it is extremely effective--based on consumer spending, debt, and the rampant materialism ever-present in our culture.
In my last post, I shared that our family gave up "unnecessary consumer spending" for Lent. It is not easy, but I am here to tell you that it felt WONDERFUL and FREEING to temporarily disconnect from some cultural behemoths ever-present in my life: marketing messages, shopping, and consumption. When I gave up most spending, the first sensation I noticed was more room in my brain to actually think.
I know it sounds silly and highly exaggerated, but I felt like a huge amount of static and garbage was removed from my mind. It was calming for me; it allowed me to mentally breathe and to reflect on other things. I felt peaceful.
What I now recognize is that I spend a lot of time mentally planning shopping trips. I plan where I am going to go and what I will buy. I wonder what store I will go to next if the store I visit does not have what I want. I think about what stores are having sales this week. I make shopping lists, which I lose, so I make more lists. I spend brain cells justifying why I am going to buy this or that. I flip through catalogs and make note of the latest fashions or decorations for a birthday party. It is never-ending for me.
These thoughts are normally galloping through my mind many, many times a day, often subconsciously. When I fasted from unnecessary spending it was like I extracted a menacing loop of thoughts, leaving empty space. Imagine, I found extra gray matter for new thoughts or even quiet contemplation. It felt incredibly relaxing, kind of like a mental massage. Most importantly, space was cleared for me to hear the gentle voice of God. He was calling me away from the materialistic stuff that engrosses me and into subdued, peaceful, fellowship with him--far more valuable than anything I find in a catalog or buy at the mall.
As the weeks wore on, days would go by and I would realize that I hadn't even thought about my favorite stores or what I might like to buy. I wasn't interested in the Khol's spring catalog, because whatever was advertised would not be on sale when Lent was complete, so it was easy to toss it. Once Mika and Macy realized I would not be buying them anything other than food from the store to eat, they quit begging for and asking for things. (YES!)
When friends mentioned something they had recently purchased, I listened with interest, but then the conversation quickly exited my brain. I no longer defaulted to thoughts such as: "I want that (necklace, pedicure, CD, etc) too! I wonder how I can get my hands on it?"
At last, I took a deep breath and and could fully appreciate all the comforts I have been blessed with instead of trying to figure out how I could acquire more. I realized I had allowed my desire to collect more stuff to hijack part of my mind.
Of course, it is not inherently wrong to make mental shopping lists or purchases at the store. It is all about finding balance and harmony. My hope is that now that Lent is over, I will be armed with the understanding and recognition of how easily my mind can be overtaken by thoughts of shopping, buying, and consuming. Warning to my brain: Watch out! I already feel Big Marketing sneaking up behind you!