Are We Hypocrites?: A Discussion about Materialism and Mindfulness

Not long ago I was in Singapore and bumped into a long line stretching around the corner. The excitement of whatever these people were waiting for pulsed through the streets of the city. What was it? The latest Louis Vuitton bag. Now, if I had followed some of these people after they bought their bag, I probably would see them stuff lululemon pants and yoga mats into it and end up at a yoga studio or meditation course.

This got me thinking. Is this global phenomenon of materialism and mindfulness—lusting over material objects yet learning exercises to be centered, conscious, and mindful—a contradiction? Do we find the same sense of pleasure or inner-peace by achieving a “live in the moment attitude” as we do coveting the newest Prada sunglasses?

In the workplace, everyone’s talking about compassion, transparency, ethics, and conscious business. But in the same breath, they’re talking about the latest iPhone or newest Gucci shoe line. There’s a mass surge for materialism worldwide, particularly in what I call the emerged markets such as Russia, China or the United Arab Emirates, where buying name brands gives the appearance of having success and status and therefore gains the respect of others.

At the same time, there’s a mass surge for mindfulness, workplace wellness, social responsibility, and social consciousness. People are taking work-life balance courses and more businesses are holding workplace yoga and meditation sessions to help employees get in touch with their inner-selves and heal the mind and body. But as soon as we step off the mat, we’re back to trying to keep up with the latest consumer trends.

I find it odd how materialism and mindfulness seem to coexist so peacefully. I grew up in a generation where, if you practiced yoga, you weren’t wearing $200 pants. Your sweats had holes in them because what you were wearing didn’t matter. What you were doing did. Eating organic meant eating something grown in your backyard—not leaving your whole paycheck at Whole Foods.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy beautiful things and name brands as much as the next person. And I’m not afraid to tell you that I waited hours for my new iPhone not because I needed it but because I wanted it. But I don’t think these external things define who I am or give me a sense of inner-peace. So why do we need to practice both materialism and mindfulness?

While I may see these acts as running counter to one another, maybe I’m missing something and I want to hear from you:

Do you see materialism and mindfulness as contradictory?

If you do, what do you think would remedy this contradiction, or dare I say, hypocrisy?

If you don’t see it as contradictory, where do you think we’ll be in twenty years? Where will materialism and consumerism be then? What about mindfulness?

Fotolia: kikkerdirk