Emerging from the Dark Age of Materialism

There’s a revolution that needs to happen and it starts from inside each one of us. We need to wake up and fall in love with the Earth. Our personal and collective survival depends on it.

—Thich Nhat Hanh

I appreciated this nugget (among many) from an article I read by Olivia Woodford yesterday about the winter solstice of a continuation of an emergence from what she called the “Dark Age of Materialism.” This idea resonated with me. I thought “Yes!” I came as a radiant light shining in such a different direction than the disharmony and suffering that materialism created inside of me and the minds and souls of individuals I have encountered throughout my life.

During the last two decades, I learned that our belongings are not just “stuff.” I discovered that I could live with belongings I love. I did not have to live with hand-me-downs I loathed. I did not have to hold onto belongings as I have had several stolen from me, including a smash and grab three days after Christmas a few years ago. I know what it feels like to release belongings I still loved, never stopped loving.

Listening deeply to other people’s experiences and my own, I have discovered that many people get “out of balance” and become disempowered in relationship to physical items including gifts. I know that hoarding and accumulating physical clutter of all types remain challenges in people’s homes and lives. Debt, bankruptcy, addictions of all types seem related to a core limiting belief that we are “not enough,” that there’s scarcity in the world. Have we all been living in Scare City for much too long now?

I now know that too many belongings (or thinking about acquiring belongings) can easily become a distraction from doing the deep introspective work with my heart, soul, mind, and body. If I am so busy working to make money to pay for things that I then must or should clean, pick up off the floor, put away, organize, throw away (gasp!), and make endless lists of what I think I am supposed to want and own, then that mental and physical activity leaves little time for what’s really important to me.

At what point did I realize I had “enough”? When did I choose the activities that became top priority? When did I awaken to the thought that “I am enough.”?

My daughter’s departure to college, an unbelievably difficult day, began a time period of the greatest upheaval of my adult life. Those 24 months seem to parallel what many people have experienced throughout this past year and likely will continue to endure into this new year. I guess I lived a personal trauma drama hot mess soul liberation transformation, a kind of preview of coming attractions for other people living through this current pandemic pandemonium. Like the canary in the coal mine, I had the great fortune of seemingly “going first” as beloved ones witnessed me simultaneously unravel and rise like a phoenix as I navigated through that very dark cave. During this time period, I became poignantly and painfully clear about what I deeply valued.

I know the experience of releasing many items I did not love and many items I still loved. I realized I can return gifts that are not given unconditionally with love-the ones that come with strings or nooses attached. I got to “return to sender” all of them and feel this relief in my body. Pets, people I love, adore, appreciate have died. People I love and appreciate continue to die. I have relinquished things, activities, other people’s dreams for me, worn-out beliefs, resentments, hurts in my heart, and old patterns of behavior. I live with grieflove. I will do this courageous letting go work for a lifetime right up to the moment I let go of this body right in the middle of the movie.

I streamlined life in the direction of activities that make my heart sing, that supported emotional honesty, inner and outer transformations. What emerged is what I have always valued my whole life:

Creative Expression-joyfully writing, dancing, singing, running, cycling, galloping, belly-dancing, collaborating, drawing, skipping, collaging… Creating physical spaces that inspire and support the life I’m creating that I love, guiding other people to their most beautiful expressions of space and fulfilling lives.

Compassionate Connections with people and our natural world–meaningful relationships filled with kind, loving, real, wholehearted, smart, heart-centered, wise, self-aware, emotionally honest, fun-loving people. Delight in gazing into the “eyes” of a black bear, a deer, a black-eyed Susan, a sunflower, a rose, a cloud, the sky, a tree, a lake, a waterfall, the mountains.

Love- To co-create with a vulnerable and an open-heart a spiritual partnership with Inner Quiet Charlotte and God/LOVE/Universe-all of Life-with my inner children, the natural world, and people I encounter. To fall in love and appreciate all the experiences of Being Alive…” Love is the quintessence of life.”(Albert Einstein)

Generosity of Spirit-the Great Giveaway of my gifts of creativity, kindness, quiet listening, wisdom, inspiration, tenderness, gentleness, laughter, appreciation.

Holistic Transformations-the process of awakening, evolving towards higher states of conscious living in space, heart, mind, body, and soul. Lifelong learning and repeating the cycle a thousand times from the crawling caterpillar to forming the cocoon, to becoming liquid goo inside the cocoon to the struggle to emerge, patience for the wings drying, then fluttering as a butterfly, from the acorn to the Oak Tree. From a traumatized, terrified victim to a courageous, emancipated, empowered, passionate woman ever-expanding in beauty and grace; human and humane.

Meaningful connections and contributing to the quality of life of beloved ones, colleagues, clients, neighbors from the Love in me honoring the Love inside of them continues to be one of my most fulfilling experiences of emerging from the “Dark Age of Materialism.”

Are you experiencing your life as an “emergence from the dark age of materialism”? What are you learning? What’s awakening inside your heart? What are you noticing about yourself, your values, and your purpose for being on the planet?

I welcome your reflections, insights, and perspectives!


Laura Staley
Laura Staley
The founder of Cherish Your World, Laura Staley passionately helps people thrive by guiding them to a holistic transformation of space, heart, mind, body, and soul. Laura knows that there’s a relationship between the conditions of our homes or workplaces and the quality of our lives. Trained and certified with the Western School of Feng Shui and seasoned by almost two decades of working with a variety of clients, Laura uses her intuition and expertise to empower her clients to produce remarkable results in their lives. Her trifecta of serving people includes speaking, writing, and compassionate listening. As a columnist, Laura writes personal essays focused on self-discovery, feng shui, emotional health, and transformations from the inside out. Laura is the published author of three books: Live Inspired, Let Go Courageously and Live with Love: Transform Your Life with Feng Shui, and the Cherish Your World Gift Book of 100 Tips to Enhance Your Home and Life. Prior to creating her company, Laura worked as a fulltime parent and an assistant professor at Ohio Wesleyan University. She earned a Ph.D. in political science from The Ohio State University. Her joys in life include laughing with loved ones, dancing, reading, meditating, running, being in nature, and listening to music she loves. She resides in Black Mountain, NC with lovable dog, Layla. Laura is a contributing author to the inspiring book Crappy to Happy: Sacred Stories of Transformational Joy

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  1. What a wonderful post, Laura! Last time I stayed abroad I did a lot of drawings. Most of my stuff was at my home base so it left me with empty walls to decorate. I was surprised how easily the creativity woke up when there was “room to think.” With too much clutter I feel stifled. Perhaps that’s why I always liked the open ocean horizon as well. Thank you for sharing your inspiration.

  2. Oh, Paula I am so moved by your reflections offered here and your kind words. There’s a richness, a liberation to the owning of one’s own mind and soul. Your words resonate deeply. Makes me think of the end of the poem “Invictus” –“And yet the menace of the years
    Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

    It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishments the scroll,
    I am the master of my fate:
    I am the captain of my soul.”–William Ernest Henley AND YOUR words out of the gate—“In the eye of death, materialism was washed away.”- took my breath away with these words and all the rest. I hear you. I see you. What I call a reclaiming of the Self and all the selves, one’s Soul can be a most fulfilling and liberating journey of courage. I honor and celebrate you-us. Thank you so much for these meaningful, heartfelt reflections and insights. Wow. #soulsisterfriend Radiant You. Grateful for you.

  3. Laura,
    Rich read on what could be a complicated subject…. It is something you need to ‘feel’ and experience; hard to conceptualize on paper.
    My husband and I downsized a few years ago from a large home filled with 20 years of ‘stuff’ to a 2 bedroom apartment. The children had all left home and it was time. The process of ‘letting go’ was harder than I thought and yet brought me nothing but pure joy on the other side. I was no longer weighted down with the responsibility of owning so much ‘stuff’. Together we touched everything in our 4 bedroom home and asked the question: “Does this bring you joy?” … That is all it took for us. In the aftermath I still sat with the concept of working so hard for so many years to collect so many things to now just letting them go…Never been happier!

    • Carolyn,
      Thank you for sharing your experience of downsizing as this can be such a profound time to shift from taking care of things towards experiences you would love to have! I celebrate the happiness you discovered in lightening your load!! I continue to hear stories of the liberating benefits people have when they engage the brave work of decluttering-and it is work to touch every object in a household and take action to keep, donate, gift, recycle, release–to ask Does this support my life, inspire me, bring me joy? I’m grateful to know you remain streamlined in your 2 bedroom apartment. (I’ve heard stories of people returning to the pattern of accumulating-even in a smaller space). To your happiness!! WaHOOOO!!! 🙂

      With joy,

  4. You are a true transformation and beacon of compassion Laura!
    I can truly say that in the eye of death, materialism was washed away. The holy and most sacred soul that I almost lost…became the most important light I wanted to follow and highlight…and then share with others to. Like you! The idea of ownership and the thought of wants? Well needs and mental health took priority! What we want is not always what we need and the need to own my mind and soul taught me much. Materialism was just a concept to me.. The world can survive without anything material that is structured out of greed, but evolves significantly by the sincerity and respect for its own ingredients, including that of natural humans who know the difference between real “wants” for things as opposed for “need” of things to survive; for which is provided by the planet.
    Great essay here Laura, I always love reading such positive energy from your heart and soul. I am truly in alignment with your words light it up and I needed this tonight. Thank you my lovely sister.