Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Inspiration for Mindful Consumption

bottle caps arranged by color, mindless consumption, mindful consumption, the new pursuit

“Mindful consumption is the way to heal ourselves and to heal the world.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
For some time now, I’ve been talking about mindful consumption as a pathway for living deeply and restoring our balance with the natural world. But practically speaking, where do you start? What do you do? How do practice something that sounds great in concept but challenging in execution.
In retrospect, while I didn’t have the words ‘mindful consumption’ to point to, I’ve been spending the better part of the last few years practicing this kind of day-to-day living. My reasons have always been about sustaining our environment and leaving it a better place for my kids. But after discovering the concepts of mindfulness, the dots of living deeply were connected for me. All of this has become a kind of backbone for how I approach each day.
Orient Your Consumption Compass
There are really two ways to approach being mindful of what we consume day in and day out. On one level, there are steps we can take to orient ourselves better; to help change our perspective; to give our hearts and minds a solid foundation.
  • Experience Life Through Your Heart. See with your heart. Hear it. Feel it. Smell it. When you let your heart of hearts lead you in this, you are tuned in to the world in a different way. You won’t immediately default to what is the most convenient or easiest. You’ll see the interbeing — the interconnectedness — of all things. For inspiration, reflect on the Fifth Mindfulness Training of Thich Nhat Hanh.

  • Learn. About how the stuff we consume each day is made; how it makes its way from a field or factory to your hands. Understand what goes into it. Often, we just see the end product (a TV, a car, a pair of jeans, a bottle of water) with little sense of HOW it is put together: the raw materials, the manufacturing, the distribution. All contribute in some way to either the degradation or sustaining of our planet. A good jumping off point is The Story of Stuff.
  • Slow Down and Single-Task. When you focus 100% on what you’re doing right at that moment, you eliminate distractions and their influence on you. You can pause to reflect on where this thing you’re consuming came from, what went into growing, manufacturing and/or putting it in front of you.
Simple Steps on the Path
On the other level, there are the practical things we can do each day to actually practice mindful consumption. And the great thing is: It’s not hard or complicated; nor does it require us to live like a hermit. These are a great way to get started (or continue your path):
  • Watch less TV (or ditch it altogether)
  • Spend less time online
  • Eat more vegetarian meals
  • Take shorter showers
  • Hang dry your clothes
  • Eat food produced locally (or grow some of your own)
  • Compost
  • Bike or walk to your next destination
  • Freecycle or donate what you don’t need
  • Buy used goods when you can
  • Purchase goods in glass or aluminum containers, not plastic (and recycle!)
  • Pause before you buy something; come back to it at a later time and see if you still need it
  • Get resourceful and learn how to fix or repair what you already have
Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive, but I hope it helps you with your practice.
Do you have other ways that you are practicing mindful consumption? Any other strategies for not getting caught up in our hyper-consumer culture? Maybe a different question altogether? Please feel free to leave a comment and share.
Be well,

If you think others would enjoy this post, please consider sharing it with your circle. I’ve added a new Facebook Share button at the bottom of the post to help. While you’re here you might want to check out these posts:

Fifth Mindfulness Training: Nourishment and Healing

As taught by Thich Nhat Hanh
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society, by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. 

I am committed to ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society.

I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films, and conversations.

I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations.

I shall work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society.

I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.

3 Simple Ways to Inspire Mindful Consumption

Here in America, we shop for entertainment.

We shop on vacations, during holidays, and in our precious free time.
We’re are addicted to spending money on things we don’t need. Why?
Since founding my own sustainable clothing company, I’ve been curious about the addiction of shopping. I notice how I feel when I shop. I listen to my friends talk about it. I am border-line obsessed with understanding our psychological need for stuff.
For me, and probably you, too, it comes down to one thing: connection.
During a recent Walk the Talk episode with Waylon, I described how I feel when I shop. There’s an overwhelming sense of promise when I walk into a store and scan the racks, looking for something that will make me feel better, cooler, more interesting. I imagine where I’ll go, what I’ll do, who I’ll impress, and how confident I’ll be.
That’s why they call it retail therapy. For a brief moment, we get to feel the promise of connection in our otherwise stressed-out, busy, sometimes lonely lives.
But strangely, this connection we’re feeling isn’t about the actual clothes. We hardly even notice the fabric, the stitches, the origin, or the story of the things we’re buying.
Even our conversations around our clothes are story-less:
“I love that shirt!”
“OMG, thank you! It was only $4.50!”
(End of conversation.)
Since I’m knee-deep into sustainability and manufacturing, I think a lot about connection and stories and the shopping experience. I think it’s time to change the way we relate to, and talk about, our clothing.
Here are some things I’ve been trying out lately:
  • If I don’t have a good story, I’ll notice something on about the shirt—the stitching, the fabric—and talk about that instead. The goal is to connect over the garment, not the price (as I have been guilty of so many times).
  • Another common question is “Where did you get that?” I usually respond with the store it came from. But now I’m adding, “but it was made in Vietnam (or Pakistan, or the USA). It’s a pretty sure-fire way to change a conversation and just put the story out there, whatever it is.
Since testing out these approaches, I’ve made a few new friends and enjoyed some crazy conversations. But mostly, I feel like I’m re-connecting to the things I wear every day, and gently encouraging others to do the same.
I’d love to know how others are using language and stories to connect with their clothing. Let’s swap!
Leave your thoughts below, and share this post if you’d like to expand the conversation on mindfulness and consumption this holiday season.

Source: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/12/3-simple-ways-to-inspire-mindful-consumption/