We live in a world based on the consumption and accumulation of stuff. This truth is even more exaggerated over the holiday season. But in a time when the earth and so many inhabitants are suffering, can we use this season as an opportunity to turn over a new leaf? To consume in a way that is better for all of us? It is so easy to use the holidays as an excuse to overspend, overindulge and overexert ourselves, however in this very tenuous time in humanity’s history it makes it even more important to be the change we wish to see. So let's take this opportunity to live our values, to move beyond mere ideas of conscious consuming and move into compassionate consumption.
What is The Difference?
We can talk about the data and why the amount of waste that is produced in this disposable world is so alarming. We can look at the product lifecycle and understand how things come to be and where the waste and toxicity is being produced. We can talk about the societal pressures to consume and provide numbers on the amount of ads we see everyday and the insidiousness of this practice. All of these things are very true, but mere awareness is just not enough anymore. It is time to take this conversation from the head and into the heart space. Our decisions should be out of compassion for each other and the earth, not just mere awareness. It is not enough to know anymore, we need to feel our way through this. We need to learn to grieve with one another, and stand with each other knowing that their plight is our plight. Compassion isn’t just about walking a mile in another’s shoes; empathy is only half of it. In compassion there is also the desire to help and take action.
Getting Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
It has been asked why when so many of us know of the devastation to the environment, the human injustices and the mass extinction of living organisms, that we can continue our destructive patterns of consumption? The science is there, the data exists and yet we are still making the same choices. Why? We have a hard time being uncomfortable, and it is time to let that feeling in. It is time to open the floodgates of discomfort and let ourselves feel. Not from a space of guilt or fear, but in the spirit of cooperation. Moving from the space of guilt, again creates a separation, an us versus them mentality. In this global village, it is just us, there is no them anymore. As we continue to integrate an understanding of consciousness into our world, we know that any degradation to the field is degradation to ourselves.
Aligning our Heart, Our Values & Our Actions
Do you espouse the values of justice, respect, equality and dignity? Are these principals exhibited in your actions and your purchases? I ask you again to lead with your heart. When you choose a product have you considered if these values were up held in the production of the product? In a culture where we brag about scoring that great deal, we need to evaluate the real costs of those purchases. The hidden costs, both human and environmental. For example, if you follow the line of production all the way to the point of sale, were the people and the earth treated with integrity? Are the employees at the stores paid a living wage, and do they receive benefits? What about the people that manufactured that product, how are they treated and is their compensation in alignment with the benefit they provide? From the extraction of the resources, to every living organism that contributed, we need to know these values were upheld.
Feel Your Desire
Often economics is chalked up to a conversation of supply and demand; the economy is just responding to the needs and wants of the consumers. It is time for us to go deeper, below the demand and sit with the desire. Feel your desire for stuff. It is not until we sit with it that we can know its true origins. Where does the need come from? Desire, creates the demand, without desire, we can quash the opponents who talk of sacrifice and depravity. We need to challenge why we ‘need’ the stuff in the first place and that can never be done until we feel it. It is in this knowing that we can challenge all of the societal influences that push us to consume. Those influences lose their power.
Challenge The Narratives
Several years back, President Obama made a speech about success in business that was highly criticized, "The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.” This challenged the memes of survival of the fittest in business and success at all costs. In our individualized culture, we like to take credit for the successes, that is a misnomer. President Obama was right, but even from a more fundamental level than he alluded to. Here is the thing, if you are person who eats, you didn’t create anything alone. In fact, some of the greatest injustices in our consumption come from our food industry. From the rights of workers to the treatment of animals and disregard for the earth, there are injustices and indignities at every level. So even at the most basic level, there is no success or level of status that was solely achieved. In that knowing, we must right these wrongs and purchase with the mindset of empathy and assistance.
So this holiday season, think about compassionate consumption. It isn’t just about buying less, which is important, but buying compassionately. Can you purchase things that upheld the integrity of the environment and every living organism involved in the making of that product?
Tips for Compassionate Consumption this Holiday Season
1. Buy local – Go to a local artisan shop and purchase a gift that supports someone’s purpose and talents.
2. Buy fair trade gifts – The fair trade movement is a social movement that promotes sustainability and fair compensation for products produced in developing countries.
3. Give the gift of an experience – We put emphasis on products, but giving the gift of our time can be valuable for everyone involved. Instead of a product, put together an experience such as a romantic dinner, or a poem written just for that special someone.
4. Gifts for a cause – There are many organizations that allow you to purchase gifts like wells, or animals that help out whole villages and allow them to sustain themselves long after the holiday season is over.
Spend some time preparing your gift list this season and focus on quality rather than quantity. Think about your values and choose companies and products that exemplify them. Be compassionate in your action, your thoughts and your words. Be the change.
Angela Levesque is writer, healer and radio host. She is the author of Healing Environment: The Conscious Creation of Health, she also hosts On Health & Healing on a2zen.fm. Angela works with clients doing intuitive lifestyle coaching, and teaches several classes on self-care, meditation & weight loss. Visit www.hestiahealth.com for more information. Find her on https://twitter.com/HestiaHealth and http://www.facebook.com/hestiahealth.