It all starts with awareness. Humans go about their lives, doing all of the things but not really ever being present for most of it. Mindfulness is being aware, flexible and open in a non judgmental way. The secret to being observant is to slow down and listen. What is your body telling you? What sensations are you feeling? The benefits that come with this practice are increased creativity, insight making, self-acceptance, cognitive flexibility, personal responsibility and authenticity. There are endless ways to start this process, today I’d like to focus on consumption. For most, this is easy to observe since there is a choice in the matter.
Mindful consumption is about putting continuous attention to what you’re putting into your body, the information you’re receiving and the items and services you’re buying. These are things you can have control over. There is some discipline involved, some experimenting, checking in and tweaking. What’s working and what’s not? Some of this wisdom comes with age, being in your body long enough to know what it likes and how it acts.
Let’s start with food and drinks, a life long lesson. Buddhist monks have a beautiful ritual of mindful eating called Oryoki, which means the vessel that contains just enough. It’s a special set of nesting bowls and other eating utensils for the personal use of monks. Traditionally, Buddhist monks always had to get their food by begging. Whatever they were given, they accepted with deep gratitude and it was consumed completely with no waste. Now oryoki is a formal style of serving and eating meals practiced in monasteries . The big takeaway from this ritual is, we consume life and we should do so consciously and with gratitude. While eating, think of how that food was grown and the people that it took to care for, transport, chop, cook and prepare the food you eat. Think of the animal that sacrificed its life for your nourishment. How was it treated? This will bring mindfulness to the table.
Try eating without distraction, it will make a difference. You all know the feeling, like you didn’t really eat that entire donut, it just disappeared. So maybe you need another one… If you savor the taste, smell and texture, you may find one donut is enough. Listen to your body when it tells you it’s hungry. There is a difference of when you’re bored, sad or lonely and when you’re actually hungry. Those feel different in the body. When you’re hungry, your stomach will probably growl and you’ll have low energy. Not just boredom, eating chips watching your favorite TV show. That’s just trying to comfort your emotions. When you’re full, stop eating. Seems simple but we’ve all been there. That’s a mindless thing to do, just keep cramming food down the old gullet. How is the food you’re eating affecting your body? That’s trickier for some people to notice. It requires you to stop and be aware. Put the puzzle pieces together, like when I eat dairy, my stomach kind of hurts. It’s not rocket science, it just requires some noticing. Maybe I crave curry because it chocked full of vegetables and has the magical combination of sweet, sour, savory and spicy all in one perfect mouthful. When I eat it, angels sing from the heavens. My body says thank you. That’s when you know you’re on the right track.
Being mindful of the information you’re taking in. We’re constantly surrounded by information. The only way around it is to seclude yourself deep in the woods somewhere. That may sound dreamy some days but you still should try and be an active member of society. It can be helpful to observe your situation and what shit you’re being bombarded with. TV and internet are big ones. It can be real easy to turn cynical if all you’re consuming is the evening news. A few years ago, I stopped watching horror films, can’t handle them. If you put information into your body about how to learn and grow, that’s what you’ll do. Surround yourself with people that inspire you, it will change your world. If you’re around hate, fear, negativity, complaining and the like, that’s how you’re going to turn out. Take a good look at your “friends”, coworkers and family. If you feel like the life is being sucked out of you when they’re around, get as far away as possible. Don’t engage with those people. Don’t give them your time or energy. The more you hang out with somebody, the more like them you become.
Money is power. It doesn’t matter how much of it you have, use it to make conscious choices in products and services you believe in. Every purchase is telling the hive mind what people want more of. It may seem small, like it doesn’t matter. That’s so far from the truth. I’m talking every purchase. What companies are you supporting? Who’s getting that money? Do they support a cause you believe in? In the very least, not destroying the environment… I’ve boycotted Jimmy John’s subs for years now. The owner loves trophy hunting in Africa. I can still see his face, posing next to a dead elephant with a big smile, giving a thumbs up. Nope, he won’t be getting my money. Love the sandwiches but knowing he’ll be using my money to take down large game for enjoyment, I don’t agree, therefore I will find another sandwich to eat. It’s the ripple effect. If enough people do this and live authentically, the impact will be great. You have the power to decide. Can you make better choices? Do you even need that thing? Get informed. Things as simple as toilet paper or dish soap, all of it matters. How do you eliminate as much plastic as possible? Do your investments reflect your beliefs? These are the discussions I’m having. Choose wisely.
Being mindful is the process of self discovery. It’s taking it all in, sitting with it and noticing what comes up. No judgement is involved. It simply just is. Then you can make decisions on what makes you feel good and whole. If you still struggling, just come back to your breath. Simply observing the air going in and out of your body. This is never lead you astray. Consume what matters to you and leave everything else behind.