We are a consumer-based society. No doubt about it. Consumerism is what makes our world go round. Without it, our entire economic structure would collapse.
But let’s stop just a moment and mindfully explore the word consumer; one who consumes. The dictionary defines consume as “to destroy or expend by use; use up; to eat or drink up; devour”. I think of it in slightly different terms. To consume is to take something in. We may take it into our physical bodies, as in eating and drinking. Or we may take it into our minds, but either way, we are taking something from the outside and putting it into ourselves.
Nothing inherently wrong with this idea. I consume healthy, life-giving food and water. I consume entertainment, ideas and art. I consume good company and energy when I get together with my friends. Mindful consumption is a wonderful way to take in physical, spiritual and psychological energy.
Mindless consumption, on the other hand, sucks the life out of us. It eats up our time and energy and depletes our physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological resources. How often do we return home at the end of the day and begin mindless eating, drinking, watching television, playing video games or surfing the web?
When we engage in these activities mindfully, we feel refreshed when we are done. When we engage in these activities mindlessly, however, we end up wondering where our time has gone. We feel lethargic, irritable and dysphoric. Rather than energizing us, mindless consumption depletes us.
Mindful doing, on the other hand can energize and invigorate us. This may be some form of exercise that you enjoy. It may be getting together with a friend or creating a family game night once a week. You may choose to turn off the television and try your hand at a craft or a project you’ve wanted to start.
It’s so easy for many of us to power down and go into consumption mode during winter. Now that spring is here, let’s be mindful of our mindless consuming. Rather than surfing the web or channels, get out and do something. Put down that smart phone and look someone in the eye and have an actual conversation. Try once a day to substitute mindful doing for your mindless consumption.