mindless consumption

Mindless consumption does not limit itself to what we eat, we drink, we buy… It’s most of all a way of livingHow do I stop being a mindless consumer? By changing profoundly the way we apprehend our existence. 3 changes you need to be a more mindful consumer, or a mindful receiver.

What does mindless consumption mean?

  • Mindless material consumption

Years ago, I was a mindless consumer. Without knowing it, obviously. I loved buying cheap stuff, discounts, promotions… I never missed the summer sales. You doubt it, I filled my house with nameless objects. Most of them were useless and thrown away quickly. Needless to say, I regret it so much today. Those were years of mindless consumption.

  • Mindless consumption of immaterial gifts

But do you agree with me, that being a mindless consumer does not limit itself to what we buy? Indeed, this attitude can go into all areas of life. Noisy holiday. Endless time in front of our television. Ordering in surplus and leaving unfinished dishes in restaurants. Loud and meaningless conversations…

In addition, we can consume mindlessly not only material but also immaterial gifts from humans and nature. No time to appreciate the fragrance of flowers on one’s steps. Too worried to notice a cool breeze on one’s face an early morning. Swallow hurriedly a sandwich…Lack of presence for beloved ones. Taking for granted love, care from others. As a result, a mindless consumer wastes the most precious moments of existence.

How do I stop being a mindless consumer?

How do I stop being a mindless consumer? It’s not easy. Because we live in a society where many superfluous things are the norm: Nice car, good house, trademarked dress… Equally, we are also caught up in a consumerist environment where more and more are offered since our young age.

What’s more, the modern hectic living rhythm is not helpful for us to connect with the essence of our being. I remember, working 15 hours per day, 8 in the office, and 7 at home. I had no time for a walk in nature, for a silent moment of meditation, or appreciating simply a dewdrop in the morning. Getting lost in mindless consumption is very easy when we live hurriedly in the superfluous layers of our everyday life.

That is why, by changing profoundly the way we apprehend our existence and return to the essence, we can be more meaningful in consuming and receiving. Permit me to share with you 3 thinkings that help you move from being a mindless consumer to a mindful receiver.

#1. No consuming, but “receiving” – the lesson of deep gratitude

First of all, when you are truly mindful, the word “consumption” doesn’t even exist. There is no “consuming”. But “receiving“. Receiving with gratitude and profound love what you have today, either it’s material (food, drink, clothes, house…) or immaterial (a smile, a fragrance of a flower, an appreciation, or love…).

  • An example of mindful receiving
In zazen, when we eat a bowl of soup, the spoon is put towards us as a sign of receiving the food from the universe (Source: Oregonlive)

In my zen practitioner group, we have once in a while a “zen soup”. We sit cross-legged in silence. When the soup is served, we both bow, the receiver, and the server, to show gratitude and respect. When we eat, the spoon is brought towards our mouth as if we are fed by the universe. The same attitude applies to all areas of our life: we don’t consume, we receive with gratitude.

  • Nothing comes from nothing

Being mindful, we learn to appreciate more profoundly what we receive. As Thich Nhat Hanh said, “nothing comes from nothing”.

Let’s look at the coffee in your hands right now. A grain of coffee does not come from “nothing”. It comes from a sunny field of red soil. It is impregnated with the rain and the sweat of hard workers. But not only. It is the result of the joy and love of people working in the field. The silent force of life is manifested in the ever-loving coffee tree.

“Each spoon contains the whole universe” (Thich Nhat Hanh). It takes us just a few seconds of meditation to have this profound vision. How can we then, consume mindlessly, if we realize this simple reality? We can’t consume. We can only receive in a way that we show respect, love, and gratitude, the way the food or material has been brought to us.

#2. Ask your self: “Am I what I buy?”

How do I stop being a mindless consumer? Well, ask yourself this question: “Who am I?” Am I the trademarked clothes, sunglasses, house, and car? Am I even my social status, my appearance, my thoughts, and opinions?

  • Consume to fit in the society

Do you, consciously or unconsciously, consume to be somebody in the eye of others or even of yourself?

I did. Dressed up every day to go to the office, I felt horribly uncomfortable. But I thought I was more valuable in this appearance. I transferred this fear and attitude to others, by myself noticing, for example, if someone was driving a BMW or another car.

You are right, society can shape our beliefs and behaviors. Most of us fit in what is around us. That’s our mechanism of defense, survival, and adaptation to human society. And that’s necessary. But a change always starts first with a person. And that could be you and me?

“Be the change we wish to see in the world”

  • The power of simple practices

Start with simple practices. Daily time for silence, meditation, connection with nature. Slow down, and learn to appreciate and see deeply in what is around you. “Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.” – Sharon Salzberg.

Although simple, mindful living can bring profound transformation. Why? Because we will have a chance to first realize that we are worthy as we are. We don’t need trademark clothes or shoes to be valuable! “You breathe in, and breathe out mindfully. And you realize that your body is a wonder of the cosmos. It comes from plants, the sun, the rain, and generations of human, plant, and animal ancestors. You are a wonder” (Thich Nhat Hanh).

  • Touching the essence of your being

You are not your material possessions. Nor even your thinking and mentality. The moment you touch your true being, you free yourself from judgment. The expectations of others and yourself on what to consume, and what you need to possess, simply fade away.

That’s the start of mindful consumption: Cultivate a profound love of the existence, of nature, and make it the driver of every choice in your daily life. Have the courage today to move away from what others expect of you, and the superfluous layers you have been keeping during numerous years. Will you?

#3. Happier with less

  • Pursuing satisfaction is a road without end

The third thing I would love to share about mindless consumption is… happiness! Indeed, learn to recognize true happiness is a way to move away from mindless consumption. Puzzled? Let me explain.

With mindless consumption, the only thing we pursuit is to satisfy our desires. We are excited when we see a beautiful dress, and want by all means to have it. We think we are happier when we obtain what we want. But this excitement will fade away quickly, and we still need to consume more and more, to search for further satisfaction. Is it a road without end? Yes, unfortunately.

  • The story of Buddha

Buddha, in his historical time, was a prince, pursuing desires and satisfaction. But he was not happy. He knew there was something he missed in life. One day, he left his palace and practiced meditation 6 years before his awakening. What he taught us, was a very simple truth: “Desire is not happiness”.

“A man asked Gautama Buddha, “I want happiness.” Buddha said, “First remove “I,” that’s Ego, then remove “want,” that’s Desire. See now you are left with only “Happiness.”

  • Profound joy with a simple life

“Many people think excitement is happiness… But when you are excited you are not peaceful. True happiness is based on peace.” (Thich Nhat Hanh). The day we recognize true happiness, we won’t have the wish to consume. We feel good with profound and silent joy, leading a simple life.

I remember, before, I was working hard to earn a big salary and consume mindlessly. During the summer holiday, I needed to book a 5-star hotel, with a swimming pool. “Without the pool, what will children do?”. the vacation was filled with activities and consumption.

But today, we pass our days endlessly in nature. We are fulfilled with each autumn leave falling, each dewdrop, and each cool breeze in our face. We are just feeling good, consuming only the essentials. Amazing, isn’t it?

Indeed, we don’t need a lot of things to feel happy. When we are mindful and present in each thing we do or receive, all is filled with joy, happiness, and fulfillment. We find ourselves satisfied and happier for less, naturally.

And that’s the road to be a “mindful receiver”, not a mindless consumer.

As conclusions

How do I stop being a mindless consumer? It’s not easy. Because we live in a consumerist society where many superfluous things are the norm. Mindless consumption does not limit itself to what we eat, we drink, we buy… It’s most of all a way of living.

Today, change profoundly the way you apprehend our existence, by easy and simple ways to start. Daily time for silence, meditation, connection with nature. Mindful breathing. Mindful eating. Or mindful walking. By these simple practices, you can slow down, and learn to appreciate and see deeply in what is around you.

  • You become a more mindful consumer, or a mindful receiver when you cultivate deep gratitude for the food, material or immaterial gifts that have been brought to you.
  • You free yourself from judgment and expectations of others on what to consume or possess. Because you see our worthiness being just who you are.
  • You learn to recognize true happiness which does not come from the satisfaction of your desires. You are happier for less, naturally.

Sounds good? Follow me!

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