Friday, January 06, 2017

Empty Consumption

My family and I spent New Year's Day in church, where we participated in a ceremony that required we write down on a slip of paper something we wanted to release this year. Then each participant burned the slip of paper in a metal tray. The ashes from this ceremony will be mixed with oil and water for our Lent ceremony in a few weeks. It was a beautiful ritual and we all walked away feeling a bit lighter and more focused on the important things.

Empty Consumption. 
That is what I wrote on my slip of paper. 

I've been on a path of simplification for a while. When I had my ranch house in Dallas, I was interested in using the space more efficiently and effectively. I engaged in the sharing economy by opening up space for Air BnB. I also tried co-housing. I still am on the Radical Homemaking path which you can read more about HERE. And all of my Radical Homemaking posts can be found HERE.

At the end of 2016, our family went even further. We sold our home, sold or gave away two-thirds of our belongings and moved into a 1,000 square foot apartment. We took these measures for many reasons - some personal and some more global. But it comes down to the fact that America is a culture of mindless consumerism and it is not only detrimental to the earth, but it is detrimental to our relationships and our happiness. Our family wants to step away from this and try something new.

I burned Empty Consumption in the fire. What does that mean to me?

- Don't Buy or Eat What I Don't Need.

- Before Consuming Anything, ask this question: "Does this add real VALUE to my life?"

- Count the Hidden Costs of Each Purchase. (Was it made and prepared in a humane way? Was it shipped a long distance? What will it cost to store it, maintain it, use it, fix it, replace it?)

The three key points listed above point to deeper spiritual questions.

"Don't buy or eat what I don't need" requires that I understand myself in a deeper and more authentic way. It forces me to examine my own addictive behaviors and explore what I really want in life. It also asks that I truly understand my motivations. This is real soul work and it takes time and energy to find the answers to these questions.

"Does this add real value to my life". This question requires me to live in the present moment and understand the nature of nourishment. I am the queen of the coffee drive-thru. This habit costs lots of money over the course of the year and allows me to consume hundreds of thousands of mindless calories as well. To understand if something adds real value I have to be intimately acquainted with my own values. What do I stand for and what makes me whole?

"Count the hidden costs" is a big one. Everything we consume was created, built, sewn, cooked, prepped, shipped, driven, hauled, handled, and delivered by someone. When you start counting hidden costs you are immediately aware of our interconnectedness. You can't help but feel reverence for earth as an organism. This questions points at social justice issues and the preservation of our natural resources.

If you're interested in digging a little deeper into ways of challenging consumerism in your own life, THIS article by Joshua Becker is a great place to start. I also recommend Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. It is definitely worth your time if you're interested in strengthening the "why" and "how" of effective downsizing and less consumerism. There are a lot of great points and points of view in this movie.

Have a beautiful weekend!

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