I recently broke a very significant two-year record.
Through a practice of modified consumption, I was able to go for a period of two years without making any purchases beyond basic needs, including clothing or home décor.
What fueled this experiment was a heightened awareness: that many of us are unconscious about our personal purchasing habits (the excessive amount of items we purchase which we believe we need) and the amount of waste accumulation that is a direct result of this over-consumption.
If you want to move out of unconsciousness regarding any particular aspect of your life you have to have a clear intention to do so, combined with deliberate action. Therefore in an effort to not be wasteful in my everyday living, I began an intentional practice of modified consumption.
Initially I was not sure what this new practice would entail. Sure, I would continue to repair and recycle, not buy plastic, minimize purchasing items with excessive packaging, and to carry my own grocery bag. But I felt like I needed to make a bigger commitment. I needed to look more closely at what I was consuming and why.
It is important to note that I did not begin this practice of modified consumption with an intention to deprive myself or based on any feelings of financial lack. Actually, it was quite the opposite. My new practice was formed from pure feelings of the heart, to better care for and love the earth and its inhabitants.
In the beginning of my practice of modified consumption I took the time to notice how my body responded when I came across an item that I liked or felt I needed. I explored the feeling, asking myself the following questions:
Is this something I really need?
How many other items do I already have that are similar to this one?
Do I feel I have enough?
Will purchasing this item provide a short-term feeling of pleasure?
Will it somehow signify that I am good or better (the right to shop)?
Is this purchase in alignment with my love for the earth?
Through this questioning process I was able to become a more conscious-shopper, with a clear intention in the moment to purchase something instead of becoming lost in the feeling of temporary satisfaction, or the emotion of feeling I don’t have enough.
As I came to understand the old patterns of consumption that were so ingrained in my behavior, I began to see the act of shopping very differently.
Shopping in itself can be an enjoyable process if your intention is to “see beauty.” I love the feeling of appreciation I experience when witnessing creative expression in its physical form.
Shopping can also be an activity we choose when we are bored, or when we are looking for something external to help us feel happier in the moment. Shopping can become addictive, a way of soothing our uncomfortable feelings, distracting ourselves, or zoning out on our lives.
A practice of modified consumption deepened my worldview, not only for how we disregard the needs of nature, but also the ways in which purchasing-power expands inequality and separation among individuals. Feeling we have earned “the right to shop”, our homes and bodies become a display of our wealth, status and achievement – instead of an expression of our creativity.
A practice of modified consumption also led me to a deepened awareness of myself, the choices I make, and how I initiate action in the world. I became more aware of other forms of consumption in my life: purchases of food and drink, entertainment and travel – basically everything we seek to provide us with a feeling of happiness or comfort beyond our basic needs.
I never planned to go a significant period of time without purchasing items for myself, it is something that just organically happened. By staying aware of my intentions – each time, I chose to not make a purchase. It was much later when I realized the length of time that had passed and the beneficial effect of my practice of modified consumption.
The money made available from a decrease in my personal spending was used to help people in need, to support small local businesses that offer natural and sustainable products and services, and to support healers who are doing good work in the world. Aside from providing myself with basic-needs – I chose to place more importance on investing in the care of my body and the expansion of my consciousness.
Once we understand at the deepest level what it is that we are actually seeking, it changes our perspective of what our true needs really are. With a clear intention and a strong desire we can question any action we choose to take and determine if it is in alignment with how we want to be in the world.
It is possible to move out of the hypnosis of social conditioning and to make better choices for ourselves and the planet. I hope you will join me.
Photograph by Umberto Brayj