by Grace Edmunds
Consuming goods has become intertwined with the holiday season and common belief in western culture is that material possessions will make us happy. However, if you look deeper, you will find that material possessions are not a sustainable source of long-term happiness. True happiness and wellbeing, rather, is gained by cultivating characteristics of the heart. Generosity, compassion, and gratitude are included in these aspects and the more you develop them, the more alive, connected and prosperous you will feel. With this in mind, it is important to learn how to practice conscious consumerism and how to give radically. These two practices will fill you up with joy and a sense of wellbeing which will attract more of the same into your life.
Be a Minimalist
Minimalism is on the rise with less people interested in mass consumption of cheap goods and more interested in where their products come from. The minimalists have a rule they use to help them keep their possessions few called 90/90. When you are evaluating whether or not to keep an item, ask yourself, “Have I used this item in the last 90 days, or will I use it in the next 90 days?” If the answer is no, then you get rid of it. When the space you are living in is cluttered and full of things, it can leave a feeling of chaos or distraction in your mind. Conversely, if your space is clear, simple, and easy on the eyes, it will be less overwhelming and easier to attain a sense of peace within.
Keeping your physical items at a minimum also creates a sense of intentionality around what you purchase. The next time you are looking to buy something, you will contemplate more deeply whether it is a need or a want. Living minimally doesn’t mean you must stop buying everything, it simply inspires you to consume in a more mindful way.
Be Intentional about where you buy from
“You vote with your wallet. Your dollar bill is your ballot.” – Wookiefoot
Perhaps you don’t want to radically remove yourself from the consumption culture and that is fine. Practicing mindful consumption will help you keep your integrity. Did you know that less than 2% of the workers who make the clothes we wear are paid a living wage? Or that this year alone there was more than 300 billion hours of child labor around the world? What you purchase directly contributes to these statistics and is also a representation of your values. Though it may be easy to stay ignorant about these issues, now that you know, it is up to you to make conscious choices about where you put your money. Money is energy and you choose everyday which channels you feed and support. The more you educate yourself, the more you see the potential positive or negative impact your dollar has. Next time, ask the shop owner where the clothes they sell are produced, where they get their fabrics from, or do some online research before you make your purchase. Shop blamelessly at a Fair Trade Store like Momentum in Boulder, Colorado or look for the “fair trade certified” mark online. Local shops are more likely to know their products first hand and understand the sources, so shop local and support small business.
The true path to prosperity of heart and soul is through giving. If the saying is true and you reap what you sow, then giving opens the path to abundance in all aspects of your life. Think about this in the context of a relationship, if you only take from your partner and never give back, they will become drained and unhappy. However, if you give love and compassion generously to them, they will feel inspired and motivated to give it back to you and that love will continue to grow. Radical giving is to share your time, energy or resources without expectation of receiving anything back. This is the practice of true generosity of spirit. When we are generous in this way, there is a warm glow that surrounds us and people tend to return the exchange in some way even though we don’t expect them to!
Give Your Time & Resources
Generosity doesn’t require wealth. You can be generous with your time and energy as well. Volunteering is a great example of this as you are spending your time in service of others. It’s important to check your motivation and notice if you are motivated by “getting something in return” like a boost on your resume, or approval from loved ones. If this is true, it doesn’t mean you are wrong or bad, it just means you’re human. Try your best to acknowledge these motivations and let them go by imagining that you weren’t getting anything in return for your act of service. When we shift our mindset in this way, we start to feel a sense of joy, and abundance.
Conscious consumerism and Generosity are two paths to the same experience of prosperity. When we are living with integrity, mindful of what we take in, we are more likely to feel positive and happy. When we feel this way, we attract other positive people and opportunities that can lead to more prosperity in all ways. Similarly, when we practice radical giving to others, it warms our heart and spirits and lights us up in ways the typical consumption patterns cannot. This brightened spirit again attracts other bright humans and potential opportunities. The ironic key is to practice these without expecting this added benefit, but knowing that it is possible. Develop the characteristics of the heart and you are sure to feel prosperity all around you.
Photo: Clay Banks
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