Our Beloved friend Amy Reese submitted a question to me, the first one through the new offering to ask me anything, and it’s a great one:
I love the way you describe how experiencing higher consciousness has caused you to live more intentionally by being a thoughtful consumer. I, too, would like to support businesses that don’t abuse cheap labor. Do you have a list of such resources you could share?
Thank you for the question, Amy! How do we live more intentionally as a consumer in this culture, this market, this economy, this global industrial complex, especially as we awaken to greater Love, Life, and Consciousness, and our oneness with the world around us. This is a question that I think we all should ponder more deeply, and discuss as a community more thoroughly. I’m not sure I can recommend specific resources, as there are so many, but I will share some general thoughts and suggestions about living more consciously.
Waking up to Ourselves
I believe Amy’s question was prompted by my writing about living in the Gift, and how awakening to greater consciousness has made me much more conscious of my participation in the activity of the world. I have become much more aware of my own complicity in suffering and the influence that my life has throughout the whole. I wrote:
I left my corporate job as an industrial designer in July of 2017, just three months after the launch of this website. And although I have looked for new employment in that field I have been unable to secure a new position. Which might be just as well. Much of industrial design work seems to feed directly into the materialist capitalist consumerist objectifying mass-produced maximized-profits short-term growthism system of our modern society that seems to me now to be quite at odds in many ways with nature and the planet, reason, goodness, oneness, and beauty. It’s not that our economy is all bad; it’s never black or white. I appreciate technology very much. It is enabling me to deliver these words to you now. But I do worry deeply about the excesses of our market system as it is currently operating.
I think we are beginning to see the impact of this economy and mindset on our world. Many of us seem to be unconscious of what we are doing to our planet, and to each other. When we become more conscious, when we wake up to our being in the world, I think we awaken to a greater knowledge and awareness of what is going on all around the world, and of our participation in that. No longer are we siloed off, independent, doing our own thing, isolated from all others. No, quite the contrary.
We realize we are all One, that we are deeply interconnected to one another, that what we do affects all, that we are all participants in this world. We come to know that we are not absolved from the suffering of the world, we are not blameless, but we are participants in it. What we do has a chain reaction effect all the way down the line to the furthest reaches of the planet. And so we begin to live differently, to live more mindfully, to alleviate suffering by changing our own self, by changing our life, by recognizing and being more intentional in how we act in the world.
I could have simply ignored what I was doing as a product designer, continuing to send tons of polypropylene plastic into the world’s landfills, absolving myself from the responsibility, saying I was just a tiny part of the gigantic system and could not be guilty of any wrongdoing personally. But what if we all said that?
And perhaps we all do say that, in one way or another, which is why our planet is in the condition it is currently in. It seems that often we think we are exonerated in what we do, that we are blameless, that it is someone else’s problem, that someone else will fix it, and so we all continue going on acting the same way, causing the same problems. We don’t realize that we are all participants, that each and every one contributes to the problem, and unless we all begin to wake up to our participation and change our ways, then the problems are not easily fixed. One or two people can’t fix these issues; we are all participating.
I believe this is part of the suffering of Christ. When we realize the Christ nature in us and all people and beings, then we also realize a deep connection that “feels with” all others that are suffering, a com-passion that senses a deep empathy for all the world, a oneness that knows that inasmuch as it happens to another, any other, it happens to me. And this suffering begins to change us from the inside out. We begin to do things differently to alleviate suffering, pain, hurt, damage, harm wherever we can.
A Better Way
So how do we begin to do this? How do we begin to change the way we act in the world to alleviate suffering, to avoid cheap labor, to stop using things that are causing damage to our planet, to begin to be more mindful and intentionally responsible for ourselves and our impact on the world, on the One that we are?
I think the first thing, and perhaps the most important, that we should be doing is waking up ourselves. By awakening our consciousness to reality as much as possible through contemplative practices and giving of ourselves in Love, our natural being in the world will affect all around us resulting in more harmonious living. Until we become more awake, until we can grow our consciousness, we may be blind to our influence on the world. We will be cut off from the rest of the world, insular, isolated from the rest, perhaps believing we are the center of the world, and that the world owes us something, and we will not be conscious of our impact.
As Michael Jackson once sang, if we want to make the world a better place, we need to take a look at ourself and make a change. And I suggest that this change begins by looking on the inside. We need to look deeply inward to realize what we are at a fundamental level, and this will be the impetus for our change in the world. This deep knowing will compel us to change our outward behavior. The “Father” who sees us inwardly will change us outwardly (Matt.6:6). I’ve heard others say similar things, that the best thing we can do to help heal the world is to first heal ourselves. And I think this makes sense, since we are One with the world.
So what are we doing to wake up? What is our daily inner contemplative practice like? How long do we give to your meditations or centering prayers every day? My recommendation is to try to work up to at least 40 minutes a day, minimum. It seems that the awakening of consciousness needs this kind of time to go deeper, and for mystical consciousness to develop. If we only meditate for 5 or 10 minutes a day, while good, I’m not sure we are giving enough time for mystical consciousness to take root in us or to awaken to deeper realizations. (On my silent meditation retreats it could take 30-40 hours of nearly continuous meditation before I could penetrate through the crust of egoic thoughts/concerns to a deeper witness of consciousness, being, and reality.)
Of course, many people may not be able to do 40 minutes in a sitting, but may need to work up to this over time. And eventually, we may want to go even longer, perhaps even up to two hours a day, one hour in the morning, and another hour in the evening, which I have done at times. Some of the greatest contemplatives and saints spent this kind of dedicated time in their contemplative practice, and it does change them. I’ve heard that Gandhi, for instance, spent one day every week in contemplation. It brings our awareness from out of our head and back down to our heart, to the center of our being, to an awareness of the Life within us and all beings, to the heart of Consciousness itself.
The Little Things
Next, I would say, what are the little things that we can notice and begin to change in our daily activities? I think sometimes we want to make big changes, huge alterations to our way of life because we think these will have the biggest impact. But sometimes I think the smaller things are easier to notice, easier to change, and we do not have a major hurdle to cross to make it happen. And many small things add up to great things.
So I suggest to try to notice the little things. What are we eating? Is the food we eat produced sustainably? Is it mostly vegetarian (beef production is one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters)? Is it local? Where might we start making changes in the way we eat? How do we commute? Could we take a bike more often? Could we drive less? Could we take public transportation rather than drive? Could we carpool more with friends? Could we walk and get exercise at the same time? How might we live more simply? Can we be content with the things that we have, without having to buy more things that we think will bring us happiness or satisfaction? Can we be deeply grateful for the things we currently have, knowing it is perhaps far more than many other people in the world have?
When we do have to buy things, perhaps we can try to buy local, from real makers and craftsmen, from artists, from people who are making things or growing food with their hands from local materials, who are part of our own communities. We can engage with our own community, and make it an intentional one. Perhaps we can become part of a CSA (community-supported agriculture) to support local farmers and gardeners.
Mass-produced products do produce many goods for many people, but at the cost of often being made in factories half a world away, by people being paid very little for their work, often without concern for pollution or sustainable processes, which then must be shipped half way around the world and pass through many hands before they get to us. The supply chain is long and deep, and if we think about it, not very efficient, even if the goods are low in cost.
So, whenever possible, I think it is better to try to buy things made locally, by people in our own communities, people we may know or could intentionally get to know, to support our local economies, without having to ship things around the world expending fuel all along the way, and without all the downsides to factory mass production. I don’t think we want to eliminate mass production, but I do think we need to think much more carefully about how we produce things in our world, and the impact that it has on the world and each other.
Of course, I am not perfect at doing all of these things, but I think it is an ideal to strive towards. I have tried in recent years, as I have had mystical awakenings and grown more conscious of my impact in the world, to change my diet (I am vegetarian), to change my job, to change how I buy and what I buy, to minimize what I purchase (less need for things), and to downsize my home and my possessions and my vehicles. We have participated in CSAs, and other sustainable foods sources, and we try to support local makers and producers wherever possible.
What are some ways that you think we could live more mindfully in this consumer world? How can growing in consciousness lead us to more intentional living with awareness of our impact on the world and others around us? What would you recommend? Please share your thoughts in the comments or on Facebook.
And, if you have a question you’d like to ask me to respond to, please feel free to send it to me. I enjoy the conversation, and I think this dialectic is good for us in building community, relationships, and improving our being One in the world.