Among all the definitions of mindfulness, the one that I particularly like I came across years ago in one of Pema Chodron‘s many books (and I can’t remember which one!). It says that
mindfulness is loving all the details of our lives.
I guess that’s at the heart of my motivation to practice bringing mindfulness to my consuming, to the many small decisions made daily about what to ‘take in’. That goes for what I eat and drink, for what I buy and who I buy it from, what I ingest in terms of news, music, films, books, conversation topics. And I wouldn’t for a moment hold myself up as a great example in any of these areas – but I would really recommend (if you haven’t already), to extend your mindfulness practice into loving all the details of your life.
And what better time to do this, than a time of year that in the culture you find yourself in is full of importance! For me, living in Scotland, this is Christmas. Conversations about how and what start months before in our family, shops around me are lit up with Christmas cheer and the city of Edinburgh has once again outdone itself with lights and markets and entertainment galore. And because of all this importance that’s given, everything around it seems heightened: heightened feelings, more social activity, more food and of course… more presents.
Which is all fine in itself of course, but with the frequent news about the climate crisis and over-consumption, Christmas can bring on an additional flavour of overwhelm. The ups may be big but so can the downs be, and while the taste of the food may be great, so can the waste be. The love and care that goes into big and beautiful gifts may be priceless, but that doesn’t mean our gifts don’t also cost the earth. I don’t want to make this a preachy, finger-wagging guilt trip and say we shouldn’t enjoy ourselves, but let’s not do it mindlessly, driven by habitual patterns or subliminal messages from a consumerist society. Let’s love the details of our lives, and pay attention to what we can then decide.
So, to leave you with some practical, well-considered inspiration about presents, food and decorations, WWF have done a wonderful selection of top tips for a sustainable Christmas, much better and nicer looking that what I’d have come up with! One of my favourites on there is wrapping with a scarf or other piece of material you’ve already got in the house – we’ve once seen a bike wrapped in a curtain ‘under’ our little Christmas tree that we bring in from the garden for a week every year (the only thing to watch out for is the possibility that the receiver thinks the wrap is part of the gift!). Wrapping in cloth in our family came after reading that the amount of Christmas wrapping paper thrown away in the UK could stretch from Edinburgh to the North Pole 100 times. And the cloths are just as nice, we find, and certainly more practical for bikes!
Finally, when you’ve had your fill of holiday romances on TV (if that’s your thing at all!) and you’re in the mood for some likely uplifting documentaries that explore a positive imagining of our collective future, here is a list compiled by Films for Action that help to ‘unlock the good ending’ instead of the many doomsday scenarios that are doing the rounds.
Here’s to a joyful, mindful Christmas!
PS if you’d like to give more attention to Mindful Consuming in the year to come, there’s our 6 week evening course coming up in February to explore just that!