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A Conscious State of Consumption

by Kino MacGregor

Living in North America, we are part of a society that exports the flashy famousness of the newly discovered. We are collectively in a rush to unearth the next hidden secret and produce our very own million-dollar invention. This makes us brilliant innovators, forward thinking dreamers and daringly ambitious artists, and yet simultaneously, history-deprived, beauty-obsessed shopaholics haunting soulless strip malls sipping mass produced lattes. Is it no wonder then that we as nation seem to be in search of spirit? What else is left for America to invent than an authentic self in the midst of such rampant materialism?

Consumption extends beyond the exterior to the inner reality. As you watch television, listen to the radio, and read the newspaper you engage in a kind of latent consumerism. it is here that you not only take in new products, but where you also digest entire paradigms of thought. Behind every TV show is a kind of think tank targeting often unspoken cultural assumptions and ideals. When you watch, your mind processes these thoughts. when you read a book (or even an article like this one), listen to music, or watch a performance, you are transported deep into the mind of the artist at work and you consume the images, thoughts and choices that define the creator’s state of mind.

Often we consume things in a dim-witted, distracted state of awareness, choosing movies or novels based on convenience or silly advertisements, sometimes repeating statements without giving them much thought. Until, that is, a critical moment of self awareness, a kind of rebirth through the wormhole of self consciousness. Here, the Yoga Sutras give us a fifth bandha called “citta bandha” or mind control. This I take to mean that we are responsible for each and every thought we think every moment of every day. We must search inside and see if the thoughts, beliefs and emotions that comprise our inner world are really valid or not if we are truly to participate in our ultimate realization.

Every image, word, sound, person and product you allow to enter you world reverberates deep into your psychic space. Think before you shop, read a novel, or watch a movie, for these are precious hours of your life that you give to another person’s perspective. And in this way, you can begin to exercise the “citta bandha” in your daily life and develop your own strength and steadiness of mind.

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying consumerism is bad. I’m American, female, fashion conscious and addicted to my daily dose of soy chai; briefly, I love to shop and I love America. It’s just that consumerism without consciousness breeds a kind of insidious social irresponsibility that is as unforgivable as neglecting a child. Except the victim of the arrested development that occurs from the crime of unconscious consumption is your own mind, trapping you in a jail of juvenile emotions and unquestioned thoughts–the very antithesis of citta bandha.

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