Toxic consumption

Leo Babuata’s recent blog post about reality came at a serendipitous moment when I was reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s “The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology“. It is often said that we create our own reality, but I think that those words are often misinterpreted. Those who are suffering from famine or abuse have not necessarily created that reality – everyone’s reality is also a combination of others’ reality. However, what Leo and Thay point out that it is what we consume that helps to create our reality.

We are a consumer culture, here in the West. Some of us are trying to bring more awareness to what we consume, whether that is in material goods, food, petrol or electricity consumption, etc. What Leo and Thay speak of however is what we are consuming with our soul, with our heart, with our brain, mainly through media but also in the form of speech, gossip, etc. Thay speaks eloquently about this matter, stating that a lot of what we visually consume from the media is toxic. We watch television shows that are violent, or that pit people against each other in dishonourable ways. We are influenced by advertising. We may speak ill or dishonestly of others, or about ourselves. When we are doing this, we are taking in a toxicity that affects our very being. We can stand up for ourselves, certainly, speaking out against injustice with honesty and awareness. It doesn’t mean we will never speak out. What it does mean is that we become engaged in our living, in our being, in a positive way that benefits the whole, not just the self.

Life is a choice, for the most part. We can choose to not take in this toxicity, or be a part of it. That is not to say that we shut ourselves off from what is happening in the world. We need to know of the suffering that is occurring in the world in order to help alleviate it. But we can say no to violence as entertainment, to disrespect someone in order to “pass the time”. Everyone knows the saying “You are what you eat”. Let’s open this out to everything else that we consume. We can choose to be a part of this world, aware of what is happening, without taking in the vast amounts of toxic images and words; it is within our power.

Be aware of the world. Know that people are suffering from a horrific tragedy in Kenya. Know that people are suffering in your own hometown. Know too that you can choose to not play violent video games, or watch gory movies, to intake that violence into your consciousness. You can fill your heart with peace and loving kindness – it is your choice. You don’t have to read that magazine with photoshopped men and women. You don’t have to comment negatively on someone’s Facebook status. You don’t have to gossip about someone, or read about it in the latest trashy mag. You choose what you put out there into the world.

When we fill ourselves with positive things instead of toxic things, we can hopefully make this world a better place. What are your thoughts?

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4 thoughts on “Toxic consumption

  1. I find that as I get older, I have less and less tolerance for cruelty or violence, even in fiction. When I was a teenager I loved horror movies and books, and there are still some that I like, but for the most part they’re just too intense for me. I don’t know if that’s a result of a simple change in taste, or if I’m becoming more aware of (or starting to let myself feel) the ways in which those things affect my psyche/soul, or if it’s a little of both. But either way I think you’re right; the things we take in affect us more than we may realize. When we’re repeatedly exposed to “violence as entertainment,” or the devaluing and objectification of people through porn, or the promotion of a particular body type as ideal, or the idea that buying more or the right things will make us happy, than I think at least on some level we start to see these things or actions or ideas as acceptable if not normal. Or, at the very least, we might start to become numb. I agree with you, that we need to not only change what we expose ourselves to but also what we put out there for others to absorb. I would never want to curb anyone’s freedom of speech, but I tend to think that the stuff we’re talking about has profit at its heart more than genuine creative expression.

    That was all a rather longwinded way of saying: Amen sister!

  2. Yep, no more violent tv or movies or books for me. I too have less tolerance the older I get. No mainstream news or newspapers or magazines for me either. I like the idea of, “You are what you consume.” As to what you create, well as you say we all co-creating and so are germs and not so nice people so on. But, how we handle the things that happen, whether fantastic or craptastic, that *is* in our control!

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