Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tis the season... for over-consumption?

Ahhh, the holidays.  Exactly when did christmas become an annual orgy of over-consumption?  News reports calls us 'shoppers' or 'consumers,' not citizens.  Our worth is measured by how much we consume, which is usually in inverse proportion to our actual benefit to society, not to mention the environment.  People crush each other in massive crowds trying to get some plastic mass produced something-or-other that was probably made in China and will be long forgotten or discarded by this time next year.  People go into debt and stress over buying presents for people they don't even really like because they are 'family'.  It hurts my head and heart to think of all the trash that will be created this weekend, wrapping paper, boxes, excess packaging.  What the hell is wrong with our society?

This is the second year I've decided to fast during the holidays.  I'm more than two weeks in to a green juice fast, and I'm feeling great.  It really highlights the absurdity of all the stress and anxiety going on in the society at large with all this shopping and over-consumption.  I am enjoying stillness and tranquility in the midst of the frenzy.  Whenever I have to go to the grocery store for more veggies, I see so many stressed out people, throwing processed junk into their carts.  I can see in their faces how unsatisfied they are.  And I can see it in their bodies, holding on to excess, weighed down, unempowered, weak.  It is an acute, poignant image of everything wrong with society.  And I am making an empowered choice not to participate.  Or rather, to participate in a way that is meaningful and substantial by holding space for another possibility to arise.  Fasting during the holidays is another expression of my yoga practice.  It is about turning inward to tend the inner light, to find stillness in the midst of flux and peace in the midst of anxiety, to be open without expectation, to focus the mind and body and emotions on that which has integrity and real power from within, to recognize real needs and wants, to cultivate greater clarity and simplicity and grace in my life.

There are, of course, ways to bring this possibility into view without going on a fast.  Spend time with people whose company you actually enjoy, who bring greater light and clarity into your life just simply by sharing time together.  Talk with them, tell stories, laugh, cry, sing, go for a walk, hug them, write them a poem.  If you're fortunate, that may be the family you're born into, or perhaps it is your carefully chosen family of friends and people of like mind.  The important thing is that you realize you are completely empowered to choose who you spend time with.  It is not necessary to be with people who are draining or destructive to you just because they may share your genetics.  Take care of yourself and those who truly love and support you.  Be unafraid to spend time alone, to tend to things that are important to you.  Spend time, not money, on the people you love.  Give gifts when it's least expected throughout the year, just because you want to.  Be open to receiving gifts from unexpected people and places.  Bring mindfulness to your actions and the gifts you buy for loved ones.  Support artists and local businesses with your dollars instead of big box stores and products made in China.  These are just a few of many ways to cultivate your own sense of peace and stillness and light in the midst of everything that may be at odds with it.

The most important thing for each of us to do is be mindful and intentional about where we invest our energy, to steady our minds and focus ourselves in a way that brings greater light and grace into the world.

Many blessings to each of us, and our light-bearing power...

El corazón inmaculado, el Santuario de Chimayó

You’ve no idea how hard I’ve looked
for a gift to bring You.
Nothing seemed right.
What’s the point
of bringing gold to the gold mine,
or water to the Ocean.
Everything I came up with
was like taking spices to the Orient.
It’s no good giving my heart and my soul
because you already have these.
So—I’ve brought you a mirror.
Look at yourself and remember me.


  1. In the old calendars of many Western traditions, there are fast days and feast days. I see nothing at all wrong with feast days: with the festive foods of Christmas, the "dress it with oil" spirit of Hannukah, or the Solstice cups of cheer. In their context, all of these bring brightness and -- quite frankly -- calories into a time in which both were often lacking.

    No, the problem I sees that the idea of fast days has left us. There are no longer fasts for Lent, that long preparation for the spring. Nor do many secular or liberal Jews fast any more for the many fast days of that calendar. Neo-Pagans, coming of age in the modern era, have not generally built that balance into the sacred calendar to begin with.

    So, that's this religious studies nerd's take. For everything there is a season. Put paganly: balance.

    Blessings, מירימ

  2. Yes, indeed. And I definitely love bringing people together to feast at various times throughout the year. It is important to revel in the company of others, break bread, celebrate. I think my main concern with what the holidays have become is over-consumption in terms of the out of control shopping that happens and the lack of mindfulness associated with that kind of rampant consumerism for the sake of consuming. It seems, in general, totally disconnected from whatever meaning the season has for a person's particular religious or spiritual beliefs. And in my family, it has been filled with tension and toxicity and ugliness. So for me, fasting brings balance to that. It empowers me to create a new possibility for myself, and for that I am grateful.