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Yoga You-niversity: A Conscious Consumer

"How do we consume in a way that does justice to the lives that we take?"
- Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, 2013

This passage of Braiding Sweetgrass spoke to me today, as the sugarplum fairy dust of the holiday settles. This year was the first in many that I opened my heart and mind to the joy of holidays and really embraced the traditions and events. I have a tree. I even bought a string of lights. And I have to admit it brings me immense joy to see my colorful tree lit up in these long winter nights.

So averse to Christmas I had become, I literally played a Grinch character on a program for children overseas teaching them about American holidays. My main Grinchy points:

The holiday is destructive, through and through -

- to the environment.

- to relationships.

- to the human psyche.

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For the children, I focused on the tangible, measurable impacts on the environment:

  1. lights: unnecessary & excessive energy consumption

  2. decorations: unnecessary & excessive plastic/oil consumption

  3. gift wrap: unnecessary & excessive paper/tree consumption

To Kimmerer's point, how do we participate in holiday traditions as conscious consumers?

In a section of Braiding Sweetgrass titled "Maple Nation: A Citizenship Guide," Kimmerer explains

our roles as consumers, or heterotrophs:

"It would be so satisfying to provide for the wellbeing of others -- like being a mother again. Like being needed. Shade, medicine, berries, roots; there would be no end to it. As a plant I could make the fire, hold the nest, heal the wound, fill the brimming pot.

But this generosity is beyond my realm, as I am a mere heterotroph, a feeder on the carbon transmuted by others. In order to live, I must consume. That's the way the world works, the exchange of a life for a life, the endless cycling between my body and the body of the world."

Thank you, Madame Kimmerer, for your insight. I have felt this, and appreciate your words to communicate the feeling. The guilt I feel for consuming extends to even the smallest broccoli flowers I get from local farmers. What life could that beautiful little broccoli flower have lived if I hadn't cut it short for the sake of my own sustenance...? These thoughts truly rest in my mind some quiet days.

So when it comes to celebrating the holiday, I weighed the gratification I and others get from all the celebrations with the effect it has on the world. It didn't add up for me.

Not only speaking to the whirlwind of consumers as shoppers, and all the components involved (shipping costs, commuting to and from shopping centers, bags/packaging at the point of purchase, etc), but to the whole picture. Christmas effects the economy of the entire world, with America leading the way as consumers. Of everything.

The last year I played Grinch, I was so fortunate to spend the holiday in my hometown with family after a long, challenging trip to Asia. The pandemic had already begun in China where I had just traveled from, and I was recovering from a lengthy respiratory illness. So this was the perfect Christmas to spend in quiet meditation and reflection, producing more than I consumed.

From this place of quiet, I was inspired from the depths of my heart for my dear baby niece. Everyone always jokes about how babies prefer to play with the packaging more than the bran