Food, water, air, shelter. The basic necessities of life.
How many of us in the US actually deliberate about what we really need to live as we navigate our options within these survival categories? Some do, or have to, but most don’t.
Embark on an exercise in mindfulness with us...
Contemplate the idea of consumption. We all consume, as living beings we need to in order to survive. We all eat, drink, breathe, and use natural resources to shelter us from the elements and other harms.
Now, introduce the idea of comfort. We all like to be comfortable; it’s safe to say that any living being strives to be comfortable in their own way. Worms crawl underground because they feel more comfortable when the threat of predation is lessened. They also like cool, dark, moist environments. People typically seek out environments or amenities to match or equalize body temperature, we naturally gravitate towards calorie dense foods because of the long term sustenance, and we try to create home-like spaces where those basic needs are included.
Next, enter manipulation. To achieve the utmost levels of comfort, security, and satisfaction, we develop means and tools to manipulate and use resources. Some animals do this (think stockpiling food), but humans have mastered the art of manipulation. The process is ingrained in our species. We have tools for everything, we maximize efficiency, and we devise plans and processes to boost our comfort levels. Genius, really.
How does this all connect?
What this boils down to is that our innate skill to manipulate means that we are virtually unstoppable when it comes to consumption, aside from (some) natural checks and balances. Unstoppable to the point of wrongdoing. Unknowingly, and sometimes even knowingly, in striving for comfort within our consumptive capabilities, we often manipulate to the point of overuse and destruction to ourselves and the planet.
The current state of the planet and its inhabitants is proof. The basic necessities of life are threatened; think water supplies, global food systems, pollution and population concerns. Consumption problems and imbalances have dealt a hand of chronic disease, mental health challenges, and the fraying of the social systems we thought held us together.
Recruit our most unique and powerful tool of all - consciousness.
What if, because we have the consciousness to do so, we all checked ourselves when it came to balancing our needs and our wants?
In reality aren’t our notions of consumption and comfort, to some extent, relative? Shouldn’t we be able to take a step back and examine our individual habits and behaviors in relation to others on the planet, historical humanity, and even ourselves throughout time?
In doing so we would likely realize how much we have, and how much of our consumption is because of want - not need. And, subsequently, how much of our destruction is because of the same.
A shift in focus to need is called for. Our actual needs, the needs of other humans, other animals, other life. All it takes is another dose of mindfulness and awareness.
We’re already there, we just need to open our eyes.
-Madelin Petz, VibeUP Editor