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Spectrum of Toxicity

2 min

We all have some relationship with toxicity.

We all have some relationship with toxicity. [1]

Some people subsist on highly-processed foods and hours of inane television. Others meditate for hours a day and eat minimally and healthfully. Most of us are somewhere between this.

There is a direct relationship between the degree of toxicity we consume and the degree of vitality and clarity we enjoy. This should be easy to verify in your own experience.

We usually habituate to some amount of toxicity (and a corresponding baseline of vitality/clarity) and have boundaries around it. For most of us there are reference groups in our mind that we do or don’t want to be like: “I’ll do this and that, but I won’t do those things those other people do.” This is a job taken up by our internal gatekeeper that determines what we are allowed and not allowed to do/be/think/feel/etc.

It’s perhaps easier to imagine the places higher on the toxicity spectrum than it is to imagine what it is like to be more vital/alive/clear than we’ve ever been.

I recall a particularly eye-opening experience in which I likened the amount of aliveness I felt to tasting fresh-baked bread for the first time after only ever having stale bread. There are degrees of clarity and vitality that most of us living modern lives with modern lifestyles have never experienced.

Wherever you are on the toxicity spectrum, whatever degree of aliveness and clarity you are habituated to, there is more possible.

Often we have inner conflict about our relationship with toxicity. Some part reaches for it to ease tensions and stress. Another part judges and criticizes us for the over-indulgence.

In so far as you wish to reduce the toxicity in your life, my suggestion is to not try to change anything at first. Simply bring more awareness to yourself as you take in toxicity. Notice with a greater degree of subtlety the impact that the substance or the experience has on you.

The vast majority of people who witness some aspect of themselves that they find undesirable, immediately try to change it (or distract themselves from it). This often has unintended consequences, and we are better off simply noticing ourselves and our compulsive behaviors with greater precision, before trying to immediately change them.


[1] There’s much to be said about what toxic means, and as Paracelsus noted, “the dose makes the poison”. The word typically has harsher connotations than I intend here. For my purposes, “toxic” refers to anything that has a negative impact on vitality and clarity. This can be subjective and nuanced.

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