I pray and I shop. I shop and I pray. I pray about my shopping. I shop to help me pray.
Yes, that last bit is true. I buy books on spirituality and prayer. I have crosses and spiritual jewelry, Buddha necklaces, bracelets of sacred beads, OM necklaces. I have a library of self-help and spiritual books, statues of Mary, beautiful posters and paintings. And twenty-five Hermes scarves.
At Kripalu and Omega we are in workshops. We are giving up, we are letting go, we are embracing the nothingness, we are shedding our need to consume, we release our materialism. We fold up our pillow and replace our black canvas “Backjack” chair and we are congratulating ourselves on our new freedom from needing things. It’s OK, I can live with what I have.
And then we are hitting the gift shop like we are starved people in a grocery store. Necklaces, books, bracelets, scarves, rubber mats and CD’s. We can’t get enough.
I have spiritual practices: prayer, meditation, sacred reading, chanting, twirling and yoga. And I have shopping practices: a new budget, spend more in cheap stores, spend only in good stores, imitate the French women, imitate the poor, only buy thrift and consignment, care more, care less.
For a year I have practiced “One In-One Out”—meaning that everytime I bring home a new item a like item has to go out. If I buy a new skirt I have to give away a skirt, boots for boots, shoe for shoe. Only underwear and sox really wear out. This “One In-One Out” practice is hard. I have to think. Sometimes it gives me regrets. Something’s got to go. Sometimes, but not often enough, it stops me when I’m in a store: “Am I willing to give something up for this?” And sometimes I’m surprised that I can easily toss what was so needed, so necessary, just a month ago. What does that tell me?
There’s an emptiness when I want to shop. If I get quiet in a store I can feel it. When I think that the bracelet or the boots will do something for me it’s the same emptiness that calls for cake, bread, red licorice or an extra serving of pasta. That same part of me that used to call for a Long Island Iced Tea, a Kahlua and Cream, a glass (or three) of wine. It is the same deception, the same wheedling voice that says, “This one, this one, yes, this one will make you feel better.” And truly deceptive, “If you get this one you won’t need another.”
What if I just stayed with that emptiness? What if I just sat still and allowed that feeling to cover me? What if I let it wrap itself around me the way I would wrap that pretty infinity scarf around me again and again? If I just stayed with that feeling where would it go?
Isn’t that the very issue: the fear of where it might go? We tell people in AA “Sit still and feel”, we advise in OA, “Sit on your hands”, we tell the lover of the married man, “Give someone else your phone, do not text.” We say to anyone with an addiction, “Move a muscle, change a thought.” And, “Feelings are not facts.”
Does this wise advice apply to shoes, boots and beautiful bags? Does it include the nearly perfect, leather, cross-body messenger bag I saw today?
Well, does it?