#4 - The shopping experience
There are problems with holiday shopping that make it wrong on so many levels. The crowd, the guy dressed up as Santa in front of the store (with that droning bell), the sale prices that make retail pricing such a joke, and the shopping list itself.
My problem is that when I get home, I discover that I just endured that shopping torture only to find that I want to keep everything I just purchased. I guess I was shopping for myself! Now I have to go back and do it all over again. My early season generosity gets quickly pared down in direct proportion to my level of shopping tolerance.
Traffic stress was covered earlier, so you now know how to calmly address cars crowding your personal space. It doesn't seem to difficult to take a calm, objective posture with inanimate objects (the cars), but it seems much harder to tolerate the humans that crash into you, stepping on your feet and crowding in front of the line you stood in for 20 minutes.
How to manage this stress?
The ability to handle crowds of people requires a decision: Can you bring your mind to a place of tolerance and curiosity while navigating the crowds? If you say you cannot, then shopping by mail order or the Internet is probably a better choice. Determining your tolerance level for holiday shopping can save you a lot of time and aggravation if you simply acknowledge that you cannot abide the crowds. No meditation technique is required here; all that is required is an ownership of what you are willing and not willing to do. Own it and act accordingly.
However, if you still feel that you might want to venture out into the milling masses, do so prepared with an attitude of tolerance, amply laced with curiosity. What does this mean? It means getting out of your own way and finding that observing others in their quest for goodies is interesting. It means letting go of the negative expectations that the trip will be miserable. If this is really how you feel then don't be surprised that it will definitely be miserable. That attitude is nothing but a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Let's begin with the process of relaxation, release of stress and positioning your body in a way that is comfortable and relaxed. Focus on your breath initially to quiet the mind and when you are ready to begin the meditation, visualize a trip to the mall. Look at your list and set your goals for the gifts you wish to find. Head out to the mall, seeing all the lights turn green when you need them and forgive those who are rude or careless in traffic. See yourself parking front row, center. A car pulls out just as you arrive and the space is perfect.
As you go into the store, take a deep breath, look around and head to the department that has your first gift. Keep your senses open to the people around you, notice the colors and the smells and the sounds. Put the intention into the air that you are going to find just the perfect gift for the first person on your list and find it quickly. Stop; let your eyes gaze around you, quickly scanning all the store's offerings. There! The perfect gift for X. They will love it; you just know they will. Don't be focused on exactly what the gift is. You're not actually shopping here in your meditation session; you're seeking the feeling of intending and then realizing those intentions easily and quickly. But who knows? You might get just the right idea for the people you are shopping for in this state of openness. That could be a side benefit, but it's not the goal.
You have picked up the gift, taken it to the register and there you witness a shopper simmering at the wait in the line. What can you do about this? Three choices: let this shopper's agitation agitate you; begin to chat with them, easing the wait for both of you; or if they aren't open to conversation, just observe them. See if you can imagine how they are feeling - but separate from your feelings - and how they might be happier if they would just relax and let their curiosity flow. By watching another's negative reaction to the situation you can practice relieving stress by imagining what you might do in their shoes. Now, this is not judging them to be wrong in their reactions; rather you are imagining another way of dealing with the crowds that could leave them less stressed. And miracle or miracles, the shopper turns to you and smiles. You have influenced them positively without saying a word.
For the rest of your visualization, continue on your shopping trip until you have purchased all the gifts you planned to find using this technique of flowing through the tension, expecting to find just the right item and observing how others deal with the same crowds you are dealing with. See yourself mentally and emotionally sending out thoughts of relaxation and stress releasing ideas to the other shoppers with the result that they turn to you and smile. You see this over and over until you are ready to leave the mall and go home.
Bringing yourself back to an awareness of your body and mind, you also bring with you a sense of ease and anticipation of a fun shopping trip to come. Knowing that you are an influence on those around you, notice how good it feels to be a positive influence rather than getting dragged down by negative expectations and the negative actions of others. Go forth and meet those merchants! Or, shop until you drop!
Copyright ©2007 TAO Consultants, Inc. All rights reserved.
Chesa Keane has taught meditation and self-help for more than 30 years. To learn how to meditate the right way, using guided meditations, go to: www.meditationwarrior.com.