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Spiritual Practices for Shopping

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


For millions of people around the world, December means going to malls and shops and online stores to purchase gifts for family and friends. And this is not the only time when people shop.

It has been estimated that Americans spend an average of one hour a day shopping. When teenage girls were asked to name their favorite activity, shopping was at the head of the list. For them and many others, buying things is an opportunity to nurture your true self, to make important choices, to express your "wild side," and to exercise control. To help you make shopping a richer and deeper experience, we've created 20 spiritual practices. Try them the next time you hit the stores.

• As you cross the threshold of the store, state your intention to shop well, stay alert, and find the best possible gifts for those you love and cherish.

• As you pick up a cart or get your bags ready, say a prayer: "God be in my thoughts, God be in my decisions."

• Looking around at all your choices in the store, be grateful that the Creator loves diversity and has given you such a pleasure palace to explore.

• Savor the scene with your senses. Be aware of all the sights, sounds, and smells of the holiday season.

• Vow to be cheerful in the face of setbacks and disappointments during your shopping spree.

• Try Thich Nhat Hanh's meditation if you feel stressed: "Breathing in, I am calm in me. / Breathing out, I smile to the calm in me."

• As you pull out your cash or credit card, ask God for discernment on all your purchases.

• Use any time you spend in lines as a chance for intercessory prayer for ones you love at home and strangers in the line in front and behind you.

• Slow down. Nothing is gained and much is lost by hurrying.

• As you mingle with others in the store, be thankful for the opportunity to have a communal experience with people who may be very different from you.

• Sit down on a bench or chair and feast your eyes on the stream of people passing by. Say blessings that they may feel safe, happy, and strong, and may they live with ease.

• As you ride down an escalator or elevator, pray for the well-being of those in our world who are moving downward instead of moving upward: the poor, the hungry, and the homeless.

• Open up to wonder and delight of the moment by letting your inner child out to play in the store.

• Make eye contact with all clerks you encounter and be empathetic with their physical exhaustion and their need to be emotionally resilient as they serve demanding and sometimes hostile customers.

• Tame your mind when it rebels against "enough" and craves more and more.

• Practice kindness by letting older (or any other) customers move ahead of you in the line or at a counter.

• Feel compassion for compulsive shoppers and those carrying heavy credit-card debt; hold the thought that they may be liberated from these addictions.

• Make your own choices from the heart; do not be pressured into buying what's popular. Every choice you make is a training in authenticity.

• When you are finished shopping, return your cart to the store before leaving and thank it for its help.

• If you have purchased anything for yourself, make a place for it in your home and let go of something else so the gift can keep on moving.

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