It has been estimated that Americans spend an average of one hour a day shopping. If the breakdown were by gender, women would easily top seven hours a week in this pursuit. When American female teenagers were asked to name their favorite activity, shopping was the top choice of 93 percent of the sample.

Eve Eliot has had a private psychotherapy practice specializing in women's issues for eleven years and is cofounder of the popular Menus for Living Workshops for compulsive overeaters. She has interviewed dozens of people about their shopping experiences. In this illuminating paperback, she makes a compelling case for shopping as a spiritual practice. There have been plenty of books about how to get the best buy or select items of the highest quality but this is the first one we've come across on this widespread activity as an opportunity to nurture one's true self, to make important choices, to deepen self-awareness, and to bring about the spiritual process of transformation.

Eliot admits that she is an avid shopper herself and likes to frequent thrift shops and yard sales to find additions to her collection of madonnas. Her book includes interviews with other women on the practices they have tried to stay present while shopping. Wherever you shop, you will find many helpful tips here to make your adventure more mindful. Eliot creatively writes about shopping as self-creation, the reason for the appeal of shoes (they ground us), the meanings of collections (the experience of "having" can substitute for "being"), the aesthetics of price, blocked energy and the empty closet, objects as anchors, the shopping bag for women's gathering role, and much more.

We were especially impressed with the author's 20 questions chapter and her list of 31 reasons why we shop (see the excerpt). Some of the more positive ones are shopping as a ritual with a personal meaning, as an expression of your wild side, as a form of self-nurturing, as a chance to gain a centeredness about your body, and as a way to transform your life. Eliot includes practices that can be used while shopping in order to bring the self into sharper focus. The author concludes: "While shopping for missing, underdeveloped or disowned parts of the self is a theme in many people's unconscious impulses to go shopping, the social side of shopping is also a significant motivator. Loneliness brings many people to the marketplace, shopping for company."

Spiritual practices and intentional exercises for self-growth can be part and parcel of our every activity. We've seen this to be true for eating, doing household chores, gardening, and crafts. Now we can practice at the mall. Eve Eliot's guide to enlightenment through shopping is a great gift.