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February 2, 2014

Shopping as a Form of Meditation? Read the Label for Care Instructions.

gabriela meditation

Warning: naughty language ahead.

A Different Way to Get Our Zen On.

I’m in L.A. living the life of a rock star; that is if that rock star is living in a make-shift tent partitioned off the living room with a curtain, in a shared house with three other people and one bathroom, with mood lighting. Right. So, I’m not actually living the life of a rock star, and more like a starving musician, but I love my lodging and I’m happy.

L.A. is expensive and I’m no longer making rock star coin. I’d been working on my 798,990th revision of a memoir I wrote and am desperate to take a break to regroup. I need to meditate and calm my body, mind and spirit so the creative juices can flow again.

However, sitting on the floor meditating in my tent at 6 a.m. listening to soothing ocean sounds à la YouTube wasn’t doing the trick. All that did was give me numb bum and I’m looking for a mind numb. And even though I’m all converted from I-f’ing-hate-yoga to OMG-I-love-yoga! that wasn’t doing the trick either—though it did un-numb the butt. So, what was left?

Shopping! Shopping is the answer.

Though I consider myself an environmentalist, I’m still a consumer at heart.

Usually, I get my fix going to the Farmers’ Markets every other day as there seems to be one around every corner here. When there isn’t an outdoor market, I browse aisles at Whole Foods as food consumables are justifiable spendatures.

Shopping of any eco-friendly kind feels genuinely good to me. And my motto stands—if it feels good, do it. (To clarify, we’re talking big picture feel good.) And I can’t write light-spirited, funny prose when I’m in a negative pit. Or maybe I can, but I’d rather go shopping.

So, I’m in Wasteland, a consignment boutique selling used designer duds. I’m actually looking for a jacket, as winter in California is cooler than expected, and I didn’t bring adequate outer gear.

I find a multi-brown colored rabbit fur bomber and gasp, “Yes, I love you, too, pretty bunny!”

I’m sometimes hypocritical, as in: I totally want this dead animal on my body even though I’m all “animal-rights, boycott the Main Street market because they offer slave pony rides.”

The jacket is $45 and, to me, this is halfway highway robbery, because in fact, I usually shop at thrift stores or yard sales and do all on this simple eco-list and more. I hum and haw and twirl in front of the mirror and finally decide to be responsible and go home and think about it.

Here’s the point:

First of all, the whole time I was in there thumbing through racks, I didn’t think about my book once. I didn’t think about anything disconcerting. My thoughts were, “What do I have that will go with this sweater?” and “I wonder if I could get away with wearing these pants with the boots I brought.” and “$450?? For used? Fuck the hell off!” and “Oh, it’s Gucci, just a sec, let me look at that again, maybe I need it.”

I was totally in the moment!

I put the coat on hold. I go home and filter through my closet, which is my suitcase tucked under the day bed. I determine that the rabbit coat will work with enough outfits to warrant the outrageous price. I mean the animal’s dead already, it’s not like I’m killing it again. And though PETA would say, “Yeah, but you’re promoting fur fashion.” I say, “Vote with your dollar. Buy long-since-dead animals, not new ones.”

The next day I’m busy doing nothing important and forget about the coat until 6 p.m. rolls around and I still haven’t gone back to acquire the immoral purchase. I figure I’ll go tomorrow and have a second look to make sure.

I call the store to see if they’ll hold it an extra day.

The clerk tells me, “I’m sorry, there’s a second hold on it.”

“What do you mean?”

“If you don’t buy it today, this other person can buy it tomorrow.”

“What time do you open?”

She tells me while I calculate the chances of this other person showing up at the crack of opening hour and whether or not I might have to get in a fist-a-cuffs for the dead rabbit because now I simply must possess it! All yoga-zen love, all detachment has disappeared. I’m now determined to have it!

“What time do you close?”

Adrenaline high, I rationalize that if I cycle my ass over there I not only deserve it, but I’ll win in two ways: exercise and procurement! Plus, it’ll also be dusk so I’ll have to ride hard.

I hightail my butt through rush-hour traffic pumping my quads into lactic acid overdrive and pep-talking my legs with “glutes, glutes, glutes” and arrive all of 12 minutes later. I lock up my bike and run into the shop panting hard and laughing with every muscle feeling victorious. I collapse on the counter and rest my cheek on its cool, smooth surface.

“Can I help you?” I recognize the clerk’s voice.

I pop up: “I’m here for the fur!”

I buy the coat brushing away any niggling guilt that I’m an evil animal murderer and maybe the cause of disappointment and suffering for this other person. I make it home shortly after sunset. When I get home, I show my housemate, Mermaid (she lives in the sea), said coat.

She says, “Oh, that’s nice! Try it on.”

I do.

She says, “There’s a big rip in the sleeve.”

I look to see a huge gash.

“What the hell? Ah, damn it. Fricken karma.”

Nonetheless, during the entire time I was shopping, stressing and cycling, I was completely in the moment. And isn’t that what meditation is all about? Exactly.

(My legs are killing me.)

What have I (re)learned? If meditation is “being present,” we can use any form we want to get there (but do no harm). Some people sit cross-legged focusing on breath, some do yoga, some surf, or ski or snorkel or garden or golf or dance or paint or clean or write or bake or sew…

I shop. So what?

Also, I can’t sew hide nor hare, but my ill-repaired bomber is still the bomb, and I’ve decided to keep it to remind me of what can happen when I slip from how to simply meditate to oh-my-mania.

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Gabriela Kulaif

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