When you are discontent, you always want more, more, more. Your desire can never be satisfied. But when you practice contentment, you can say to yourself, ‘Oh yes – I already have everything that I really need. - Dalai Lama
These past three months have been a time of trial for me. Some sudden and unexpected pressures at work snowballed into a deterioration of my normal self-care routine. I let the rules slide on screen time, allowing myself to watch or listen to whatever I wanted and to browse social media aimlessly. I have a bad habit of watching junk Youtube videos or half-listening to podcasts while doing work around the house - cooking, cleaning, laundry, even taking a shower- and unintentionally depriving myself of much needed quiet time. Sick of the clutter and radio static in my brain, I took an opportunity last week to attend a compassion-focused meditation at a Tibetan Monastery, Drepung Loseling. A coworker recommended their Thursday night session at 6pm (free and open to the public). Entering from the backdoor, I headed upstairs to the meditation area (you can't miss it - there's an enormous gold shrine at the front) which is to your right from the back staircase. Don't forget to drop your shoes off in the coat room beforehand.
It is surprising how deeply healing meditation can be, and after only one guided meditation taught by a CBCT-certified teacher, I felt like the fog had cleared and the world felt new and full of possibilities again. The role of CBCT is to cultivate natural and spontaneous compassion for others, and our meditation, which focused on gratitude, helped me feel more open, loving, and organic around my family and my coworkers for days afterward. I even received several comments recently on having a natural glow, and I credit it to my plant-based diet but also to the wonders of mindfulness and compassionate living.
In this same spirit of gratitude, I want to take this opportunity to return to the reasons why I started my year of no shopping. I want to give thanks to my former self and to all the beautiful people who have supported me on this journey so far. Back in the winter, I came across a very compelling ad for Macy's called "The Chase." I could not have created a better illustration for how our desire for happiness and wellness can be twisted into a desire for material things. Take a few minutes to watch it below, and check in to see how it makes you feel before reading on.
When I first watched this ad, I felt a sense of elation at the end. Yay! The protagonist got the dress she wanted! Now she can finally get that promotion and marry a heart surgeon and call her grandmother and start doing Pilates and stop biting her nails! She can do anything! Macy's wants you to believe that finding a nice outfit is the first step to "Find the Remarkable You". This is such a great advertisement because Americans freaking love a good makeover story. Say Yes to the Dress, What Not to Wear, and Queer Eye are lauded reality tv shows, but it's worth examining the moral messages behind all the glamour.
Going back to the quote I shared by the Dalai Lama, discontentment leads to desire. All these ladies appear stressed, bored, and dissatisfied with their lives even though they all at least appear to be healthy, beautiful, white-collar workers with a nice sense of style. They are already the ideal they are chasing after, and yet, here they are running through the rain for a coat. (Irony, turned up to eleven! Cheeky Macy's.) Though Macy's is advertising spring fashions, they know that what women are really purchasing is physical proof that they are the type of person who owns a black bomber jacket. The same way I bought some "green" kitchen products recently. A) I do worry about plastics in the environment but also B) I can't deny that it reinforces my own perceptions of myself as an environmentalist. I didn't need fancy reusable food wrap to prove I cared about my environmental footprint, and I probably should not have purchased it considering I am not supposed to be shopping anyway. Not to mention, it was probably shipped from hundreds of miles away. No one is immune to the siren song of consumer psychology, but being aware of those tendencies is the first step.
With this, I dedicate the remainder of the year to forgive myself of previous slip-ups, to really buckle down on my spending, and to take my dedication to this project seriously. It is a spiritual and mental exercise that despite some hiccups has allowed me to do some amazing things. May everyone take this time to evaluate their own goals for 2018 and course correct if necessary.
In April, May and June, I did some incredible things that did not involve a shopping spree.