We are not big shoppers. If, as has been estimated, most Americans spend one hour a day shopping, then we fall well below the average. But there is something different about holiday shopping.
We’re shopping for gifts, not necessities, for one thing; we are encouraged to stretch and be creative. And being out and about with so many people is a wonderful reminder of our connections with others; it feels more like a communal experience. Finally, there is the beauty of the season and the wonder it evokes.
No doubt about it: holiday shopping can be a spiritual practice. Here are some simple ways we use to make it a richer and deeper experience. We invite you to try them!
• 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 this common 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 that they 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.