Consumerism is the desire to attain personal happiness through consumption and the purchase of material possessions.
Zen Consumerism is the practice that allows you to see your wallet as it really is: completely empty.
Practicing the techniques of Zen Consumerism will allow you to satisfy your lust for more stuff without going so deeply in debt that you will still be making minimum monthly payments for the next seven lifetimes.
- We must understand that anything appearing on the store rack is an illusion of no enduring reality. Today it could be hanging, perfectly sorted by size and color, tomorrow thrown into a crumpled pile on the close-out table. Feel the lining, smell the fabric, but listen carefully to the inner voice of the empty wallet.
- I remember in the old days when I practiced the circle-running exercise in Golden Mountain Mall and other places; the stores’ Super-Sales flyers, and Midnight Madness and Doorbuster Specials made us run like flying birds! Oh! We shoppers really could run when suddenly the 10-minute closing bell sounded its signal, and everybody raced to grab one last bargain! Now think! Under these circumstances, how could any drowsiness or distracting thoughts possibly arise?
- Can’t we appreciate the brilliant manipulative psychology of marking down the price once, twice, or even five times, without allowing ourselves to give in to the lust of such a steal? Try on the pants: Don’t they fit perfectly? Wouldn’t they look great with that blue silk top? Meditate on the image of yourself walking triumphantly into the office with your new half-price outfit. What a great bargain shopper you are! Now open your eyes and look inside your wallet. All your credit cards are maxed out! Three dollars is barely enough for bus fare home, with change left over for a Diet Coke. Or maybe a cappuccino from that Pakistani deli on 34th Street. But do you really need a Coke or cappuccino to wake up? Isn’t being so broke that you can’t afford a bargain basement shopping splurge enough of a wake-up?
If you keep your mind as empty as your bank account, no evil spirits or bill collectors can disturb you, even at dinnertime.
- Test yourself with this koan: “A shopper asked Josie, a sales clerk: ‘What is the meaning of a Victoria’s Secret coming to the Mid-City Mall?’ Josie replied, ‘The Olive Garden.'” Should this koan leave you with the slightest doubt, you need to resume questioning, “Who is it that hears when the sales clerk has one of those in-store headsets in one ear, and her Bluetooth in the other?”
- If you don’t pay off your credit card bill in this present life, when will you? Once you have died, you won’t be able to avoid a long period of suffering in the Three Evil Bargain Basements. Think of this and detach your inner shopper to the utmost.
- A shopper asked a Zen Consumer master: “What is the difference between TV ads and Internet pop-ups?” The master replied: “When it is cold, hens go to the outlet mall and ducks go to their favorite websites.”
- Zen store. The shelves are empty because the store owner can’t afford to buy any more merchandise, and the bank won’t loan him any money. Zen shoppers push empty carts up and down aisles of empty shelves. The salesman comes over to help. “What are you looking for?” he asks.
“Nothing,” the shopper replies.
“Oh, then you’ve come to the right place.”
“Do you have more merchandise in the back?”
“No, but I have a lovely catalog you can look at. It has whatever you might want.”
“But I want nothing.”
“It has that, too. What size and color would you like?”
“Large, and in blue.”
“One large, blue nothing. We can’t have that delivered next Tuesday. We just laid off our delivery guy.”
“That’s perfect because I won’t be home. I have to go to the unemployment office to prove that I’ve been applying for one of the jobs that don’t exist.”
- You may have heard someone who has misunderstood or mistaken the declaration of The Great Buyer, who once said, “We are all great buyers, but our closets are already full, so we do not need to practice shopping at all.”
But to reach true fulfillment, one must continue to practice shopping, even after one has everything they need and no money to buy any more.
You cannot detach yourself from consumer culture any more than a leech can detach itself from its host. How can you live in a culture that bombards you with ads, surrounds you with stores, and inundates you with desires and not want to suck up some of the endless stream of goods? But now we must learn to hunt without killing, to try on without buying, to shop without shopping.
- Even better, maybe it is time to un-shop. Take your shopping bags at home and fill them with unwanted items, like that dress you only wore to your stupid cousin’s wedding, or the shoes that hurt your feet the second time you put them on. Now bring them to their rightful resting place. Return them to the racks and shelves of the stores where they came from. That’s right, just journey to the mall, unpack your bags, and go. Every empty space in your closet suddenly becomes a new possibility. Cast away the old and something new becomes available.
Have I got a deal for you!