The extent to which I used to soothe my own ruffled feathers by doing a little shopping came as a bit of a surprise to me. I was never crazily crazy (it's all relative, right?). I wouldn't even consider buying (let alone wearing) a pair of Jimmy Choos, for heaven's sake. I held back from charging a weekend trip to Paris on a credit card.
But still... I had plenty of moments when the car took control of itself and began heading in the direction of the sweet little bookstore on Garcia Street or one of my fav little boutiques.
That Bankruptcy Thing
I was "invited" to cultivate a deeper mindful awareness practice regarding my spending patterns when it became impossible to buy anything. Can I just tell you? That bankruptcy thing is full of fun experiences.
Along with my now-laughable credit score, having filed bankruptcy also means that I no longer have access to 0 percent APR credit cards.
It's cash only.
When it's cash only, and there's barely enough to pay the rent, choices become uber important. When I still mindlessly thought I had tons of money, choices just didn't matter very much.
Now I get to sit with myself, my choices, and my ruffled feathers, in open awareness.
Having learned enough about mindful meditation, thanks to my dogged determination to stop hating my life, I've learned how to notice what I'm noticing. It's the first step in a mindful awareness practice.
A Little Story
Here's how I notice what I'm noticing.
Driving home from my office: Oh gosh, I wonder if there's anything good at the bookstore? [Undercurrent: The phone bill is due at the end of the week; I don't have the money to pay for it.]
Waiting at the red light, right turn signal rhythmically clicking: I'm just gonna go take a quick look. [Undercurrent: I'm not making it. I'm doing everything I know how to do, and it's still not happening. I can't do this; I don't know what else to do.]
Then. I slow down long enough to hear both thought streams. I notice that I'm:
- trying to pretend I'm not scared;
- hooking into the same old dysfunctional and self-sabotaging behavior patterns;
- aware of all that's happening, in present time;
- remember that I've got choices;
- remind myself of what matters -- paying the phone bill (and not hating my life);
- more than the terror-filled energy of unhealthy reactive behavior.
I turn right, towards the bookstore. Then loop around and drive home.
Honestly? It's About Power
One of the keys to mindful awareness is hearing all of your thought streams. Feeling all of your feelings. There is tremendous power in making conscious choices for yourself, your family, your dreams.
It seems much easier to deal with choosing which new thing to own/read/wear/eat/drink, rather than dealing with the grim reality of not knowing how to pay the phone bill at the end of the week, doesn't it?
I'm here to tell you, it doesn't work. Neither did alcohol, prescription pills, relationships or anything else.
The only way I know how to clean up my stuff and have what I want, including financial abundance and prosperity (and happiness and freedom, and at least one more trip to Paris), is to use my mindfulness awareness chops.
As Rick Hanson, Ph.D., explains:
Mindfulness feels good in its own right: relaxed, alert, and peaceful. Additionally, studies have shown that it lowers stress, makes discomfort and pain more bearable, reduces depression, and increases self-knowledge and self-acceptance. Mindfulness is required for the "observing ego" everyone needs for healthy functioning. It detaches you from reactions to see them with gentle clarity and perspective, helping you change old patterns and respond more skillfully. The mindful acceptance of a difficult experience, opening to it without resistance, often allows it to move on. Mindfulness brings you into the present, the only place you can ever be truly happy and free.
Learning to deal with what is, to be present in the moments of our lives, stepping up to look the current monster or lovely beauty right in the eyes -- this is living, folks.
This is it.
Follow Melanie Harth, Ph.D., LMHC on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DrHarth