Things You Can’t Buy at the Store
I work in consumer PR, a discipline that attempts to sell products to people by influencing them via the media. If you detect any undercurrent of judgment in that sentence, then you probably can guess why my name and face are not blaring all over this blog. Don’t get me wrong, my job could be a lot worse. It pays my rent and feeds my children. I get to do some fun things, and enjoy places in Manhattan that I otherwise would never see. Most of all, I work with people that I love and admire.
I do spend a fair amount of time writing about things such as lipstick, conditioner and candles. But if my biggest complaint is a lack of mental stimulation or being engaged in topics I am not passionate about, well I am still better off than 99% of humanity and have no right to complain. (Besides, that’s what the blog is for.)
But sometimes, like today, when I’m writing a press release for a product that is selling spirituality (a great thing when it’s free!) I have a slightly gross feeling inside. Partly because I am speaking to someone just like me, who has many times over fallen victim to sales pitches for these kinds of aspirations… the desire for a simpler, more meaningful life. For instructions on how resist the deadly brew of hyper-connectivity and consumerism that drains us mentally and emotionally.
To the store!
I have purchased books on mindfulness and Buddhism that promise to quell the disquieting loop in my brain. I’ve zealously bought storage bins in the hope that they would turn my apartment into to a temple of Zen organization. I’ve added tomes on decluttering and minimalism to my bookshelf and paid for yoga classes so that I could do yoga. I haven’t spent my children’s college funds on these things, but I have spent money, for sure, in a fruitless attempt to buy the peace and mental fortitude that I lack.
I now see that it is very much like taking vitamin supplements. These things are relatively harmless. They won’t hurt you. They may even help a little bit. But as most doctors will tell you, they probably won’t make much of a difference unless you eat proper food and exercise. So then, at the end of the day, wasn’t it really just the diet and exercise that meant something?
Yes, I have learned valuable things in many of the books I have read, but there are diminishing returns. A lot that is written on these topics is intuitive. And it is worthwhile to have a teacher to help you with Yoga… but you don’t have to be in a class to do Yoga. Meditation certainly does not cost a dime. And despite the religion of the Container Store, bins are not the solution to all of life’s mental messes.
The desire that prompts us to put our faith in these commodities — the desire for peace and happiness and a life well lived — really needs to be dealt with on a non-retail plane. There’s just no way around it. No matter how many books you read on mindfulness or minimalism, none of it matters if you can’t figure out how to pull your own levers to do the things that need doing. That machinery is different for everyone. It’s hard to find the exact directions in a book.
Books, classes, organization bins, bullet journals, juicers, apps and work-out gear can help set the table. But without the actual “diet and exercise” they are just supplements that you pee out. Vividly. Their final resting place is in the toilet, right next to your hard earned cash.
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