The Virtues of Shopping

Shopping is not an activity that I‘m particularly fond of. Quite frankly, I only get on with it. One of these things that I just have to do. Sometimes, it comes with some extra difficulties. Today it is pouring rain. That just came suddenly to annoy me as I’m walking back home with my bag of groceries. Well, I’ll clench my teeth and show some bravery. But my inner world is screaming out loud. A whole company of thoughts that march in my mind, and on it. For they numb me, make me blind and deaf to the world. In short, I’m complaining about all sorts of things: my stiff body and this cumbersome umbrella; a walk far too long from the shop. Now I long to be home and hurry my steps. I fiddle for my keys. Three storeys to climb. No room for a view…

Well, that’s one version of it. The other is to be simply present. But that’s easier said than done. Unfortunately I don’t master it yet. I get lost. Forget myself. Maybe I’m trying too hard. For this quality of presence often comes unexpectedly as a gift when you really let go of yourself; of that little babbling, pestering mind. In those precious moments, you come to know precisely what you are doing. It is such a gift, to know what you are a part of. Life then comes with its own explanatory notes. It unfolds; shows its brightness and dumbfounding simplicity. I know with a childlike clarity that I am now — actually — coming back from shopping. Not in a vague and lazy way but clearly. I am fully participating. There is a slowing down. I become interested. Present.

There is a body walking here in the street. And I’m grateful for it. It’s even a thrill to feel it. To be alive. To have this pain in the shoulder. Nothing much. The little price to pay for carrying the shopping bag. There are not many thoughts around, so the world does not appear somewhat darkened, in two dimensions, as a flat and dull projection of a mountain of resistance. There is some relief, profundity. It is three-dimensional. The rain has stopped and the houses around appear with their various pastel colours, as it is commonly seen in this region. This is really beautiful. Many bicycles are negligently resting against the wall by my side. Some are standing under the trees with elegance, and a certain artistic composure. I feel truly happy. 

I don’t feel constrained by my shopping. On the contrary. It comes with a gentle and subtle sense of pride. To bring back home the necessary food that will substantiate us. It has purpose. What a lovely thing to know what is exactly going on, and not what we project and finally invent. To have a clear view. To see meaning. All these things that come easily when we do not impose unnecessary barriers on our living experience. Countless drops of water are now falling leisurely from the trees onto the pavement. It is a soothing thing to see and hear. It is music. A few high green plants grow around a nearby trunk, stand erect, dance even, stretching towards the rain, blessed. Even plants can show some eagerness of living, some gratefulness, and finally this strange sense of happiness that pervades the world when it is seen for what it exactly and truly is. It is my turn, today, to feel just that!…



Text and photo by Alain Joly



– Other ‘Reveries’ from the blog…


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