You can't wave a stick of ylang-ylang incense without hitting someone with a "spiritual practice" these days. Whether it's yoga, surfing, gardening, or knitting, there's much ado about mindfulness. Hoping to locate my inner monk in time for the holidays, I decided to develop my own practice for the retail-oriented: the shopping sutra.

Shopping as spiritual practice, you might ask? True, at first glance worldly materialism seems antithetical to religious experience. And the fashion industry has dreadful karma, with wafer-thin models promoting eating disorders, low self-esteem in women, and a horrible little sweater called the "shrug." But shopping, when executed with mindfulness, can become your daily link to spirit. It's no coincidence that the Dalai Lama wears the very "now" colors of orange and cranberry. Sure, it sounds far-fetched that this beacon of spirituality is concerned with fashion trends, but so does doing a backbend and calling that a path to enlightenment.

A number of spiritual lessons rooted in the Buddhist tradition can be enhanced by retail therapy, such as: Mindfulness. When you are shopping, you remain appreciative of the moment, particularly when you are on a two-hour lunch break on the company's dime. Plus, you also discover what's in style this season. Which leads to: Temporality. A good shopping trip will free you to accept that nothing in this world is permanent, including your wardrobe, thank Buddha! You'll realize that the ostrich slingbacks you're sporting today won't take you much further than Bodhi Day because they will be "out" by then. Yes, life is filled with the pain of losing your favorite cashmere sweater set to massive pilling, but as long as you know that there will be another twinset around the corner, it will prevent you from suffering.

It will also encourage you to: Avoid Attachment. The best thing you can do is to let go of your credit card. Don't let being indebted to Sallie Mae and MasterCard stop you from becoming a more evolved, fuschia leather pant-owning being. And if you are someone who is a little too attached to shopping for yourself, then go out and buy a present for somebody else. Giving to others is a selfless way of expressing your loving-kindness. (And an excuse to spruce up your mother-in-law's tragic wardrobe.)

Another recommended exercise for those who become too attached to material objects is to return them. Returning will not only discourage you from forming attachment, it will also lower your debt.

Finally, when you can be satisfied with your clothing, it's easier to: Appreciate What You Have. Too often in our search for meaning, we overlook how full our lives already are. And what better thrill than to find a sweater to match those unworn tall purple suede boots that are pouting in your closet? The rewards are many in not only working with your future wardrobe but also appreciating the designer labels you already own.

Like the web of life, shopping is also a circle. And with a few simple chants, you too can become a materialistic monk. Repeat the following phrases as needed for calming the mind during meditative shopping journeys:

    Does This Come in Black?
    If You're Out of Cash, Charge It.
    If It Goes on Sale, Get a Price Adjustment.
    When All Else Fails, Return It.

Spirituality takes a true commitment and a lot of practice. And there's no better time to put your newfound shopping skills to use than during the Christmas holidays. Instead of dreading the long lines, cranky salespeople, and the aggravating search for Aunt Waltrude's ideal milk frother, embrace the mall as your partner on the path to enlightenment! Realize that you are part of something larger than yourself: a community of spiritual shoppers, all trying to achieve dharma, one Pokemon card at a time.

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