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NEW YORK — Most American women wouldn’t view shopping as a road to self-discovery or a path to personal growth, let alone as as means to attain an in-the-moment, Zen-like state.
Author-psychotherapist Eve Eliot aims to raise their consciousness with her recently published book, “Attention Shoppers! The Women’s Guide to Enlightenment Through Shopping,” (Health Communications Inc. $10.95). Her effort begins with the title itself, for, as Eliot writes, enlightenment in one sense means to lighten up. By shopping, Eliot reasons, women can overcome the fear of knowing one’s self.
The idea might sound far-fetched, but Eliot can mount a rather convincing defense of her premise. “Sometimes shopping presents a person with a level of grieving or self-hate or reveals a repeating pattern, like being unable to decide what looks good on them or what to buy,” the author said in a phone interview from her home in East Hampton. As a result, Eliot added, “by going shopping, people sometimes can find an answer to a question they didn’t know they were asking.”
Eliot speaks from experience. The 60-year-old Brooklyn native recalled the epiphany that sparked “Attention Shoppers!”: looking in the mirror in a T.J. Maxx dressing room and realizing there were certain things she “couldn’t wear” anymore. First, the author confronted her horror at caring so much about her looks. She accepted those feelings over her change in appearance, calmed down and said a prayer. Then she realized a new paradigm was emerging for the way she was experiencing shopping — one others could find enlightening, as well.
Her model borrows from Buddhism, which teaches that staying present with what one is doing leads to a more compassionate perspective toward one’s self and others. Such self-awareness, Eliot writes, can create the sense of inner peace that eludes so many people. Being mindful of one’s emotions while shopping is the author’s starting point for that journey. That mindfulness also is a cornerstone of psychotherapy, which Eliot has practiced for the past 12 years; prior to that she wrote ad copy.
While prescribing 10 steps to self-discovery through shopping, Eliot said deep breathing is the most crucial one. “If someone is deliberate enough to focus on breathing, to slow down their drive to get to the next thing, then they have a chance of being fully present with what’s there,” she maintained. “In those moments, they can find themselves.”
This story first appeared in the April 2, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The other nine steps enumerated in the anecdotal 227-page paperback are: Let go of guilt; take your time; remember that objects in the mirror are prettier than they appear; appreciate your body; enjoy yourself; focus on your lower body and follow its lead; prayer is OK in fitting rooms; shoe shopping helps ground you, and sales are not the only reason to shop.
By applying these principles, Eliot said, “shopping can become a way to check in with yourself. Not everyone wants to go to the gym, keep a journal or practice yoga.”