Note: This post was contributed by Bill Dixon, former journalist and mindful grandfather.
I am a conflicted consumer.
I know that a consumer lifestyle encourages impulsivity and discourages mindful contemplation. But I find it hard to break the habit of buying when and where the mood hits me. If I practiced what has become known as conscious consumerism, I’d probably buy more local, more sustainable, more handmade. Better still, I’d buy the raw materials and make/grow my own stuff.
That’s not me.
So I was more than surprised when I discovered – and loved -- a shop driven by mindfulness. Which got me thinking how I might replicate the experience. Maybe add a mindfulness filter to my shopping decisions. Maybe become a less-reluctantly conscious consumer.
Side notes before we go any further:
I found the mindful shop quite by accident. No altruism involved.
I wanted to replicate the experience of mindful consumption not to benefit society but to make me feel better. Selfish? Sure. But the more I thought about the concept, the more I thought that other people – call them accidentally mindful shoppers – might want to try it out.
I’m not interested in businesses that make mindfulness their product, such as yoga studios and mindfulness workshops. Rather, my focus is on stores where mindfulness is in the product rather than being the product.
What follows is the story of how I stumbled into mindful shopping. After that, I offer a few suggestions about how you might apply mindfulness to improve your overall quality of life and encourage the growth of mind-friendly organizations.
For Starters, Try the Papaya Boat @ Banán
Recently, my youngest daughter and granddaughter visited my wife and I on Oahu. They came with an agenda that included grabbing a snack at Banán. It’s a store near the University of Hawaii that specializes in dairy-free soft-serve dishes made with locally grown bananas and other local ingredients. I had never heard of Banán, and I am quite certain I’d never have gone there without a push from the relatives.
Dairy-free is especially important to our granddaughter, who has a fraught digestive relationship with things from cows. Banán was a good choice from that standpoint. In addition, Banán is a company that was founded with a mission to “push the world in a mindful and fun direction.” I learned that from the first graphic I saw when I walked through their door.
What I experienced in the store was tasty food, friendly service and, most of all, an environment that welcomed customers (especially young ones) for quiet conversation and play. It was a reversal of previous shopping experiences where “locally sourced” was a synonym for high prices and, frankly, a fairly low percentage of products that actually were local.
Most of Banán’s ingredients come from farms in the state of Hawaii, including the big three fruits: bananas from Sugarland Growers on Oahu, pineapples from Maui Gold on Maui, and papayas from Kumu Farms on Moloka’I.
The Papaya Boat option is a nice choice. It consists of soft-serve with fruit, served in half a papaya. When you’re done, the papaya peel goes into a bucket and becomes animal feed on a local farm. The store also reduces its waste footprint by giving price breaks to customers who bring their own bowls and use recyclable wooden utensils.
What I liked most at the store, however, was its amiable environment of quiet conversation and smiles. It’s a busy place, with a steady flow of university students, schoolkids, even toddlers, in addition to a steady flow of younger adults. They can relax on futons in the main area, at tables indoors and out, and even on the floor in a carpeted banana-themed room. Zen coloring books are available for the contemplative.
A soft-serve store with lots of young people about could have been boisterous. It wasn’t. I enjoyed my food, and I enjoyed enjoying it.
What If You Could Choose Stores Mindfully?
My trip to Banán caused me to wonder what other stores near me practiced mindfulness. So I checked it out.
My web search turned up dozens of counseling services, life coaches, yoga centers, even a mindful sex therapist, on Oahu. The number of mindful services isn’t surprising since Oahu is the most populous island in Hawaii, with about 950,000 people.
However, even though the mindfulness industry was easy to find, stores that attested to the practice of mindfulness were not. Besides Banán, I found the following:
A locally-designed surf-themed clothing store that provides yoga and jiu jitsu classes, and shares its revenue with other local businesses: Kekoa Collective.
A locally designed active-wear store that offers community events and workshops focused on mindful living: Lily Lotus.
I even found two schools, one public and one private, that make mindfulness a central part of their mission. Not shops, but still interesting. Let’s stipulate at this point that I lack interest in surf clothes, jiu jitsu, activewear for women and going back to school. Nonetheless, I found the short list, along with my Banán experience, kind of inspiring.
What would happen, I asked, if I started to apply a mindfulness screen to places where I already shop? That would be an easy place to begin and an exercise I could do on a regular basis. It might also lead me to other mind-friendly places. (To digress for a moment: I do not contemplate taking my conscious consumption into the world of boycotts and environmental activism, although these activities do seem to fall within the definition of the term. Right now, I’m an explorer not a conqueror when it comes to new ways of buying stuff.)
Here’s What I’ve Done
Define my optimal experience of mindful shopping
I’m all for stores that are locally-based, attentive, welcoming, and in-house/bespoke (they produce at least some of what they sell, and the rest is unique). Plus, their products are made with the least possible damage to the human and ecological environments.
Take a moment to define your optimal shopping experience. Is there a layer of consciousness that can be added to where you decide to set foot retail-wise?
Identify the “mindful” stores I already visit
In Hawaii, I like Banán, of course, along with:
Reyn Spooner, mostly men’s clothing, designed in Hawaii
In Oregon, I like:
Willamette Valley Vineyards, great tasting room with a panoramic view of wine country
Roth’s Fresh Markets, locally owned, and it offers a wide selection of produce from area farms
The Otis Café, tasty fresh breads, on the way to the coast
The Pelican Pub & Brewery, hearty craft brews, with a great view of sunset over the Pacific Ocean
It’s not a long list, but I’m just getting started.
As the need arises, talk to friends and check out stores online to identify new opportunities for mindful shopping
My wife and I are fortunate to have lots of friends who seek out unique places to shop. Until now, we haven’t been systematic about following up on their recommendations. That is gradually changing.
Start a “Mindful Shops” group in my contacts. Consult it before I shop, and add to it as I find more.
This could also be a running list in your Notes app or a shared Google Sheet that you invite your friends to contribute to. The simple act of documentation will help reinforce the new habit.
What’s Your Experience? Conflicted Consumers Want To Know
I told you it was easy. I’m sure that as I get further into my search, I’ll update my methods. In the meantime, I’d like to know what you think.
Give mindful shopping a try, and share your experience in the Comments section of Blue Sky Mind. Do you already practice something like mindful shopping or conscious consumerism? Please let other readers know how it’s going.
Conflicted consumers everywhere will thank you.