Gently sliding my trolly out from the stack and rolling it fluidly on the smooth floor into the supermarket. Wandering in to the shopping area I’m greeted by a sense of calm. Colourful fruits and vegetables are stacked artistically and in such a way that I can see an overview of the entire fruit and veg section. People are moving calmly and slowly, voices to a minimum; it feels like I’m walking into a meditation room where I notice the pace in my body jars initially with the placidity of the environment in which I now find myself. My voice volume reduces quickly as I realise my somewhat fast paced and loud conversation is not in harmony with my surroundings.
I move mindfully, finding myself more aware and in the moment while I see and select the greenest beans and feel the firmness to ascertain the ripeness of the papaya I wish to eat later on that day. I think quite clearly through the meal I wish to prepare that evening, checking off the ingredient list in my mind; mushrooms, onion, pepper….
Can you believe I speaking about a real supermarket experience? An experience in bustling India of all places. The reason I see for this drastic difference in supermarket experience was their choice of music. From the moment i entered I was soaked in a calm meditative harmony. The volume was high enough to be clear, but it was not difficult to speak and be heard.
Often shopping experiences today are a cacophony of noise and a unrelenting stream of stimuli; images drumming onto our retina, and discordant noises playing on our eardrums. In fact my mother just complained to me about an experience in a shop in rural England where their idea of progress is to install television screens in all the corners playing advertisements for their products; you can hear the advertisement from one screen before you get out of earshot of the last, and on top of that they still have their in-store music playing.
Some people are more sensitive than others, I belong to a very sensitive category; having burned out due to stress my defences and filters to noise and visual stimuli are pretty much non existent. I am like a finely tuned sports car, if there’s something ‘off’ in my environment my body can be relied upon to notice it. This is a backlash effect from all the years I didn’t listen to my body when it said I was tired, over exerted or over stressed, now my body is making sure I never neglect it’s needs again.
Even if ‘most people’ can survive in a noisy, discordant and over stimulated environment I’m pretty convinced that the process of filtering out these disturbances is very destructive. It takes enormous amounts of energy to concentrate on a conversation while at the same time having a thousand other stimuli vying for our attention. It is incredibly gruelling for our minds to function and make decisions while it’s being bombarded with an avalanche of unnecessary information. We are asking way more of our mind and senses than they were ever meant to do. For a one off emergency we have a stress response system to kick in and give us that extra boost to manage such a situation, but on a daily basis we are eroding our resources and it only lead to imbalance and dis-ease in one way or another.
I know some people claim to love the hustle and bustle of a busy loud environment claiming it gives them energy, but what is that energy they are actually feeling? I think the high they are feeling is just their stress response kicking in, the elevated adrenaline levels giving the rush they enjoy. Often we see this type of ‘high’ needs to be sustained with caffeine and sugars and then calmed with alcohol in the evening in order so sleep.
Another strategy we have to filter away these disturbing stimuli is by disconnecting with ourselves. By training ourselves to not hear, to not feel, to not see. This is the opposite of mindfulness and also has the opposite health effects promoting disharmony and dis-ease. This strategy often also requires a certain kick of caffeine, alcohol, sugar or nicotine to numb the pain of being disconnected with ourselves and our life source.
We are forcing ourselves to move about in these destructive environments that ridiculously humankind has created for itself. In this world of stimuli I really take my hat off to the Indian supermarket that has successfully created a calm in the midst of a retail supermarket in a hugely bustling city in India.
Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu
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