The other day I went to the grocery store and witnessed an interaction which made me reflect deeply on abundance. In line in front of me was a senior woman who was buying a 12-pack of Bounty paper towels.
As I waited, I watched the cashier ring up the towels--the price popped up as $21.99. The woman in front of me looked bug-eyed at the screen. "That's not right," she said. "They're supposed to be $10.99." The woman and the cashier then proceeded to talk back and forth a couple times, both insisting that they were right. The woman kept shaking her head, muttering, "There's no way that's right, no way that's right." Finally, the cashier said she would go check the aisle. After she left, I remarked to the woman, "Yeah, that seems pretty expensive for paper towels." Though she was still obviously distressed over the price discrepancy, the sense of solidarity seemed to help. When the cashier came back, she explained that the paper towels would be $10.99 only if the woman bought two of them. The explanation made sense to me, but it seemed to confuse the woman even more. She now thought that she could get two for $10.99. Meanwhile, her face looked like it was about to burst with frustration and embarrassment for holding up the line. I wanted to tell her that I did not mind at all, that I actually felt for her and wished that she wasn't so upset. This moment brought me back to what I learned in one of my meditation retreats: that suffering comes from holding onto things too tightly. This woman could not let go of her notion that the paper towels would only cost $10.99 even when she was explained otherwise. It was as if the number was imprinted in her mind. Eventually, the cashier decided to give the paper towels to the woman for just $10.99. My mind was blown. I had no idea that she could do that! I then wondered why the cashier didn't do that right away, as it would have made things so much faster. I then realized that it would create problems if all customers thought they could their way so easily. As I watched the woman taking her receipt and turning to leave the store, I found myself admiring the cashier. Holding the fort before customers exit the store can be a difficult task, at times requiring sensitive judgment, and I thought it was noble of the cashier to help this woman leave victorious with her Bounty paper towels. The woman had been more than elated. I felt happy for her and even happier when the cashier began ringing up my items. When I walked out of the store and through the parking lot, I saw the woman loading the paper towels into her car. She had driven all the way here with the sole intention of getting paper towels. Questions ran through my head: Did she live alone? Is she short on money? What does her kitchen look like? How far was the drive? All of a sudden, the compassion I felt for this woman became mixed with a poignant awareness that, even though she got what she wanted, she was not able to experience the peace of mind that comes with letting go. If she could get caught on something as small as paper towels, I wondered how much space in her mind was taken up by other things. After that visit to the grocery store, I began to think more about the things that I hold onto, also taking notice when I see others doing the same. Many people get stuck on ideas of what happiness should look like. In my head, these thoughts are all variations on a theme: that I will be happy if I do this, have that, be with this person; that I need to be constantly achieving because my self worth is determined by the number and degree of accomplishments; that I need people to like me in order to be whole.
Over time, these ideas turn into unproductive beliefs, at times even actively harmful ones. Yet, because the beliefs are at this point so tied to our identities, we continue holding onto them as if our lives depend on it, when in reality, such grasping and clinging is what stops us from fully living. From the moment we are babies, we learn to survive by tightly clutching whatever comes near to us. Adulthood, it seems, is about unlearning that lesson, loosening up the grip, and trusting that, even after letting go, there will Bounty waiting at the end for us.
Some questions for reflection:
What things may you be holding onto that are preventing you from seeing clearly?
What Bounty's have you recently won? What was the cost of gaining them?
Feel free to comment below or send me a message! May all beings be happy.