The Big Box Walmart Gift
One doesn’t usually associate Walmart with spirituality, but for me it became a temple or church of sorts, a place for deep practice, and even enlightened glimpses of Source on occasion. My relationship with the icon of capitalism didn’t initially start out that way. I remember being extremely hung over my first day of work there nearly several decades ago (way before I began my path to healing) but my work with Walmart evolved into a marriage of my body, mind, emotions and spirit. It gifted me time to fully experience myself in the form of mindful presence practices that have streamed into my non-working hours. It equals some of my other spiritually intensive practices like the vision quest that I embark on twice a year going 4 days and nights without food and water in the wilderness. I worked in a distribution center where the bulk of my years there were spent moving freight in repetitive movements for 12 hours a day, 3 days in a row. One of my tasks involved placing clothing items on an automated tray. The production goal for that job was 10,000 pieces per day. I would begin the laborious task with the Taoist saying“ The one turns into two and the two into 10,000 things.” Another task was closing boxes for a shipping line. I noted how some of the movements of my job mimicked my chi gong practice. I constantly and continually brought the focus of my attention back to my task, body movements and breath, keeping my mind centered in the present physical and emotional sensations instead of how long till break or what I was going to do when I got out of there, worked my muscle of concentration power. To remain present was often a grueling task during the 12 long hours and I failed miserably some days falling into negative thoughts and mindlessness. But the cumulative work of mindful attentiveness reaps a payoff with greater wealth than the paycheck ( though I loved the thought of getting paid to meditate!). One day I was closing a big box walmart box, a task I have done hundreds of thousands of times before-literally.Prior to my workday I had been listening to Shinzen Young’s audio book “The Science of Enlightenment” who I consider to be one of my teachers. I had listened to the part about the koan “is the mountain dancing?”and was reflecting on the passage as I worked. As my mind was absorbed in the koan I was simultaneously aware of my body movements of the job. The box I was handling collapsed into nothingness and I became aware of the space, of the nothingness from which the box emerged to be a box and the subsequent joy of each molecule wanting to be in relationship with the other to formulate the structure of the box. It was an ecstatic moment, one in which I had to stop working and feel simultaneously the nothingness and somethingness of the here and now. Past and future dissolved into pure moment experience of concurrent expansion and contraction. Many years of working with my mentor Ben Oofana and pushing the envelope on my personal practice culminated in this experience. We only ever have this present moment in life to work with but we spend most of our time avoiding it, and when we are not fully present we suffer.
In a world where technology is suppose to free up time for us we surprisingly have very little of it and we often waste our precious moments with distraction. I felt a deep sorrow for a coworker who had been offered a number of meditation techniques by her counselor and well meaning friends to quell her burgeoning anxiety when she said “ I haven’t tried any of them, I don’t have time.” She scampered off before I had the chance to suggest that the upcoming workday offered 12 hours of time if she chose. She probably was like most people thinking of meditation as a solemn activity, sitting quietly, undisturbed and can only be done under such circumstances. But moving practice allows us to take presence with us everywhere and can be of equal value.
There is another part of my “Big Box Experience. ” The awe and ecstasy caused me to stop working, just experience and then begin writing, much to the dismay of the person working next to me. Many people cope with the monotony and long hours of the job by focusing on what other people are doing or not doing. She came over to me in a whirlwind of fury to remind me that I was suppose to be doing the task at hand. The engagement embroiled me not only in her anger but my own as my conscious connection to the box experience and my flow of writing about it was broken. As much as I embodied the box , I now experienced my rage as it welled in seismic rings of heat from my abdomen, my knees, my feet and what seemed like the center of the earth! As I remained fully present to my fury, the waves and heat dissipated, the intensity softened. I became aware that fully feeling my feelings freed more physical energy to do my job and also enable me to respond to her in an even minded manner.
I used to think meditation was only about positive flow, peace, feeling good and expanding. But that is only half the equation and actually limits ones ability by half to experience greater states of awareness. Fully embracing every sensory experience we have enables us to feel the sacredness of every moment in life whether we are sitting in meditation or engaging in the world.
Need assistance with learning embodied presence practices? Eileen is an alternative healer who has completed 16 vision quests enabling her to be a clear and effective conduit for your personal growth. She has worked with somatic breathwork practices for the last 10 years and is a certified Unified Mindfulness Coach Contact Eileen@relaxandexpand.com