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Grandmama Zen: a Mall as sacred space

Updated on November 23, 2013

Grandmama Zen is a series dedicated to raising consciousness for this lonely Grandmama and others experiencing the doldrums.

Yesterday's instructions were to: "Dance to the music! Walk around the block or the house or around the living room with a vacuum cleaner! Throw some baskets. Ride your skateboard. Move. Move. Wiggle gratitude for your amazing body, whatever it can and cannot do."

I took the directive seriously and spent the entire day moving my body, as opposed to sitting at the computer and writing from my imagination. I had a hair appointment, which meant I drove my husband to work so that I might have the car.

This freed me to move my body within an unfamiliar venue- particularly when he handed me his credit card. I am not a shopper. If I need something, I find it online. This amounts to sacrilege in American society.

I walked the hallowed aisles in an altered state of consciousness, absorbing the ritual behavior surrounding me:

  • A young mother held up a blood red, pure silk scarf, longing in her eyes. The gentleman beside her, arms wrapped around a baby, furrowed his brow like a priest hearing confession, and shook his head.
  • An elderly couple standing beside a sales table overflowing with light though stylish outdoor sweatshirts, sang a contemplative hymn of longing and mutual encouragement.
  • A sacramental table of gift items laid out for those requiring penance: bags of whiskey stones to encourage whiskey-on-the-rocks communion; innovative sit up reindeer and Santa Christmas cards to lift a neighboring pauper's empty mantle toward heaven; dinosaur planters for an in-house herb gardener who has mastered meditative materialism and has everything else.

In the end, I accepted my inability to become a priestess within those hallowed, rotating doors and returned to the worn cushion beside my double computer screen, to meditate on what I had witnessed.

Park Meadows Mall
Park Meadows Mall | Source

True Religion is about sales.

You doubt me? Read this quote I just discovered online:

"Religion is devoted to the pursuit of individual style; lyrical quotes, musical muses and British heritage have always been heavy influences behind each collection. Inspiration from London’s east end and international street culture has been integral in shaping the brand’s much loved signature."

A song for the merry go round

Show me the way to where?

"Put your hand in my hand
Let me show you the way
And you will understand
I will show you the way

"From the tears and the pain
And the fears and the rain
I will take you
From the dark to the light
You were one shining bright"

-- Divine Inspiration
complete song above

The Mall as sacred space

What is a sacred space? A developing webpage called sacred-spaces defines it as "a site where the human search for meaning and truth and divine inspiration commingles with practices and beliefs in the attempt to find answers."

I believe this definition includes Malls, don't you?

Malls are places a human goes to search for shopping values and credit-ability and Divine Inspiration cds, commingling the traditional assumption that "more stuff is better" and hymns don't have to mean anything deep in order to inspire a sale.

Julian Baggini wrote a fascinating analysis defining shopping as the new religion.

"Religion," he said, "promises something higher, something transcendent to which we can aspire. You can ditch the metaphysics, but the same basic urge remains. So it is we now seek the higher in the material world, not the spiritual."

He continued, "The search for the comforts that will make our lives better and more meaningful now takes place in the pages of the Argos catalog, not the Bible. That is why advertising is so often aspirational. Preachers seduce us with the promise of a better life to come, advertisers with the promise of a better life to come right now. Both offer an escape from the mundane reality and endless striving that real life is made of."

Walking through a variety of shops, I experienced the urge of this promise of a better life to come right now.

  • If I wore a cashmere sweater versus a sweatshirt, I surmised, my sense of self would be elevated in the eyes of all those around me. I would be considered blessed; favored by God.
  • If I purchased a pair of Ugg slippers, my feet would experience bliss akin to that of reflexology; pressure points would be massaged by Australian fleece thick enough to apply appropriate pressure in all areas.

I pondered these options as an overhead announcement electrified the Nordstrom Rack populace, sending a congregation surging toward the narthex. Makeup had been temporarily reduced an additional 10%.

I joined the flock of sheep, aspiring to fill my bag with skin cream, eye cream, little and big eye liner, and a rainbow palate of eye shadows certain to transform my inner iris.

"It is characteristic of religions that they can motivate their followers to behave in ways that are inexplicable in terms of either rational self-interest or the welfare of the collective," Baggini observed.

What I really needed was a pair of wool socks.

My shopping spree

Park Meadows Mall, Centennial, CO:
Park Meadows Mall, Park Meadows, Lone Tree, CO 80124, USA

get directions

9637 E County Line Rd Englewood, CO:
9637 East County Line Road, Centennial Promenade, Englewood, CO 80112, USA

get directions

REI store is located here.

8676 Park Meadows Center Drive Lone Tree, CO 80124:
8676 Park Meadows Center Drive, Lone Tree, CO 80124, USA

get directions

Nordstrom Rack

11150 S Twenty Mile Rd Parker, CO 80134-4952:
11150 South 20 Mile Road, Parker, CO 80134, USA

get directions

Super Target

Church attendance versus shopping attendance

"According to the Hartford Institute of Religion Research, more than 40 percent of Americans say they go to church weekly. As it turns out, however, less than 20 percent are actually in church. In other words, more than 80 percent of Americans are finding more fulfilling things to do on weekends." Huffington Post

The article is admittedly flawed, as it appears to refer only to Christian churches as "church". Correct me if I am wrong. However, Christmas is a Christian holiday, so I will continue this comparison.

Contrast this to a second "according to" statistic regarding holiday shoppers:

"According to a survey on shopping habits by market research firm NPD Group and CivicScience, a culture-trend research company, 18 percent of Americans will take a pass on holiday buying altogether. That is up from 17 percent last year, the first year the question was asked." The Boston Globe

So 18% of all Americans do not plan to holiday shop this year, but 82% do- whether online or at shopping locales, whether Christian or not. This seems to indicate that 82% of Americans will celebrate the holidays with gifts, but only 20% will celebrate inside a Christian church.

(Note: In 2016, e-retail will account for 9% of total retail sales, up from 7% in both 2012 and 2011, according to the report, “U.S. Online Retail Forecast, 2011 to 2016,”by Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru.-- from

Malls may be considered sacred space


Shopping locales bring people together

Perhaps it was in a Mall that you last broke bread with a beloved grandfather?

The Mall, in an instant, becomes personal: consecrated ground A space forever mingled with the memory of this man you loved. In this moment, the Mall has little more to do with shopping than a funeral home's display of available caskets has to do with grief.

Shopping centers are gathering spaces for families, for early morning power walkers, for shut-ins like my mother, who loves to sit inside the comfort of a Starbucks, watching people.

Malls host temper tantrums and linked arms. They support transitions with engagement rings and restaurant reunions. They offer community events like Black Friday Pancakes and Prizes and The Art of Shaving Barber Spas.

Are churches different?

"Too bad for you if your laugh is hollow,
Your real Self has evacuated the premises."
Luke 6:25 Blessings of the Cosmos

This is my commandment, That you love one another.


Sacred space can exist anywhere.

"So, in words,
this is the greatest, most compelling example
I have given you-- the biggest challenge:

Find the love that grows slowly as friendship,
That is as firm as the fire that began the world.
Find it in the way you treat each other.
I have loved and befriended you the same way.
It is this love that is real,
more real than your limited self,
The flesh that weakens
and passes into another form.
The greatest love is to actually live this:
To lay down your prized, individual,
awareness of your self as equal to the
breath-spirit of another,"

Words of Jesus found in John 15:10
Translation, "Blessings of the Cosmos" by Neil Douglas-Klotz

Sacred space is all around me.

See results

© 2013 Barbara

Does shopping hold special memories for you? Please share your story or other comments below. Thanks!

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    • Storytellersrus profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      loveofnight, thank you for sharing this very visual description of life in a contemporary mall. Happy Holidays!

    • loveofnight profile image


      4 years ago from Baltimore, Maryland

      This hub reminds me of our local malls. An hour before the shop-keepers/store owners open their doors there is a gathering of people walking about. The elderly gather there as their morning meeting place and will walk the length of the mall at least three times before having their morning coffee at the only food stall open. From that point on things start getting busy and you will see others sit down for breakfast/coffee while playing chess. Sacred places are everywhere.Thanks for the share and happy hubbing.

    • Storytellersrus profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      Frank, you make writing it a pleasure. Thank you so much.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      4 years ago from Shelton

      Story im feeling this little series, I even clicked when a new one gets published I want to know Immed.... just something about reading this series kind of gets to me.. thank you for sharing it Frank


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