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Adventures in Mindfulness

Katie Estes is a freelance designer, art director, photographer and stylist. She sometimes writes too. 

Beggars on Broadway

Katie Estes

I read a lot of books with embarrassing covers, always type driven, large type that says something like:

J U D G E  M E.

Lately, when people ask, as they have, "what do you do with your time?" I have been answering, "I mostly read and walk dogs." Which to the 60-hour-a-week friends I've answered to, must sound a lot like, "my juice bar on the coast of Maui is so successful, I only to need to be open two hours a day." It's not like that, I promise, but I'm into the intention.

I read these books, usually at the exact time I need to, and think of all the people that could benefit from reading the same things, but will likely never go near such a book. One of the same inquisitive busy friends challenged me to sell him on The Power of Now, after a long-winded critical assessment of just the title.

"Well, have you read it?"


To be honest, I was at a loss as to how to answer. I stumbled through some main themes, but like any therapy, if it's forced, it will likely be ineffective. When I do read these books, I feel compelled to reach my former brethren of pessimists. What I've noticed is that similar themes are thrown around and what changes is the size, shape, gender, design, and aesthetic of the person teaching it. Each vessel of dissemination, perfect and necessary in reaching whatever audience they are supposed to reach. A very limiting pattern of thought I've forcibly detached myself from is that of the belief that there is an over-saturation of _______ market. It's been done so don't do it. Stop that line of thinking that will bring you somewhere brilliant, immediately! (Believe me when I say this was fun in Grad School, in the most debilitating sense, but more on that in another post.) Slowly I've been creeping up to the idea of abundance and incorporating the practice of it. In the vein of embracing the glory of self-help books and their authors, here are two of my own stories inspired by shame and vulnerability:

(The vulnerable one first.)

I went shopping in Soho like it was my first weekend in New York and I had a paycheck to blow. In the past I would have driven back to Tysons Corner before attempting to shop on Broadway, so I guess the meditation is working. (It's crowded for those that don't know. Aggressive crowds, armed with large bags.) Perhaps it was because I wasn't shopping for myself, merely acting as support/voice of reason for my shopping partner, but this trip I braved the density unaffected. Heading north back into the thick of it, I passed a man with a sign, not unlike many I've seen before. It said:

I'm in my mid-50s and broke and ashamed and don't know what to do."

There was more but I walked by quickly, in that pace of "the quicker I walk, the faster this feeling of heartbreak will go away." It made me well up. It still does. Even though I experienced those feelings, a new voice croaked louder. It was instructing that yes, you passed this man, but you can still do something. He'll be there. Getting a little flustered with competing emotions, I separated from my shopping partner and headed towards my bank. I didn't want it to be a thing, I just wanted to do something. The guy was being vulnerable. I felt respect for him. On my way back, I handed the guy a ten. I had to get his attention and when he reached out to take it, he seemed vacant, lost. I wished I could do more. A block further was another guy with a dog and a sign. I dropped $2 in his box of coins. I know people saw, I kind of wished they didn't. I wasn't being a hero, I wasn't shaming them, I just wanted to do it. 

Thousands of people carrying bags with stuff, past this guy who felt like he wasn't worthy of living. 

After the fact, my life went on. I felt good in a strained sort of way, but I didn't dwell, just went to Whole Foods. I was doing some prescriptive shopping for one ingredient in particular that costs half of a two or three day shopping bill. If you're familiar, Manuka Honey has proven medicinal benefits, and the price tag to show for it. In the Brooklyn Whole Foods it's locked up in a glass box like the razors at Duane Reade. It's 26 dollars. 

When I got to the checkout counter, with a few other things in my basket, the girl at the register asked me if I knew I could put it on my face too. I said, "No I didn't, but I could probably eat half the things in my bathroom."

"That's how you know it's good!
$11.25 is your total."

Mechanically I took out my card to pay, my mouth forming the words "that's not right," but nothing came out. I paid and walked out with my magic honey. Part of me thought she knew exactly what she did or didn't do, and the other part thought maybe she had watched me earlier. It was almost the exact amount I had given away. Help equals help. I thought about feeling bad or guilty but frankly chose not to. I chose to be grateful instead.