Why We Do Better

You watch the colors

Should you wish to begin a meditation practice, begin by watching QVC.

Yes, as a tastefully-dressed host hovers over a set of stainless steel kitchen knives and examines their gleam (“..these blades do not dull over time – bright as the day you unwrap them!”), you are embarking on an ancient path to mindfulness.

A student describes the process of object-focused meditation:

  • do breath counting meditation to stabilize the mind as a prelude to moving the attention outward to the external object
  • once the mind is calm and present, open your eyes and study the object
  • observe every detail in a non-discursive way
  • notice how light falls on the object – does it induce any changes in its texture or colour
  • how sharp are the lines of its edges
  • is the object’s surface rough or smooth
  • simply observe and refrain from putting labels on what you see

Observe how this explanation intertwines with the way that former QVC host Mike Rowe sells a pencil during his audition for the network:

“They rolled a pencil across the desk while a camera was rolling, and the man said, ‘When i ask you to, i want you to pick up the pencil, and i want you to talk about it. I want you to harness whatever passion and enthusiasm you can muster for this No. 2 pencil, and do not stop talking until i tell you to.’”

And this is what Mike says:

“All the obvious things. It’s yellow… Why is yellow important? Well, because you’re a busy executive in the middle of a busy day, and when you need a pencil and open up the top drawer of your desk and gaze into it you don’t want to play some sort of game with your receptors. You want a color that pops out there, you want to know where that pencil is, and what better way to do it than this bright, canary shade of yellow? And then of course if you want to take a little detour, you can talk about the exact shade of yellow, and then you can talk about where the paint came from, or how the paint was mixed, and where the paint was mixed, and you might even leave the viewer with an image of the person mixing the paint in order to create the exact shade of canary yellow. And then of course, you can touch on the application process.”

In stretching the banal to fill airtime, QVC hosts observe the properties of the world around us with depth, with patience, with curiosity, with wonder. Make no mistake, while their sales pitches are tuned to arouse attachment (the antithesis of Buddhist practice), their technique is contemplative. The effect can be profound.

You are watching a host dangle a set of crystal jewelry. He calls attention to the kaleidoscope of red, green, and purple light dancing from its many-faced facade. You watch the colors spin, shimmer, explode.

You watch the colors.