Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Present Presents

The holiday rush is upon us. I am amazed at the sales and deals to be had this holiday season. It seems as if almost every television commercial, radio ad, or flyer in the mail has to do with slashing prices on gifts for the whole family. I have talked to a number of people who got up as early as 4 am to be at the sales when the store doors opened on “Black Friday”. In this troubled economy, it’s not surprising that even more people than usual hit these ‘door busters’ the day after Thanksgiving. Our budget, like many, is stretched to the limit, and finding ways to save money on gifts is definitely important to me. However, whether we’re living in “bull” or “bear” markets, buying Christmas presents can tend to take on a life of its own. We get enticed by quantity over quality, and a great deal, rather than a great match. In our fear of ‘ruining Christmas’, we overspend, we overextend our stress levels and we buy too many things. Package after package comes home, and we don’t even realize that these impulse buys have taken on a life of their own. My worst habit is buying gifts early, when I see something that’s ‘perfect’, but then forgetting I have it stocked away, only to buy another item. Christmas can easily go overload…even for the best of bargain hunters and least materialistic, we can find ourselves surrounding by ‘stuff’. Yet, the ‘stuff’ doesn’t necessarily mean the perfect gift.

So, what is the perfect gift for someone ? Does such a thing even exist ? Or, is it a myth ? I do believe that presents we buy or we make with great intention are far more meaningful than throwing yet another thing onto the cart in the check out aisle. Being present in your purchasing (or in your creating) can make a phenomenal difference in how you ‘do’ the holidays. Instead of being so focused on ‘getting it now’, take some time to really analyze the person you’re gifting. Think of their loves, their tastes, their passions, their sense of humor and their dreams. Try to take your own ego out of the equation. There may well be a gift you think is hilarious or just amazing, but if it doesn’t fit that loved one’s OWN sense of self, then who is the gift really for ? Is it for you…to make you feel good, or is it meant to be meaningful for someone else. All too often we let our egos and our own personalities dictate what other people receive. This isn’t a crime, but it does show a lack of thoughtfulness because it means that our taste is “right”. It’s not about the other person. It’s about us. So, in honoring your giftees, think about them, and what makes them tick. Quite literally imagine yourself in their skin…how do you feel? Be fully aware and fully present in each decision you make about gifts. Don’t shop impulsively, and try not to do too much all at once.

Frenzied shopping is rarely thoughtful. Mountains of gifts can be daunting, and yet, that one simple gift, that shows our love and deep connection with another person, can mean a great deal to them. One year, I made my friend, Tammie, chocolate covered strawberries. I have never felt so blessed by anyone’s response to a present. I truly thought of her, what she would like, and tried to imagine her reaction. This was not an expensive gift to make, but as I made them, I remembered our conversations about her love of these treats, and I felt honored that her reaction was so heartfelt and real. Because of that experience, I have tried to truly imagine how another person feels when I pick out a gift for them. I remember memories we’ve shared and think of ideas that really seem to ‘click’. This isn’t to say I hit the mark every time! But, by being fully cognizant, less rushed and more thoughtful, we can truly make a difference in the way our presents are received.

In Yoga, we call to mind living in the present moment and honoring those around us. At the conclusion of every yoga class I teach, I wish my students “Namaste”, which loosely translated means “I honor the light within you”. I encourage my students to honor one another with this same greeting. Like “Aloha” or “Shalom”, it can be said “coming or going”. But, in honoring one another as we leave, we also honor the experience we have just shared and we call to mind being fully present for the rest of our day. Imagine cultivating that kind of thoughtful intention throughout our lives!

And, so as you begin the holiday shopping rush, take time to slow down. Appreciate those you love, and “honor the light within them”. Namaste.

(The wonderful Shiva Rae concluding a class with Namaste...)

The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention. ~ Richard Moss

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