The Practice of Gift Giving


The holiday shopping season is lurching upon us officially on Black Friday. Though it seems to have been creeping up pretty much since Halloween. Every year it’s a bit earlier.

This year, on Halloween as trick or treaters were being put to bed, stores everywhere put the candy on the 50% off rack and broke out the Christmas decorations. 

 All of which is to quickly say that much of the holiday season can feel a bit pre-programmed, amidst the hustle and bustle of shopping. We might be inclined to go on auto-pilot at that point. When this happens, we fall back on those comfortable old habits (even the ones we don’t really care for), which we sometimes call by a warmer title, “traditions” or even “family traditions.”

Before anyone gets upset, I’m not saying traditions of any kind, family or otherwise, are bad. What I’m suggesting in that we try looking at this holiday season with a questioning mind. Let’s take a look at how we do this holiday season afresh. How could it hurt?

There’s lots to examine but what if we start with one central idea?

  • Gift giving

So, to back up just a bit. We have all kinds of habitual energy around gift giving and receiving. But the only thing we really own is our actions. Right?

What do we have?

  • What We Do
  • What We Say
  • What We Think

What if we try to combat habits which cause us trouble? Things like jealousy, greed, impatience, anger with mindful actions that can melt those bad boys away. Instead of jealousy, try a big bowl of sympathetic joy. Instead of greed, trying filling up on generosity. You get the idea, yes?

So how about those presents we rush around to buy  on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and so on? We could try examining that bag of habits too. Mindful gift giving will be different for everyone. Here’s a few ideas from me. But what do you think? I’m looking at things like:

  • Seeing that gift giving is not about ourselves.
  • Asking does this gift make any sense?
  • Can I afford to buy this gift? (I’ve been a victim of my own un-wise desire to please others by shopping too extravagantly.) Especially now, when we’re still in unstable economic times, it makes sense to apply mindfulness here.

Instead of rushing about, let’s practice these holidays with mindfulness at each step of the way. What we give, either items purchased or by how we conduct ourselves, let’s give the gift of selflessness. Give without any expectation of any kind for anything in return. Period.

Just give your gifts and let the whole thing go.

We might just have a holiday season of profound contentment, if we can let go of non-beneficial habits, expectations and all the rest. We can have the peace the season offers by greeting each moment with the breath … to see clearly, wisely and compassionately. To enjoy and keep our minds and hearts undisturbed.

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Author: Hillary Johnson

Improvisational documentary and fine art photographer.

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