The holidays bring up a personal conflict.
It’s one that has become more pronounced over the past few years as my contemplative practices have deepened.
Each year, I struggle with whether or not to buy gifts.
I want to show the people in my life how much I care about them, but I also want to stay true to my values of minimalism and non-hoarding.
So, what is the answer?
How can I participate in traditional holiday customs, while also honoring my own personal style of living?
I’m trying something new this year, with the hope that it will inspire others to experience the holidays a bit differently. I am fortunate to have all I need at the moment and the people I care for have plenty of stuff. None of us need more decorative soaps, pajama sets or mittens. I want the people I love to know that our relationships matter to me, that I value our precious time spent together. At the same time, there is much pleasure to be had in the act of giving.
As an alternative to seasonal obligatory gifting, why not surprise our loved-ones with specially-planned activities? These are things we can do together, sharing in the warmth of companionship and love for one another.
Why not make a card by hand, or buy one from a local artist and craft a message expressing your gratitude for your recipient, and offer them one of the following:
1. A Nature Walk: Go online and search for public parks or recreation areas in your hometown. Invite your friend to choose a time and set a date to be together in nature. Make the experience deeper by bringing along a mediation bell; allow occasional chimes to call you into moments of shared stillness, noticing the sounds and silence of the outdoors. Take time to discover special leaves, branches, flowers or rocks; point out the beauty that is all around.
2. Tea and Conversation: Ask your friend what kind of snacks they absolutely love. If you have more time, search for a special recipe and prepare a treat from scratch (cook or bake together for added fun!). If you have less time, pop by the grocery store and pick up a few items with pretty packaging or unique ingredients. Find a quiet place to meet, bring some blankets and pillows, and savor this special time to be together, enjoying the pleasure of delicious food and listening intently to one another.
3. Movie Night: Get cozy with a tasty beverage and some small bites, turn the lights down low and eat up the luxury of setting aside a night that is totally focused on entertainment. When the film is through, ask each other a question or two, spark a conversation and learn more about how you each experience stories and culture. For an added bonus, try popping your own popcorn on the stove. Use a spoonful of coconut oil, then toss the popped kernels with extra virgin olive oil, nutritional yeast, sea salt, maple sugar and a spritz of Bragg’s Aminos. Yum. Trust me.
4. Help with Plain Old Day-to-Day Life: Maybe you have someone in your life who suffers from lack of time and resources? What a gift it would be to offer your friendly support in just getting stuff done. Buying groceries and cleaning the house can be quite pleasant with the right company. Offer your time, elbow grease and a positive attitude. Ask to join in a gardening task, a de-cluttering campaign, a home renovation or a day of errand running. Sharing in these activities will help you understand your friend’s daily needs, and will provide time to catch up while also accomplishing a concrete goal. With the time saved together, you can schedule in a break for drinks or dinner!
5. Offer Support: The simplest way to make oneself available to relationship is to ask: What can I do to support you in this moment? Sometimes we just have no idea what is going on for the people in our lives and we’re not sure how to be there in the right ways. What if the answer we seek were waiting for the right question to be asked? Let’s make ourselves available to help and nurture the people we love. Let’s find out what they need, and figure out a way to give it freely. Can you imagine a more satisfying gift than receiving exactly what you want and need? If it’s sounding intense, just remember: maybe your sibling just needs someone to pick up his mail when he’s away for a few days. Whatever it is, it is most likely do-able.
Holidays are supposed to be about being with the people we love. This year, let’s focus on relationships instead of things. An abundance of love and spiritual fulfillment is bound to follow.
Author: Rachel Fernbach
Editor: Caitlin Oriel