Presence for Presents

Pile of gorgeous gifts

Pile of gorgeous gifts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love the holidays.  I love anything that brings people together and nurtures connection with each other.  Unfortunately, a by-product of all this connection is the much dreaded gift exchanges and holiday purchases that sometimes overshadow the spirit of the season. This post is created in the spirit of including some presence in the presents of the season.  🙂

Here’s the deal.  The best presents for people are rarely advertised on the front of a store ad.  There are not “limited quantities” of an honest expression of love and gratitude.  Yes, you can put objects in a package and tie a pretty bow around them, but when you are truly celebrating another person it is less like a chore and more like an opportunity.  An opportunity to express yourself and the meaning of your relationship and an opportunity to engage in a delightful experience of kindness.

The catch is that it may take more than a few minutes of late night online shopping to find a true reflection of all these things.  This is where the idea of presence comes in.  I’m not suggesting you spend hours in meditation to figure out the perfect gift.  But maybe spend a few minutes figuring out what each person likes, what words represent their personality, what activities do they enjoy, or what dream have they ever expressed to you?  Sometimes if you can just write down the person’s name and jot down the first 6-10 descriptors that come to mind when you think of that person…it could be helpful in you figuring out something that would truly celebrate who they are.

Another exploration of your presence is to reflect on something that you really want to share with people this holiday season.  What has inspired you lately?  What has made your heart sing?  Is there a way to share that with the people in your life?

Consider this an invitation for all of us to include a sense of presence for the presents we all buy/make and distribute this year.  This comes naturally to some people and not so naturally for others.  If you are needing a little inspiration to get your creative ideas flowing consider these strategies to incorporate presence this season:

-Gift an experience instead of just a ‘thing’.  This could be in the form of movie passes, a coupon for a painting class or workshop, or tickets to a musical concert.  Depending on the experience, maybe you can even share the experience with them!

-Gift positivity.  Create affirmations for your friends.  There are a ton of sites that include affirmations for all sorts of categories ranging from love, friendships, workplace, and spirituality.

-Gift inspiration (in the form of famous quotes, calendars, or photography).  Take your own photo and frame it or type up your favorite quote on cardstock.

-Gift music.  Burn a CD with your favorite songs from this year or something they may not normally listen to.

-Gift gratitude.  Make a gratitude jar/container.  Label it and create a starter kit for them.  If you are feeling particularly grateful, include notes of gratitude from you to them and place them in the jar for them to read later.

-Gift silly.  Create coupons for ‘night off from cooking/cleaning the kitchen.’ or “all day pass to watch sports on tv without complaint.’

-Gift practical.  If you know someone writes a lot, gift them notebooks and pens.  If you know someone who drinks tea every day, pick up a variety pack of flavors for them.

-Gift connection.  If you are missing someone, gift them cards with envelopes and stamps so you can stay connected.

-Gift your gifts.  If you make the best oatmeal raisin cookies ever…gift them to people along with your secret recipe.  This works for any food item that is your claim to fame.  🙂  Include an uplifting movie and you have a family gift ready to share.

Whatever you do….make it fun.  Make it goofy.  Make it real.  And make it personal.  Those are the things that make it meaningful.  Not only do I believe that is the true spirit of the holidays, but I believe it is the core of our spirit each and every day.

Wishing you peace, love, and good health this holiday season.

 

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Apples and Oranges

“Comparison is the thief of joy”—Theodore Roosevelt.

You know the saying “that’s like comparing apples to oranges”?  When I was younger, it would always baffle me because I couldn’t understand why you would need to compare such similar objects.  But as a culture, that’s what we like to do…compare identical things and circumstances and then participate in an exercise in identifying as many differences as you can.

The problem is that when we do this with ourselves and with people in our life, then we start attaching value or worth to those differences.  Suddenly the apple is better than the orange, or the orange is more vibrant than the apple.  We must determine the hierarchy of differences and assume the most valued object.

Brene’ Brown talks about this phenomenon in her book The Gifts of Imperfection.  She refers to this idea of robbing ourselves from joy the second we start comparing to another person’s circumstances.  We get so caught up in this idea of who has what and who did what that we minimize, and sometimes even negate value to everything we have ever known.

The skill is not about training your brain to stop comparing.  After all, some comparisons can be incredibly useful and lead to great insights.  The skill is increasing your awareness of how those comparison’s impact your overall sense of well-being.  Here are examples of defeating comparison statements:

  •  “I could do X if only I had Y like my friend so and so.”
  •  “Oh, I’m having a bad day, but it’s nothing like what you’re going through…..”
  • “Yes, I’ve lost 10 pounds, but I still need to lose 5 more.”
  • “If I was making that much money, life would be so much better.”
  • “Things are not going so well, but I know they can always be worse.”

In each of the examples the actual situation is discounted through the act of comparison.  It’s a vehicle to find ways to account for something that is lacking or a desire for change without accountability.  It’s also a method to devalue something painful or uncomfortable.  They allow a rationale to escape the full experience of whatever is happening at that moment.

If we begin increasing our awareness of how often we get lost in this act of comparison then eventually it will lead to us to recognizing that we are enough exactly as we are at this moment.  There is still room to improve upon something or create space for change, but first embrace acceptance for the being that you are in this very moment.

Hold this thought….”You have everything you need.”  This isn’t some profound discovery.  It has always been true. Sure, go ahead, argue the fact.  I invite you to reflect on the purpose of trying to disprove it first.  I expect some people would go to the nth degree of literal here and say, “Wait, you need food…you need water, shelter..and so on.”  I will save the trouble and whole heartedly agree, and I will gently follow-up with the statement that the spirit of this concept is not to cause some great controversy.  It is to invite you to think about the purpose of comparison.  Is it to motivate you to do something greater with your life?  It is to inspire you to be better?  Or is it simply to give a louder voice to an inner critic that is often questioning your own value?  Because if we start comparing ourselves and highlighting some differences that lend to an illusion of value and worth; we become separate from others.  And when we spend more of our life in a state of being separate…we spend more time feeling disconnected, lonely, and ultimately less valued.

Here is a practice in the spirit of unity and well-being:  the next time you hear or experience a remarkable accomplishment, stroke of luck, or encounter a challenge or barrier to something; instead of going to that place of comparison simply experience the feeling that arises and emotions that follow and detach from the impulse to immediately file that away as better/worse/luckier/scarier/or any other ‘er’ word for your own life.  When we can be completely present in our lives without needing a comparison for ourselves or another person, it becomes a true way of honoring each other and maintain a connection without the expense of someone’s worth, especially our own.

It’s not about agreeing that an apple and an orange are different or even how they are similar…it’s about appreciating the apple just as it is and the orange for everything it has to offer.  When we can appreciate things and ourselves exactly as we are, something beautiful happens…we begin to feel more connected to others and ultimately more loved and valued.

If you’re going through a tough time, experiencing grievances, or simply having a bad day, own it.  If you’re doing well and enjoying success, own that.  If someone else succeeds, enjoy their happiness with them.  If they fail, support them.   Be accountable for your own situation without having to add some sort of disclaimer as to how it could be better or it could be worse.  Realize that everyone is on their own journey with their own obstacles, worries, and triumphs.  We are human.  We are all beautiful and complex.  And most of all, we are perfectly imperfect.