Getting Real about Gifting

GIft Responsibly (1)As I write this “Jazz Loves Christmas” is playing on my boom box (care of CBC) and my daughter is drawing perspective boxes while our red lentil curry and rice simmer on the stove top.  We are enjoying a warm and festive evening, relishing the generosity of our 100+ year old home as it fulfills a life’s purpose of being both beautiful and functional, keeping its current inhabitants cozy and sheltered on a dark and freezing Saskatchewan night.  I love cracking the festive tunes early, mainly to stir the pot on old and cherished memories from my childhood, and to pass on the festive tradition of music to my own kids.  However, alongside this bliss simmers a knotted sensation in my stomach and angry tension in my heart. Christmas is also a time of year that brings me great grief and frustration, it is a time when our culture of consumerism casts its long shadow (no doubt Black Friday is aptly named).

Christmas is a season that aligns with Winter Solstice, a natural time to reflect on the bounty of what’s past, to express gratitude for our wealth, and to keep the spirit of abundance and generosity alive through sharing that wealth.  And certainly the trillion dollar industry that Christmas has become might lead one to believe we are practicing generosity and abundance, but the seedy underside is that we are doing it in a way that is first-world, human-centric, and ultimately informed by scarcity, greed and narcissism.

Now I’m not trying to ruin Christmas with a major baa-humbug, I’m in fact trying to help save the original spirit of Christmas, Winter Solstice and Santa.  The essence and spirit of the festive season is Abundance and Generosity, which has nothing to do with sweat-shop-child-labor made toys and toxic to human, animal, plant and earth alike plastics.  Abundance is informed by the perspective of gratitude for what is, but consumer-oriented marketing would rather you believe it has to do with continuously having and getting more.  Reaching for more, more, more is greed, and is the ultimate end goal of a hamster-wheel that capitalism aims to have us all trapped on.  And this is where the magic of the season can truly gift us freedom, in the form planting a simple thought: that scarcity and lust for more is a lie, and true abundance is realising the wealth that ALREADY exists.

To break free of the hamster wheel we need to clear our vision.  First, we need to take stalk of what we have, and realize the miracle that we truly are enough.  We have enough good qualities of character, we have enough skills and talents to contribute to our community, we have enough friends and family to not only survive with but actually thrive alongside. We have enough clothes, shoes, toys, food, vehicles and gadgets, and if need truly be, they likely are available more affordably second-hand, no need to mass produce more.  Lynne Twist in her book “The Soul of Money” articulates it with incredible clarity, that ultimately once we denounce the consumer-culture lie that we are not enough, we suddenly experience freedom and the truth of our personal power.  Once we take stock and appreciate the enoughness that we are, of our internal and external resources, we can save our money and life on this planet!!  Once we are free of the addiction of consumer goods for our fulfilment, true abundance will expand, because suddenly we actually don’t have to work as hard to pay off accruing debts, and all that time we would have spent racing around to buy all the “perfect”, plastic wrapped, and expensive gifts will be freed up to be spent with our kids, friends, and family, and in the glory of nature.  This is the truth of abundance that greed doesn’t want you to discover and flex.

What breaks my heart the most about the festive season is the excessive denial and culling of other-than-human life.  We are so focused on satisfying the never-satiable story of human desire for more- more toys, more processed foods, more gadgets and gizmos, more cars, more, more, more, that we have numbed ourselves of empathy and compassion for our other-than-human kin that not only need us to wake up from our excessive behaviors, but whom we need to continue life-worth-living on this planet.  The tree people, animal, rock, and water people.  These are our kin, our family in the great web of life, and currently we consume and reduce their lives to cheap trash that in turn pollutes and desecrates our shared home…its actually pretty depressing…baa-humbug I guess is necessary, the grief unavoidable.

BUT WAIT!  Don’t give up, there IS SO MUCH WE CAN DO!! We can practice Abundance, right now, by remembering that we hold the key.  It is human behavior that needs to shift, which is simply choices made each moment.  We can’t necessarily change the choices that others make (though policy could lead inspiring change!), but we can change our own.  We can also inspire others by helping them remember, having new conversations about abundance and enoughness, and by role-modeling what new behaviors look like.  Each and everyone of us can make a real difference.

Start by reflecting on habits versus values.  Do we really value supporting child-labor, unequal pay, toxic production, and pollution?  And if not!!!, then why do we invest in these practices with our purchase choices?  None of us want others to suffer, but sadly we’ve become habituated to looking the other way.  Taking stock of our core values- such as a win-win reality for everyone, peace on Earth, health and safety for both our own families and everyone else’s, clean water, a sustained planet and hope for the future, is a powerful step.  Then comes the getting real about whether our daily choices align with our values or not.  We can start to be the change with our choices, such as through our purchasing power and attitude expression this festive season.

So, step one: anchor into our hearts and get clear on core values.

Step two: be honest about habits, and discern whether or not our life practices reflect our values.

Step three: commit ourselves to at least one empowering choice we can make to be the change, and then do it.

Step four: repeat step three until we’ve rid ourselves of the life-threatening addiction to over-consumption and mindless consumerism.

Step five: relish and celebrate the freedom and power that true abundance brings: the knowing that WE are ENOUGH, that WE have ENOUGH, and abide in the simplicity, liberty and ecstasy that true abundance as reflection and gratitude brings!

And, here are some ideas for festive season abundance-in-action:

  • After kicking the consumer addiction, enjoy all the space and time you have for spending time with those you love, being in nature, making and enjoying delicious meals, participating in community festivities, making snow angels, reading, etc.
  • If gifting is a part of your expression of abundance, then gift responsibly and informed by your core values.  If you value life on this planet and sustainability gift experiences like:
    • live theater,
    • a meal or treat out,
    • a trip to a local attraction (museum, science Center, escape room, art gallery, etc)
    • an experience at a local clay studio or other sustainable art making place,
    • gift music lessons or dance classes,
    • tickets to a sporting event, a live concert, or movie tickets,
    • gift a certificate for a massage or a local healing arts practitioner (!),
    • gift home-made coupons for things like a foot rub, a massage, a walk, breakfast in bed, coffee out, star gazing together,
    • gift a camping trip,
    • or locally made goodies that are packaged in recyclable materials and use natural ingredients,
    • There are so many awesome ways to gift without it costing the planet and our kin, human or otherwise.
  • Or, you can gift in the form of paying it forward, like social and environmental activism:
    • gift a donation to a human rights organization
    • to an environmental rights and protection agency: like Pachamama Alliance
    • donate to a local animal rescue or food bank charity
    • again, the options are endless.

If toys are your jam, gift second hand toys, I mean does Santa gift with all that packaging? Support fairtrade, environmental friendly toys, or make your own (my 7year old just made her own stuffed animal from scrape clothing material and cotton balls from supplement packaging). Creativity abounds!

Here’s to Peace on Earth and Good Will for All!

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