With thanksgiving behind us and christmas around the corner, the season of celebration and giving surrounds us. During this time we are tempted into “more” – doing more, eating more and spending more. There appears to be a pressure to fulfill certain wishes and dreams. Yet, do we stop to look what underlies these wishes and dreams? Is it really necessary to do/spend/eat/give in the way that we do? At this time of year we often focus on the immediate wish fulfillment at the expense of other important values in our life. Can we be be more mindful and intentional in our choices of celebrating and giving?
I was reminded of this by a client who described her recent thanksgiving experience. She said “I did it different!” She described how she wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends, while keeping in mind that she didn’t want to totally stress herself out, especially considering recent health and new job situation. So, she invited her friends for thanksgiving, indicating she would be keeping it simpler (no Turkey) and requested each of them to bring a contribution if they wanted to come. To her surprise, almost all came, brought something and enjoyed themselves. Despite her not having executed all the bells and whistles that she had in the past she considered it a success. She was still tired afterwards, and had a few stressfull moments, but did not feel this overwhelmed her or the experience. She enjoyed actually sitting, talking and connecting with her friends versus running around serving.
I also felt inspired by various articles, blogs and conversations with friends encouraging a shift away from the consumerism and stress subsuming us.
As you enter the holiday season, ask yourself… who and what is really important to me in the upcoming days?
I often hear people name – spending quality time with family, sharing enjoyable experiences and rituals, celebrating community and culture, enjoying yummy food, giving to others so they feel special/supported and sharing time away from the usual day to day hecticness. We are surounded with messages as to how it “should be done.” Question this, and be willing to be creative and find your own way of celebrating.
Follow this with another question – what is important to me in my life? What do I want for my family, my kids in the long run?
Now with those in mind, take a look at your wishes and goals. Ask yourself is what I am doing or planning to do bringing me closer to who and what is important? Is this consistent with my larger life values? Or is this increasing the stress and difficulties (either before and/or after)?
Take a step back, and look at how you can connect with your values in a simpler, smaller way? What can you drop off your “to-do” list? How can you make your goal smaller and still connect with your values? Do your loved ones really need to all those gifts? All of those dishes? Eat all of that food? Meet up with all of those people? Often people voice relief when something falls off their holiday schedule or list.
This is NOT about restriction, this is about coming back to the core importance – back to basics. Sometimes LESS truly is MORE. We often try to fulfill our immediate dreams at the expense of our other long term personal values. More stuff means more clean up, more maintenance, more responsibility and more debt. Also, how often have you been so tired and/or cranky from all the planning, shopping and cooking that you didn’t have time or didn’t enjoy the time with your loved ones. Sometimes all of the extras distracts us from what is really important. Can you give the gift of presence – being there? What would really “showing up” look like for you?
How can you come back to basics, connect with the larger long term values, and not just focus on the immediate wish fulfillment, comfort and/or safety – for yourself, your family, your community and the world? What is one small step towards connecting and acting on those values? Be mindful and make active thoughtful choices. I also recommend talking about it in your family – the wishes for more, and the thoughtful choices.
The below article describes several creative and mindful options to giving and celebrating in the Christmas season. They recommend:
- giving to organizations. One that I have used is www.globalgiving.org
- giving experiences or gifts that build experiences. In our family we have chosen an old dutch game we always played as a family that gets us laughing and moving and a theater performance we will attend together.
- giving your children 1 gift in these categories: 1 thing they want, 1 they need, a book and a clothing piece