December 17, 2016

A Gift to offer this Holiday that’s better than any Present.

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We do not need more things. We need more connection.

Each holiday season I start to get a little itchy as I feel the wave of consumerism that this time of year can bring. It is not that I disapprove of buying things or surrounding ourselves with beautiful objects, it is that most of us already have enough and giving each other more makes me uncomfortable.

There is one other issue too… Having more things does not bring us happiness (at least one that lasts) and we know this in our hearts.

Having grown up with little money, I understand the urge to believe that more stuff would increase our lives and offer security, but on the spiritual path we are taught something different. We learn that letting go of our attachment to things is actually what brings about contentment.

I have never lived extravagantly, but I have had times in my life where I made good coin. It’s nice to be able to buy whatever I want, to give others trips and meals and spontaneous presents too.

However, when I had more money and things, it really just meant that I spent more money on things.

I can honestly say, I do not make much money now. But I can also say that most of the time I feel quite rich.

Currently, I own few objects and I live within a budget that suits the amount of work I am willing and able to do.

So like many others, this means that buying presents for all my dear ones during the holidays would leave me rather broke.

It is hard to say no to the urge to splurge and I do sometimes feel the guilt of not giving something material, but reflecting on growing up with a single mother and seeing the stress that the holidays put on her, confirms that maybe we are doing this gift giving thing wrong.

So I have been drawn to explore what else we can offer each other during the holidays instead. It was in an ancient teaching that I found a gift we can give that creates real love and connection, not just to each other but to ourselves and the earth.

The gift is a 25 century old Buddhist offering called The Five Contemplations and it is something that Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh recommends offering before every meal.

The five sentences to follow can serve to remind us of our own inherent goodness, of what there is here and now to be grateful for, and of the interconnection of all things.

With these contemplations, we pause for a moment together and we offer something that is not material, but one that honours the richness we find in the simple act of sharing a meal.

This season, I invite us to feel good about offering something to each other that did not cost us anything, but something that is perhaps more sacred—the feeling of gratitude.

May we give a gift this season that creates peace and happiness rather than stress and dis-ease. Perhaps the five contemplations will be our doorway to this:

This food is the gift of the whole universe—the earth, the sky, and much hard work.

May we live in a way that makes us worthy to receive it.

May we transform our unskillful states of mind, especially our greed.

May we take only foods that nourish us and prevent illness.

We accept this food so that we may realize the path of practice.

“May you, your family, your friends, your neighbors and my neighbors, our country, all the nations of the world, all the creatures and plants of this beautiful world—may all beings everywhere—be happy, satisfied, and safe!” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

It is written in the Second Noble Truth of Buddhism that what continues our suffering is our desire for more. If we follow this thirst we will continually be chasing an elusive goal. When we realize that this is based in ignorance we will see that often, what we have right here is enough. We can begin this by being thankful.

Giving the gift of gratitude to each other is simple, I know, but it is profound.

What if instead of presents we contemplated how much we already had. And perhaps then, we told the people, animals or even just ourselves how grateful we are for them and this time together.

An offering of appreciation and presence leads to love and connection.




Author: Sarah Norrad

Image: YouTube Still

Editor: Travis May

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