tis the season to be mindful
The holidays are upon us and the official shopping frenzy began at 10:00 PM on Thanksgiving at our local WalMart, and it’s been a heavy retail marketing onslaught since. I love this time of year, but as I’ve gotten older, I have become more mindful of what I purchase for my friends and family as gifts. It’s always been important to me to give gifts that mean something to me as well as the recipient. I’ve never been one to just buy something because it was on sale or caught my eye and then figure out who to give it to just to fulfill the obligation to give. More often than not, now, I buy consumable items such as food or drink or I go one step further and make it. One year I made different kinds of pasta and sauces and gave various containers of both as gifts; another year I made limoncello (an Italian lemon liqueur) and gave it away in pretty bottles, and last year I gave homemade Nutella (gianduja) in pretty jars as gifts. These items were not extravagant by any means, but I had put something of myself into each of them and was mindful of the recipients when I made them. What does mindful mean you ask? In this example, it is consciously thinking about each and every person that you are looking to give a gift to for the holidays, and giving them something special. It is seeing or making something and having that person in your thoughts as you carry out the task of purchase or creation; it is being mindful of exactly ‘what’ you are giving to that other person. If I knew someone didn’t like hazelnuts for example, then I gave them something I knew they would like instead. I think it is hard to be mindful when one is constantly bombarded by marketing hype: ‘buy this jewelry, buy this TV, buy this gift certificate; it’s all on sale; you’ll save money….buy, buy, buy’.
Another way to be mindful is in the way you shop. Think about purchasing gifts from local stores or artisans instead of ones that are mass-produced or from large chains. Look at gifts that are made from non-toxic or recycled materials, have a low impact to the environment, and are minimally packaged. Just think of all the boxes, bags, ribbons, and paper products that are exchanged during the holidays; it is important to be mindful of the waste that is produced.
Mindfulness goes beyond gift giving during the holidays. Since these times can be very stressful for others for a variety of reasons, be aware of how you interact with those around you. Courtesy and graciousness goes a long way in tough situations. I remember shopping on a Black Friday one year when I still lived in San Francisco; I went to Macy’s (along with half the city) and was horrified by the behavior of those around me. I had items grabbed out of my hand, I was pushed, stepped on, knocked into, and cursed at. It was the last time I went to that Macy’s on that particular day. Flash forward 20 years later: I am shopping during the holiday crunch and I run into some rude behavior (to be expected), but also a lot of very cordial behavior as well; I had doors opened for me, packages picked up that I had dropped, and I received pleasant greetings. It made the experience so much nicer and put me in a very festive mood which I was able to pass along to others. This illustrates how the behavior of others can impact your behavior, but why not turn it around and be the initiator instead of the receiver of courtesy and graciousness? I believe that practicing mindful shopping, gift giving, and courteous behavior will help me make this holiday season more festive and bring more meaning to the holiday’s purpose, and I hope it will do the same for you.
I will mindfully leave you with the gianduja recipe to try on yourself, friends, and family. It is a delicious and nutritious treat, is easy to make, and is a gift worth celebrating. Buon natale e a presto!