walking meditation on Koh Samui, Thailand

The slow movement.  A slower and more aware pace to life.  Playing, living, and working better by finding the right speed.

The right speed is that pace which allows me to experience connection in all that I do.  Connection to myself, my family, my community and friends; connection to the food I consume, the products I use, the place I live.

no strings attached; qigong on the beach

When I think about the upcoming holiday season, I especially value the notion of slow and seek ways to stay slow when consumerism and commercialism are building to a loud, noisy, frenetic crescendo.  I think about how many newspaper articles, magazine stories, and on-line infobites I come across telling me how to have a stress-free holiday, providing all the good information about what stress does to my body and my wellbeing; the articles which painfully detail the debt load incurred in the name of gift giving and ideas on how to make it cost/hurt less.

I often wonder who puts these suggestions into practice? I still observe stores cram-packed with ‘stuff’ , though truth be told, it is truly ‘junk’. I overhear conversations about how hard it is to find the latest, hottest Wii game, or whatever other I-cannot-live-without-my-child/self/partner-having item.  I watch the traffic flow begin to stick even further, as if tires were made of blackstrap molasses, and folks thusly stuck pass time on their cellphones, drumming their fingers and experience mounting frustration. I hear people lamenting the amount of food they ate at the church ‘tea’ last year and how much baking they need to get done.

serenity along the Caribou, NS shoreline

The wheels of consumerism appear to still be well-greased and moving smoothly and swiftly.   Not so much in my home.  We long ago stepped away from the big bang theory of love.  In fact, as I think about it, we never subscribed to that approach ever.  Instead, we focus on our togetherness and revel in the subtle and not so subtle ways we are special to each other.  Our gift giving is minimal on all occasions, including birthdays, graduations, and other times when a special touch, a shared meal, a lovely walk and any other such time together is more meaningful and lasting and ecologically responsible.

I can remember every time my partner wrote me a poem or brought home wild flowers from ditches.  I can recall the instances my children made me noodle necklaces and sang me lovingly crafted songs.  I am richer for these gifts.

I know gifting can be pleasurable — I find great pleasure in giving the just-right gift.  And, receiving baubles can be joyful, particularly when they are local handcrafted treasures.  This is especially so when it is done with great thought and consideration, in moderation, and at times of least expectation.

The spirit of sharing, of giving of yourself, can be very uplifting.  Receiving can be humbling, touching, moving.  None of this requires weeks of preparation, increasing debt load, purchasing products which contribute to the ever-growing waste stream, or having what neighbours/classmates/coworkers have.  In short, gifting is not about gluttony.

In the spirit of giving of yourself,  participating less in the grab from box-store shelves, here are some great ideas and sites which just might spark your interest:

  • The new american dream has great information around gifts of time, homemade gifts and gifts for the environment.
  • Trees In Trust, the brainchild of PEI’s Andrw Lush, is a well-managed way of saving endangered forests.
  • For those who are looking for ways to turn their time or found items into gifts, Buy Nothing Christmas has great ideas.
  • Make a donation instead of purchasing an item for the office gift exchange and allow your recipient to pick the charity to which the donation is made at Canada Helps.
  • Make a gift at Kiva, an organization which connects lenders and entrepreneurs in an effort to alleviate poverty.
  • Alternative Gifts International allows your gift to go to humanitarian and environmental causes.
  • Watch for fairly traded products when purchasing.
  • If you are gifting, try an alternative to the mass produced gift wrap which fills your bin after the holiday.  There are some great ideas here and here.
  • Use your imagination and your compassion, you’ll be sure to make a meaningful difference with your giving.

In the end, it is my responsibility to enjoy every day, not just the one big dayEvery day leads to the one big day, every day follows. It is my responsibility to instill this value in my children.  They will not find this in a video game, a well-crafted piece of plastic marketed as a toy, or in any of the consumptive trappings we have come to label love and caring.

Practice simplicity and find the wealth that is your life.  Pass this gift on to others.  Then the world will change.

tranquility and beauty in the sahara desert

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak. ~ Hans Hofman