With the exception of Buddhist monks living their lives out in an abbey, we’ve all been effected and conditioned by society to place a substantial amount of worth on our earthly belongings. There’s a constant accumulation of things. Money and objects grow emotional attachments or eventually, out-grown. We are programmed to believe money and possessions determine our worth, social status and success in life. With festivities of Christmas here, it’s a time of the year which re-iterates human beings incessant need to feed the ego with tangible and transient human paraphernalia.
FATHER CHISTMAS EXPOSED
Experiencing family life with kids, one can appreciate how an enthusiastic 61 day countdown to Christmas began in my home as early as mid-October this year. Initiated by the youngest of my 3 children, a very ardent 5 year old, who days earlier matter-of-factly informed me, “Didn’t you know Father Christmas isn’t real?”
Those later 5 years had indeed been plagued with the underlying anticipation that I would be exposed for the elaborate story teller I had been. This finding, inevitably leads to the credibility of the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny and of course – mine.
GET REAL ABOUT GIVING
How this realisation emerged was however irrelevant, but rather a good indication it was time to get real about the perception of giving and receiving. With Father Christmas out the way, it’s liberating to introduce more spiritually rewarding traditions, while exploring the preferable unconventional and eco-friendly gifts that don’t break the bank or contribute to the deteriorating state of our eco system.
TV COMMERCIALISED CHRISTMAS
If the increasing amount of plastic floating around the ocean doesn’t affect your decision when buying gifts and toys, let’s look closer to home at how television has created what’s being called a ‘phenomenon’ in the link between the commercialisation of Christmas and television.
Buying children Christmas presents was not common practice prior to the 1800’s. Most toys were hand-made from wood, leather, cloth and so on. 1977 to 1987 saw a 70% increase in the sales of toys in the American market, largely due to television sets made affordable to middle income families. Introduced, among other viewing, was commercials paid for by toy manufacturers, increasing demand on specific toys. Read more on this in Stephen Kline’s book ‘Out the Garden: Toys, TV, and Children’s culture in the age of marketing.’ With generous amounts of funds spent on children’s marketing, creative and precise research is carried out to produce the exact results marketers are wanting to achieve.
Aiding these ingenious marketers are statistics demonstrating how the average human spends almost a third of their leisure time in front of the TV. It becomes eminent in your child’s toys, their daily imaginative play and conversations that TV characters and specific brand labels have integrated themselves into your everyday reality. TV programming is just that, programming young vulnerable minds.
Apart from the commercialised programming, television creates its own set of special problems effecting children’s social behaviour and perceptions of reality. Limiting and monitoring the time a child spends in front of the TV, creates an opportunity to break the link in the subliminal, and often outright brainwashing by marketing campaigns on television aimed directly at our kids.
Gratitude is undoubtedly a powerful and fulfilling practice which brings almost instant, positive life changing results. A change of perception can make what you have, be enough. Being thankful in the present moment can be implemented at any age, and is a great step for kids, moms and dads in letting go of old thought patterns. Simply being grateful for being alive in the here and now today, is a meritorious way to start.
In Maslow’s renowned pyramid, or hierarchy of needs, he provides a simple understanding of our basic human needs. The very basic and most immediate are the human’s physiological needs which humans cannot survive without, such as water, oxygen, food, sleep and shelter.
UNICEF provided figures after 2015 concluding around 22 000 children around the world die of poverty each day. Having your basic needs met, is ample to be grateful for right there.
Practical ways to start nurturing gratitude are:
• Be actively aware daily of positive things around you to appreciate; a negative mind rarely attains a positive life.
• Commit to writing in a gratitude journal; daily entries help train the mind become aware and to look for positives around, enforcing healthy thought patterns.
• Introducing gratitude rituals like praying or a moment of silence before a meal; acknowledging the food before you as a blessing.
• Letting the people in your life know you appreciate and love them; make a trip or that call to thank them for the special part they’ve played in your life.
You don’t need to spend liberal amounts of money to show your appreciation. A combined respect for the environment and special consideration for the individual can inspire the most needed and appreciated gifts for Christmas and all year round.
• Make Christmas a time about giving rather than receiving; Santa’s shoebox is great to involve your child in selecting necessary items a child living in less fortunate circumstances would need. Practical items such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, facecloth, scarf and gloves, items of clothing or a blanket and some foods. Put together as many as you can afford, wrap them up and select a day with your kids to hand them out themselves.
• Volunteer; Homeless shelters for animals like the SPCA or foundations such as the Hospice require volunteers on a regular basis. Time is a commodity we all have which doesn’t cost a cent. Reading a story to a sick child stuck in hospital over the holidays will take their little minds out of bed to places their bodies can’t go. Get involved at soup kitchens or pack Christmas left overs to hand out to the homeless.
• Smile & be friendly; Most are stressed during the holidays. Shops are crowded and goods overpriced. Overworked people are rushing around making the most of their annual leave. Being polite, smile or paying a sincere compliment will go miles in creating and spreading those contagious good vibes.
• Grow a garden; don’t throw ANY seeds or pips away. Nature is generously replenishing. Seeds from vegetables and fruits such as cherry tomatoes, butternut, cucumber, chillies, watermelon, lemon, green peppers etc. If there’s a seed, you can grow it. Place seeds in seedling trays with potting soil and water. Once sprouted, present as the beginning of a practical and seasonal veggie or herb garden that will give for months or years ahead.
• Upcycle; Give an item a new lease on life with a bit of thought and TLC. Favourite old furniture is great for this. Look around at what a loved one is holding on to which has seen better days and add a few more years.
‘ACKNOWLEDGING THE GOOD YOU ALREADY HAVE IN YOUR LIFE IS THE FOUNDATION FOR ALL ABUNDANCE’ : ~ ECKHART TOLLE