I wondered if writing this article would help anyone get through the holidaze, and I remembered the story about the starfish: A man walking along a beach tosses washed-up starfish that are still alive back into the sea. A stranger passing by asks him why he bothers to do it when there are so many of them. He tells the stranger that his small action meant something to the one he was about to toss back out into the ocean.
If there’s any doubt about whether Christmas is a stressful time as well as a merry one, just look at the shopping craze that goes on in America every year about this time. Advertisements camouflaged as news on the radio try to convince me that I’m behind on essential shopping, television shows I’m practically forced to watch at the gym (most machines have screens 12-18″ from the face that block the view through the window) tell me how key it is to wrap gifts the “right” way to impress the most, and print ads scream at me to get items I didn’t even know were missing from my life.
Despite the mega blow-out holiday blitz experience that citizens are encouraged to strive for each winter, I think what most of us want is a feeling of joy which comes from inside ourselves and our relationships. For those tired by the bombardment of messages these days, and especially during the holiday season, ignoring the advertising and instead finding peaceful and celebratory ways to connect with loved ones without the focus on spending a lot of money or trying to outdo anyone else is a reasonable alternative.
So many options abound for deepening connections with friends and family at no or little cost. One of the major centers around which relationships are nurtured at any time of year is food. Homemade cookies are fun to make and fun to give and eat, too, for instance. It’s relatively easy to mix a few liquids to make a delicious and soul-satisfying beverage to share. I’ve recently discovered that if I use a French press to make two servings of local coffee and pour that over a couple of tablespoons of dark drinking chocolate, it gives me a feeling of well-being and subtle energy. Both chocolate and coffee are filled with antioxidants. One tip I recently learned about is that citrus essential oil restores coffee’s depressant effect on the nervous system, so I eat an orange with my homemade mochas. Sharing a steaming mug of this with my housemate gives me time to consider how I will use my day while gently brushing away the fog of sleep. Sure, it costs maybe a dollar or two to make this, but compared to $4 or $8 spent at a cafe for similar joys adds up faster. A few other examples such as hiking or snowshoeing take a little internal combustion but infuse our spirits for weeks afterward until we can get outdoors again. Taking a simple walk in the evening even makes a difference sometimes. Thrift store shopping can yield less expensive finds for gift exchanges and reduce the impact on our environment through reuse. Printing photographs for used frames is just one idea. Do this with a friend, and you give the gift of yourself. Your time and energy is valuable, infusing your companions with love and hope. Creating memories that last and sharing your non-material gifts of companionship and friendship are worth a lot more than a new toy in many ways, because like the wise one who said it so well pointed out, you can’t take your accumulations with you in the end. Many scientists are finding evidence that the human energy body continues beyond the physical life span in some way. Whether or not you believe in that notion, most of us can probably do with a little more good things to think on while waiting until the end of the work day and a little less stuff to fret over protecting.
This is not to say that Americans should boycott everything (just major banks and corporations responsible for human suffering and environmental destruction). Of course we buy supplies as part of our lives. But what are your wishes really about? Is material abundance attractive for its own sake or as a means to the end of happiness? If we all look beneath the desires we are constantly encouraged by our corporate media to indulge, we may find that community, fun, connecting, and adventure are the real motivations behind much of our holiday bustle. Perhaps we can consider ways we can move closer to those sensations and respond to the holicraze with more peaceful, unharried hearts.