This post explores my rejection of ‘material’ gifts in favour of being more present and available for my loved ones. 

Saying no was my way of focusing, on what mattered, and it paid off this past Christmas. In place of presents, I chose to be truly present with and on behalf of, my family.

Back in 2016, my family didn’t quite understand why I came home from India saying no to presents, for me or for them: I donated what I would have spent on them to UNICEF. Lead balloon…I used to give great gifts.

I was in search of the same joyful smile of the young boy in the village outside the ashram in Kerala that I had just left. When that boy smiled it was unconditional. It wasn’t informed by how many toys he had, or how much food he had available. Home was a modest hut, and he may or may not have had any toys. There was a purity about that smile that I wanted to experience for myself.

The end of the year (Christmas or the ‘holidays’) brings the possibility of reflection, light, and together-ness. My Christmases used to be this too, but it had a darker side.

The ‘joy’ was abundant – excess of food, booze, and general sloth-like behaviour. I love my family so much – but I would often find myself triggered and unable to cope with the pressure. With my coping mechanism – intoxication – came comfort, or so I thought.

Despite knowing how much love there is in my family, that feeling of tension would arise in my chest at that ‘wrong’ comment, or some ‘unacceptable’ thing that someone else did ‘to’ me. In the past this tension made me reach for the nearest drink, as I couldn’t understand or cope with it. 

Now I’ve made a choice to sit with this tension, leveraging from the clarity that sobriety offers, rather than bury it. I’ve chosen to study this discomfort in detail. I’ve probed it, tested it, and chosen to love it, rather than reject it. It has been painful, to sit with that pain.

By learning to love this core wounding, I’ve chosen to offer myself space between the niggling comments of others and observe the energy that comes before a response. In place of judgment came perception. In place of reaction, comes response. Once a vacuum, now a vast, breath-filled space. I’ve learned to trust that all I need is always there, in every moment.

My dear sister and I were presented with a somewhat barbed disagreement, that had the potential to become an explosion that had become our signature. This miniature eruption between us had the potential for disaster and family breakdown.

Instead, we managed to carry it forward with dialogue and collective sharing into an entirely deep and humbling understanding. I CHOSE to take on her perspective, and see it from where she was standing, and accept HER truth. And from there, she was endlessly, wildly, wonderfully – right.

In place of barbed words and hurt feelings came expansiveness, ending in a hug of a quality that I don’t recall experiencing with my sister before. That was an unforeseen gift that I would choose one hundred times over anything you can wrap in paper. Our family Christmas didn’t lack, or have too much. It was just the right blend. 

I doubted myself constantly, back in 2016 when I started confronting my ‘self’. But if the quality of this Christmas was anything to go by, there can be no questioning. Are there still challenges? Absolutely. But by remaining in the moment, I know I have the tools and resources to be truly present with another human being, and take on their perspective, without making it personal. 

Has the giving of ‘presents’ become so deeply imbued in the tradition of Christmas that the event is rendered incomplete without them? I wouldn’t be the first person to question if we have lost sight of the essence, or what is essential, about this time of year.

So, over to you…

What can you surrender in service of depth and quality – both outside of yourself, and inside?

How are you relating with your world, community, friends, family? 

How are you relating with your self?

With all the gratitude in the world,
Nathan

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