It’s in full gear — the ritual of frenzied shopping for gifts. The norm is to give things, material doo-dads. When I think of what I would most like to receive for Christmas, the so-called perfect gift, it would have to be Christmas presence.
The term Christmas presence just popped into my head, a gift from the universe.
It’s looking into someone’s eyes and knowing that person is fully present with me, open and welcoming from the heart. It’s that person just being there, fully engaged, all systems present. I could get all jargony and talk about mindfulness and whatnot, but it boils down to this: someone being fully tuned in with me is the epitome of special.
On so many occasions and in so many ways, people seem to act out parts in some grand stage play of life. It happens to me. I perform my expected roles and say my expected lines, often on auto-pilot. I was raised to be nice, polite, supportive, and to conform to the social graces despite my quirky outlook on life. I was also conditioned to be be shy, self-effacing, approval-seeking, insecure, and often too serious despite my highly developed sense of humor.
I have a deep abiding love for intimacy in all of its forms (intimacy being “a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group.”) I love breaking down the fear barriers that keep people separate and distant from each other. The rare gift of presence lets people momentarily merge in a shared experience.
FOLLOW THE SYMBOLS
The term Christmas presence has great depth if you care to take it down your own trail of symbolism. Literally it might come out as “the birth of the Christ essence within our shared presence.” How you define that would of course depend on what the term Christ means to you. My version of Christ may not agree with yours (and yet to be Christlike, there is room for all variations.)
It delights me to look into someone’s eyes and see the Christ light shining in them. To me the light of Christ is the light of love, the human potential for love that Christ on Earth manifested. People who’ve had mystical experiences often encounter the blessing of beings of light who shine unconditional love upon them. I like imagining how Jesus or angels would hug — with or without physical contact — which, incidentally, is where the term soul embraces came from.
Can you think of times when a stranger gave you full presence? It may have been very brief, a welcome into his or her space without the normal social masks and barricades in place. It might show up as a friendly smile from across a room or a brief exchange of universal love. It might be someone who is not afraid of beaming love out. You know it when it happens. It’s a blast of divine goodness!
It’s also increasingly more rare. I have noticed during my walks around town that more than ever people are less open to even looking at each other as they pass. I could go off on a pity party about the decline of friendliness. Who stole my town when I wasn’t looking? I choose instead to savor as even more special those times when actual connection occurs.
Christmas presence is free to give and is invaluable to receive. It can happen anytime and anywhere. You can even give Christmas presence in July.
FEELINGS NOT THINGS
Some people are very plugged in to materialism. They like their cool stuff, their shiny new gifts. While I am not immune to the lure of material delights, the most meaningful and satisfying gifts to come my way were experiences more than things.
We are taught that giving the “perfect” material gift will make someone feel good. So, ironically, the intended aim of a thing gift is to provide a good feeling.
The drug cartel of commercialism has convinced us that real gifts cost money, and plenty of it, whereas not spending money on someone is shameful proof of a broken, loveless person. Some people have become so enslaved by this materialistic ethic that they either suffer greatly if and when they cannot afford to dole out great presents or they feel unloved if they do not receive the Taj Mahal in their Christmas stocking. Meanwhile, the insanity displayed in the Black Friday shoving and pushing ritual speaks for itself.
When I look at the best gifts that I have received, the ones at the top of my list featured intimacy and presence. Many times they were unplanned and spontaneous gifts. It might be the time someone stopped to listen to me when I was in deep pain. It might be the sizzling creative chemistry during a hot roll of wit or inspiration, as in “We’re on a roll now.” It might be an exquisitely timed hug or kiss that transported my mood from angst to bliss, from worry to wonder.
For my money — a little pun there — the gifts I treasured most were gems of consciousness and companionship. They sustained me the most with emotional nutrients. They gave me the best memories. Sometimes in the big picture the gifts were very small, like a welcoming smile from a passing stranger or a juicy slice of rhetorical pie during a spontaneous verbal exchange, but they’ve had a remarkable shelf life in my world.
A NEW GIFT PARADIGM
In the gift-giving frenzy of our holidays, perhaps it’s worth asking what kind of gift could someone give you that you would love? What priceless (and costless) gift would you like to receive? It may be easier to think first about what you would enjoy receiving, since you can tell by your emotional response what you’d be grateful for and how meaningful it would be. Then perhaps you can more deeply feel the essence of what you would like to give.
I recently read These Few Precious Days about the relationship between Jack and Jackie Kennedy. The book included descriptions of the lavish gifts that Jack and Jackie gave each other, each gift priced more than my annual income. And yet there were valuable “no cost” gifts Jackie yearned for yet learned not to ever expect from her husband, such as romantic hand-holding or kissing.
Commercialism hides how we all want most to feel loved. Many institutions inhibit us from freely displaying love or asking for love without guilt or shame, so we buy things instead. Again, this is not to say that all material gift-giving is wrong. I am making a call to honor gifts of love where we give of ourselves … listening attentively, sharing at depth, making smiles, showing gratitude, being affectionate in special ways, deep play with no distractions — and Christmas presence.
What gifts that you can’t buy in a store would you like to receive?