I grew up loving the holidays. Not just because I was born on December 27th (which has its positives and negatives), but also because Christmas was pretty big with my family (it's still "big" to us, but physically, it's smaller...if that makes sense.).
Growing up, we had Christmas Eve at my Grandma's house. Gifts would be stacked under and around the tree, the smell of good food and hot chocolate would fill the air, and what little family I had would all be together under one roof.
On Christmas morning, my brother and I would wake up in our beds at home and immediately run out to see all the presents under the tree. Now at the point of freaking out, we'd run into my Mom's room full-blitz:
"Mommy, WAKE UP!! (beady eyes)"
After a few minutes, she'd get up, and we'd go running out to open presents (all labelled "From: Santa", of course).
Every year, all the way up until I was somewhere around 12ish, Christmas was like this. I'd make a "wish list" for Santa, give it to my Mom, to give to Santa of course, and hope I got everything on my list. Some years I would, some years I wouldn't, but my brother and I always got a lot of cool stuff.
Then, as I got into my teens, something happened- Christmas started to "slow down". By that I mean two things: money became tighter and my brother and I stopped wanting a truckload of stuff.
I still remember the first year I had a hard time thinking of things that I wanted. For whatever reason, Christmas was losing its luster and I no longer desired mounds of new physical possessions anymore either. It took a few years before Christmas would begin to gain back the luster it once had in my mind as a child.
I remember the feeling down to a specific moment. I remember being outside- smelling the pine trees, feeling the freshness of the cold air, and sensing the happy moods of the people around me- and just feeling really good.
Looking back, I don't remember when exactly that was, but it was the year that Christmas took on a different meaning for me. It was the year I realized that happiness didn't exist in physical possessions.
I'm not saying I'm opposed to buying things for people by any means, I simply believe there's a happy medium. We just have to be more conscious.
It might take a little more work, but getting creative for the holidays can make for a much more positive and nourishing holiday season than one in which you just go out and buy the latest toys and gadgets for everyone.
The Mindful Holiday Gift Guide
Below is a list of 10 great holiday gift ideas. But these aren't just any gift ideas, the mindful holiday gift guide is about gift ideas that are more mindful than the traditional holiday gifts, the types of gifts that can contribute positively in some way to the giftee's life.
From the gift of meditation to reminding them during a season filled with buying, buying, buying, and me, me, me that they don't need anything to be happy, these great gift ideas go beyond the commercial aspect of the holidays to a deeper and more meaningful holiday season.
You can use one of the gift ideas I've listed below, or you can come up with your own. The only thing that matters is that it's a mindful gift.
That is, mindful of other people and things (it benefits the giftee but doesn't harm the rest of the world), it contributes positively to the giftee's life by conveying or teaching some important point, reminding them of something, or seeking to empower them, and it's a gift that is given being mindful of the fact that adding more physical possessions doesn't necessarily positively affect our life.
A few tips for an overall better gift giving experience this season:
- Think creative, not $$$. When thinking about what to get someone, think more creatively than monetarily. Most gifts will cost something, but you don't have to spend $100+ to get someone a great gift. Most of the gift ideas on the list below are either free or just a few dollars and, to me, they're some of the greatest gifts a person can give for the holidays.
- Think of what the person could really use. I don't mean get them that George Foreman Grill they've been wanting. What I mean is, think about the struggles they might be having or any obstacles they might be facing. Is there something you can do or something you can give to help alleviate their suffering? Maybe they're just getting out of a rough stage in their life and they need something to start sending their life in the other direction (up). Whatever it is, think about and consider gifts that will nourish that friend or family members mind and body instead of just adding more clutter.
10 Great Holiday Gift Ideas
1. The holidays
This might sound funny, but one of the greatest gifts you can give someone during the holiday season, is the holidays itself.
The smell of pine trees in the air, snow in the mountains, happier moods all around, and lots of fun activities. Making sure that others enjoy the holiday season, and really just being together, is a great gift especially for someone who hasn't ever experienced that before.
Not everyone grew up with good holiday memories, so showing them the joy of the holidays this year can change their outlook and raise their spirits every holiday on for the rest of their lives.
But I don't mean showing them the commercial side of it, although you're bound to be around it to some degree no matter how hard you try to get away, I mean enjoying things like ice skating, the snow, decorating a Christmas tree, listening to Christmas music, and enjoying the presence of other friends and family.
Show them what the holidays can be: a time for people to come together in peace, harmony, and celebration.
2. The Nothing
The site description for "The Nothing" reads:
NOTHING reminds you to enjoy everything you already have.
And when you proceed to add it to your cart it says:
Where would you like to receive NOTHING?
I love this as a holiday gift. Heck, as a gift for any time of year. The point of the nothing is, as their site description says, is to remind you that you don't need anything.
Buying things or receiving gifts isn't going to make you happy, fulfilled, at peace, or "whole". You already have everything you need within you. A gift that reminds others of this fact is the perfect gift to give during the holiday season.
You can get "The Nothing" here.
3. A personal introduction to meditation
If you meditate regularly, even if you just started meditating this year, then a great gift idea is a simple and personal introduction to meditation.
You can schedule a time to have a friend over, maybe print out The Ultimate Guide to Meditation or send them The Little Book of Mindfulness via email (when the PDF opens up in your browser, just hit "save" and feel free to send away or share it via the share buttons on the book page you're redirected to), go over the major points with them in person and have a short group meditation session one or more times.
This is one of my favorite gifts on this list, I think it's a great gift idea with a very personal touch.
4. A meditation retreat
This is a little more than "something small", and by no means necessary to introduce someone to the benefits of meditation. But, it can be a great gift both for someone new to meditation and someone with prior experience. If you're looking to really go all the way for someone this year, this could be a great gift.
I don't have any specific recommendations for retreats or groups because it really all depends on where you live. But, retreats are held in hundreds of locations all around the world for various forms of (mostly Buddhist) meditation, so a quick Google search "meditation retreats [location]" is typically your best bet.
5. Personalized scrapbook / calendar / etc.
My wife and I did a personalized calendar with family pictures one year for a few family members and they turned out great. To this day they still have them up on their walls. There's a lot of websites out there that do services like that now such as Shutterfly and VistaPrint, so you've got your pick (I believe we used Shutterfly for the calendars and we loved the service).
6. Custom Art
A drawing, painting, poem, or a collection of photos can be a great gift. You can do a lot of cool things with personal art, most notably mixing more than one art form. You can take photos, load those photos onto your computer, and then add text and countless effects to them from a design program like Canva, which is a completely free service (my absolute favorite for all my images/designing for Buddhaimonia).
You can draw a picture with a poem inside the drawing itself or alongside it that describes the deeper meaning of it (doesn't have to be anything complicated). You could also just write a short story for a friend about an old memory you have with them, describing the various positive emotions, feelings, and classic moments of the memory while telling the story.
I did a few custom calligraphy drawings for gifts last year that turned out great. Each is a different Zen calligraphy drawing of a Zen "enso" (like the one pictured above, which I drew and use as the site's background image), essentially a circle drawn in a single brush stroke with single-pointedness of mind which symbolizes enlightenment, emptiness, fullness, or the interbeing of life itself.
Each drawing had a unique saying within the enso like, "Write with your whole life.", or, "Shine the light of mindfulness." The fact that you can put a custom message on a custom art piece like this is the main reason I like the idea of giving one as a gift. It's not just something nice to look at aesthetically, it can actually transfer a powerful message (whether through words, symbols, or memories).
I drew the pieces on real canvas, some 20" tall by 12" wide. I don't know if you have a Michael's near you, or a store like it, but it's the perfect store to go to get supplies for a custom art gift.
7. Plan a small trip into nature
This doesn't have to be anything crazy. If you're a hiker, you can take the person hiking on a beautiful trail. If you want to take them to see nature in a less intensive situation you could take them to a garden or a national park.
This is a great way to spend some quality time with the person, and a trip into an expansive natural area such as this can be very nourishing, highly enjoyable, and a great opportunity for bonding and strengthening a relationship.
8. Donate your skills or services
Have a skill or expertise that someone you know can use? Donating your services to them is a great "free" gift idea. It might not actually be free because it takes your time and potentially resources, but it's a whole lot easier to do than buying something outright.
I'd only go with this one if the person can genuinely use your services, which might be rare depending on what you do for a living, but it's a creative option that can work as a nice gift idea in certain cases.
9. A great book
Most of us have a book, many of us more than one, that had a significant impact on our lives. I think this is a really great gift idea, definitely one of my favorites on this list. What better gift to give than the gift of a book that's had a positive impact on your life?
Personally, being an avid reader, I have a lot of books like that. Two of those books for me have been Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind and The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation.
I can think of few gifts as powerful as the gift of mindfulness. That is, introducing others to the practice of mindfulness.
10. Your love and presence
Giving someone your love and undivided attention this holiday season is the greatest gift you could ever give them. This holiday season, practice being fully present for your loved ones.
When out with family or friends, give your full presence to them. Put your phone down, clear your mind, and remove distractions this season. Show your loved ones how much you love and appreciate them.
They're more than enough to be grateful for this holiday season.