Mindful Holiday Shopping

Before you join the throngs of desperate shoppers in the coming month, pause and consider what all the frenzy is really about. Who are you really serving in your attempts to find the perfect gifts? Are you being mindful of what the spirit of the season is truly about? Mindfulness means being aware of the present moment. How perfect that as we shop for “presents” we become more present with ourselves and our intentions.

Here are some things to think about that may help your holiday shopping be more of a mindful experience. First, is the gift you are buying a reflection of you? Part of the reason I love homemade gifts is that they are genuinely a reflection of the gift giver. You know the person took the time, energy, and love to craft a gift just for you. Does the gift support a greater good? Now, my intention here is not to bash any particular toy or gift, but do you know where the product was made? Do you know if it required precious natural resources to develop or if during the production process, harmful chemicals were released into the environment? Do you know if children were made to work long hours in order to bring this product into the hands of your child?

One of the best gifts I ever received came in the form of a letter from my mother. In the letter, my mother described the dire circumstances of a particular family she knew of. They didn’t have enough money to buy a Christmas tree, let alone gifts to put under it. So Mom took action by gifting that family with some money – money that she could have spent buying us something that we likely didn’t need. She described the family members and how they would be receiving the gift in our name. We have since made charitable giving a big part of our “gift exchange.” When you are blessed to have enough, it feels so good to give to those who don’t. How about making a gift to the local food bank in lieu of sending your relative something that may end up forgotten on the top of some shelf?

There are many service organizations, churches, animal rescue, women and children's shelters that would love to receive a gift in the name of your loved one. Most of them will usually offer to send a beautiful note of thanks for acknowledging your gift. One of my favorite non-profits for gift shopping: Her Future Coalition. Also I love Kiva, which offers microloans to individuals all over the world. 

Here are some other simple tips to keep in mind for a mindful holiday season:

- Bring your own bags - enough said. I know you have them. Put them in your car and avoid taking on any excess plastic or paper bags.

- Shop local. This is actually huge. You put money into your local economy. Perhaps you support a family-run business. You avoid excess packing materials.

- Get creative with wrapping and use "upcycled" materials. Saved gift bags, repurposed paper bags, butcher paper, newspaper, recycled ribbon, yarn, scrap fabric - all make fun wrapping!

- Consider homemade gifts: granola, bath salts, face scrubs, herbal teas, aromatherapy mist, bread loafs, art projects - all make wonderful and thoughtful gifts.

Take a moment before you enter any store or the mall and really center yourself. Be clear on your intentions. Avoid buying anything just for the sake of not arriving empty-handed. Enjoy the process and consider the bigger picture.

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