Thursday, December 24, 2009
Putting aside obligation, which changes the pleasure of everything, giving can be one of our most pleasurable experiences. Since the brain produces endorphins to reinforce behavior that’s good for our growth, the fact that endorphins are produced for giving underscores the importance of relationships that weave us into the fabric of humanity. It feels good to help others whether it’s giving a gift, or helping clear the snow off a car or even simply taking an interest in what they have to tell us. The pleasure is a message about our interconnectedness. Social isolation is a serious risk factor contributing to illness. Contributing to the good of the larger whole is good for us as well. Edgar Cayce used to say something to the effect that all of life is the body of god. Contributing to the well being of any part expresses our connection to the creative life force that links us all.
Showing appreciation for others fosters the health of the whole. Making a gift is a way of offering a symbol of the attention given to that person and ultimately attention is love. In whatever form it takes, attention is the greatest gift we have to offer. People feel seen and connected just through the act of response to them. It also liberates us from the competitive materialism that stains the holidays. (Negative attention is not really attention to the other but a projection of the mind from which it arises.)
When I had fewer relatives than I do now, I used to make each one a personal gift. Everything about the process was pleasurable, the time reflecting on the relationship, the particular person’s interests, the ongoing consciousness of giving from inception to completion of the gift and even the building of my skills and capacities. In the act of giving, the holiday itself is more alive with the awareness of offering something of myself rather than the mass-produced purchases that never seem personal.
Now with so many people in my life, though I make a few personal presents, each year I do bookmarks, drawings invented out of that year’s moods, that can be reproduced and laminated, and given to everyone. I get special pleasure out of bestowing them on people who would least expect it, who affected my life in some positive way even though I might not know them very well. It’s clear that I expect nothing in return, that it’s not a trade of presents, but an act of appreciation.
The fact that people have been reading what I’ve written here has been a tremendous encouragement. The motivation for writing this blog arises from the feeling that I may be able to offer some thoughts and a way of looking at things that could be helpful to others. So, to express my gratitude, this year one of my bookmarks is being offered to you, to print and laminate (I use clear contact paper on both sides) as thanks for your encouragement of my project.