Every month, every year. Day after day, week after week. Come occasions and events, big or small, or festivals celebrated across the planet. Irrespective of what the festival is about and where it originates or which religion celebrates it, all festivals mark the commemoration and celebration of something. For years, festivals were just that for me. A celebration where we got new things and a time when there was more excitement, joy, enthusiasm, love, kindness and compassion in our lives.
Frankly speaking, I wasn’t totally aware of the latter. Certain time of the year came and we just brought all the accompaniments with that time. And since I wasn’t really aware of it, I never intentionally practiced it. I only looked forward to such occasions because they brought along with them the happiness that comes with buying and receiving new things. And the way we practiced it in my family and social circles, was similar, with the focus on exchange and at times even on certain rituals like visiting a temple or conducting a pooja.
Christmas, New Year and other festivals and occasions are again huddled up together in this month as they have been from time immemorial. So you are constantly surrounded by some or the other form of expression of the related festivities- be it on the road or online through shares and posts on Social Networks. This time, a post on Facebook about festivities and gifting, brought to the surface a thought which has over the past few years taken root within me.
..appreciate simple and ordinary things and recognize their extraordinary-ness.
The post by a friend of mine pointed out how gifts have become the source of joy and a fuel for competition that promotes this unhealthy cycle of depending on gifts. The current practices as encouraged by parents (usually influenced by the latest fancy cool thing being promoted out there) wrongly reinforce the idea that the importance of festival is gifting – be it buying something new for yourself or others.
So there is a mix up in not only the understanding of the real meaning of these festivals but also, consequentially, in the message taught to the young impressionable children who begin learning these ideas that gifts are the main focus of festivals and getting more expensive gifts and better gifts each time, especially in comparison to others, is what makes us happy.
And since there are plenty such occasions peppered throughout the year in which we all eagerly participate, it only reinforces this notion that getting more and better things for ourselves is what we should focus on and strive for and this is what brings happiness and fulfillment.
What I have come to understand and learn about festivals and their underlying messages is that they always point to the celebration of something precious and important. Irrespective of which festival it is or where it comes from (whichever part of the world or whichever religion), they highlight one common trait, celebrating and reviving the human spirit and fostering the practices that help us grow and bring us together. Yes, there is gifting, bursting firecrackers and other things. But they never were or have been an integral part of festivals.
I think these inner gifts are always there with us, but we do not pay attention to them as we aren’t taught to.
The current globalized, interconnected, progress and competition driven environment does tend to misrepresent this idea. Obviously, it is beneficial to the industry and businesses and yes, gifts depending on what they are and how they are used do add value to our lives, but that should not take away our focus from what really adds value to our lives. Gifts, I think, shouldn’t even be secondary, it is absolutely okay to even push them into the tertiary category in our list of priorities.
What is primary and will always be primary is what we bring into our lives (the intangibles) and how we can learn to celebrate each day and appreciate simple and ordinary things and recognize their extraordinary-ness.
I think amidst all this excitement and noise that is what’s being completely ignored isn’t it? Our most powerful gifts, ourselves, our abilities and our immense capacities. We need to bring this out in the world, consistently, each and every day irrespective of whether there is a festival or a holiday. I think once we start doing this and begin to experience the resulting change, we can get a clearer picture of what truly matters to us.
Rest all I think are just conditions which are not entirely essential, good to have, but they don’t make us or break us.
So I think that is the most important gift of this season. Recognizing the gifts that we have with us, and putting them to good use. And yes, obviously this should be practiced during each festival, celebration, occasion, in fact, each day. And, I could even blog about it every day but I am writing this only now because I have started practicing this only recently. And my life could not have been better even when I look back and compare it to those several years where every gift on my wishlist lied in front of me, waiting to be unwrapped.
Living this way is in itself a reward, one that cannot be matched by any gift in the world.
I think these inner gifts are always there with us, but we do not pay attention to them as we aren’t taught to. Instead, we are persistently pushed to focus in the outwards direction – what we have, what we own, what we can acquire more. I chased after a lot of things, inessentials and unnecessary ones, spent a lot of time, money and effort behind them. But eventually, you have to get out of the rut.
So I began to search and identify what was really missing and what I really required and was chasing. And I learned about my hidden gifts over time which I have now finally started unwrapping. I only had to realize that they were always there in front of me, rather, in me and with me. And it took so long for me to come to this realization because, these gifts were lying ignored, not receiving my attention, and getting drowned beneath every other gift that I piled on top of them. I have learned to identify what is important, and that is something I will be celebrating again this season. The only challenge which remains is, whether I can consistently prioritize my gifts over the other promised gifts. And whether I use them in the right way and for the right purpose.
We could call this spiritual gifting. A gift we always deserved but we never got because we assumed that the giver would be someone else and we – the true giver – remained idle watching and waiting. I have been seriously taking this to heart and bringing these ideas in every aspect of my life, my work (writing, blogging, web designing), my relationships. And since I am only an infant who is new to these forgotten ways, I waver a little, I stumble here and there, but I progress not as consistently as I can, but with great conviction. And yes I have seen the effects of practicing such spiritual gifting in my relationships with others and with me. I could make a list of all the good things you receive, experience and learn to give once you live this way. But that’s for another day. And I genuinely don’t think the benefits or the rewards should be the motivation for such a way of life. Living this way is in itself a reward, one that cannot be matched by any gift in the world.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year