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Gifting—Now and Then

5 Dec

Gifting is an art. With so many options available, gifting has not become easier, it has become more difficult. How can you make sure you get the right thing? Most of us have already so much, more things than we need. We have the means to go and buy ourselves that book by our favorite author, the sweater that feels so cozy, or a beautiful trinket for our house or garden. Where does that leave gifting? Here are some thoughts on the nature of gifting and how gifting has changed over time.

In the northern hemisphere the holiday season is a time of darkness and cold. For our ancestors the dark season was a time of rest, as the days were short and the cold didn’t allow for much work outside. It was also a time of gathering around the fire, keeping each other company and minimizing the use of resources such as wood for warmth and candles for light. It was a time of storytelling and handiwork (such as needlework, knitting, and carving), some of it creative, much of it utilitarian. Some of the handiwork would be for personal use, some intended as a gift for a dear one. The grandmother would knit socks to help keep the grandchildren warm. The granddaughter might adorn a simple napkin or apron with a stitched pattern and so add a touch of beauty to family life. The father or grandfather would carve a new bowl or make a toy to delight the kids. By the time of greatest darkness, when the festival of light, Hannukah or Christmas, came along, trinkets of appreciation were passed on. Families and friends shared what they could conjure up, showing that they cared.

Gifting needed preparation and work. It was a sign of devotion, an acknowledgement of connection and care to pour ones labor into a gift. Later on, when crafts, trades, and the first industries changed society and currency became more common, gifting became the art of knowing what someone wanted and accruing it for them. That might have included asking help of a cousin or a merchant who ordered an item that was not easily available locally. Books and fine fabrics were shipped long distances to bring joy. Gifting was still work and the one gifting usually received pleasure from the joy their gift engendered.

Somewhere in the last century, the West reached an unprecedented level of wealth while simultaneously having access to fast means of transportation and communication. Mass production dropped prices, and mass consumption was born. The result of this was that many material wishes could be made true for most Westerners much more readily then at any time before. And this had its affect on gifting. The threshold for acquiring things dropped so low, that buying gifts became a chore you take care of in one day of massive shopping. For a while gifting become an exchange of things nobody needed.

Today, most of us in the West are privileged to have not only our daily needs covered. Most of us have more material goods than we need or can easily store. We have the means to go and buy ourselves that book by our favorite author, that sweater that feels so cozy, or that beautiful trinket for our house or garden we were charmed by. What we have less of is time and leisure, a sense of belonging and of purpose. Our lives have become complicated and stressful. So, what do we do with that innate longing to show our appreciation through gifting? Here is a suggestion: give the gift of a creative experience this holiday season. Find a class that offers an easy approach to creativity (or self reflection) and get a gift certificate for it. Give a gift that creates an opportunity to slow down and create something, or to explore one’s self in a way most people usually don’t ever find time for. A collage workshops to set goals for the New Year makes for a great gift, and so does a coaching workshop that helps participants integrate and become clear on what matters. Even more creative is SoulCollage®—a way to explore one’s interior world. I have all these available as gift certificates at evaruland.com/gifts.html, helping you make wonderful, meaningful gifts that will not add to the landfill.

May your holidays be sweet, cheerful and bright!

© Eva Ruland, December 2015

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Winter Pleasures and the Psyche

2 Nov

In the few last days i have experienced a major shift. Even though we still have warm and sunny days, the grape vine plant and the apricot tree begin to lose their leaves. The days grow shorter and the evenings have become colder. And i follow suit, enjoying hot chocolate and a good book. I am reading In the Land of the Long White Cloud, by Sarah Lark. The book is an engrossing story about early settlers in New Zealand and focuses on the lives of two young British women who agree to marry strangers, in a country they have never seen, half across the globe. The two have different backgrounds and different motivations but as the story unfolds they cross paths and their stories intertwine. Big adventures unfold for each of the women, some in the wild of nature, most in the wild of human psyche and interpersonal relationships.

in the Land of the Long White Cloud

Why am i so fascinated with this book that i would mention it to you? It beautifully illustrates the complexity of life. The many story twists nurture my psyche. The part of me that likes a good adventure is engaged. The part of me that is curious about other cultures and other places is stimulated. The romantic in me suffers for the misfortunes the heroines have to endure, and cheers them on as they carve their ways to more independence from oppressive situations. I am glad for their moments of joy, and hold my breath when they have to endure yet another violent fit by a man who thinks he owns them. I admire their resilience. In a way you could say that i live through them vicariously as i am reading the book.

The same happens when i see a captivating movie. I immerse myself, resonate with a character or situation, and have a strong reaction against another character or situation. We all do this—it’s a built-in function of our psyche. It makes us respond emotionally, with compassion, with rejection, disgust, awe, joy. Most of this happens to us unconsciously. The art of growing into psychological maturity—that which Jung called individuation—is the art of becoming aware of our unconscious responses. The automatic responses do not go away, but as we become more aware of them we enter a new level of self-knowledge and we start to enjoy ourselves in a different way. We learn to step outside of ourselves and chuckle compassionately at ourselves as opposed to becoming all worked up by whatever triggers us. 

I have a practice that helps me to get in touch with the rich depth of my psyche on a regular basis: my SoulCollage® practice. The other day, in Midlife Alchemy, i had a bunch of my SoulCollage cards out for an exercise. One of the group participants remarked “You really seem to like your unconscious.” Yes, i do. My unconscious is the biggest part of who i am. I better like it! And i suggest that you begin to make friends with your unconscious too. You might have heard the model of the psyche mirrored by an iceberg: there is a relatively small top above water—that’s the conscious mind—and a huge foundation invisible under the water—the unconscious. This huge invisible part of the psychic is hidden from consciousness but is nevertheless very actively contributing to our daily lives. Our mood and our likes and dislikes all arise from the depths of the unconscious. 

I love the adventure of lifting some of these hidden psychic auto-pilot systems into the light of day. Reading novels with awareness for nuances and my responses to characters and story twists can do that, watching certain movies with that same awareness can do that, and practicing SoulCollage can do that too. How do you connect with your unconscious? Give it a try. Next time you watch a movie or read fiction pay attention to your reactions. Or come to SoulCollage® and learn how to let your soul speak by tuning into the unconscious when you choose images for your collages. It’s fascinating way to delve into the greater Self.