Because of the holidays, I have been thinking recently about the act of gift giving and what we look for when considering a gift and what we hope for when receiving one. When searching for ideas, I often think of these questions: who is this person, what do they like, what is their taste and style, what would be useful for them, what would make them feel appreciated, loved or seen? To give in a truly thoughtful and personal way we usually need some knowledge of the receiver's preferences and how they define themselves, hence their projected identity. Similarly, when the exchange is reversed and we're tearing open that carefully wrapped box and anticipating the exciting moment of opening it, revealing its contents, I think we want a present that makes us feel understood or reflects our needs or tastes.
I also think that the holiday's can get mired in the culture of consumerism, and that we simply crave getting more stuff to add to our collection of existing stuff. We place a lot of importance on outward symbols of identity and our attachment to objects and things that we believe communicate who we are. But just like a hair style or outfit can only communicate who we are to a limited degree - that is, how we like to appear to others - a product that was self-bought or gifted will only ever tell the story of material identity that exists on the surface in the physical plane. We are so much more than this.
When we have a true collapse of our inner reality, the importance of that outer material stuff falls away. This reminds me of something I just read last night. While visiting family I found a copy of Suzanne Somers' new book about alternative cancer treatments and out of curiosity began reading it. Regardless of her controversial views about health and medicine and the star power she uses to promote them, I found the sections I read to be intelligent and compelling. In the chapter where she recounts her experience of being misdiagnosed with terminal full-body cancer and how it triggered a complete confrontation with her life and mortality, she writes that she had a moment of crystal clear clarity about what truly matters for and in each of us. "It's not who you are, it's not what you have, it's not where you live, it's not what you do, it's only, only about who you love, and who loves you. And the more you love, the better!" Yes, yes, and yes.
So to circle back to the beginning of this post, underneath the act of giving and receiving, as emphasized during the holidays, is the importance of relating to each other, including ourselves. Loving and relating to our self in an honest and pure and compassionate way is more important than our style or career or station in life or possessions. Likewise, our ability to connect and share with each other in an authentic and loving way trumps material gifting. And when you're faced with the collapse of your trusted reality (like your health) or identity, the only thing that truly matters is the love you have for yourself and others.