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Finding the Holiday Spirit
I find it slightly ironic how quickly a season that is meant to be about peace, love and gratefulness finds its way to the other end of the emotional spectrum, rife with stress, anger toward your neighbor (specifically the one who swiped the last cable-knit cashmere cardigan you'd been eyeing for your sister) and a constant feeling of inadequacy and unpreparedness.
The holiday season started out as a time to celebrate holy days, the focus on religion being primary. These days, religion is more often appropriated as a means of selling us something.
What should be an opportunity to reflect on our growth as human beings, our connection with one another and our affection for a higher good is derailed by holiday parties, competitive gift giving and general materially minded madness. But is there a way to refocus our energies? Can we rediscover spirituality in these last few weeks of secular celebration?
For me, "spiritual" simply means interior, something we experience within ourselves as a reflection of external experiences. We are evolving spiritually when we exhibit internal growth and change as a direct result of how we perceive the world and our place in it. Most crucially, spirituality is not always about structured religion or God, at least not directly. In our everyday lives, an opportunity for spiritual growth exists in every social interaction.
The easiest way I can see to demonstrate how we struggle to see the forest for the trees is the tradition of giving presents. I have been tempted on more than a few occasions to judge the caliber of my relationships by how much I like or dislike a gift. After all, if she really knew me, she would know I hate the color orange. If he had listened at all, he would know I already owned "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (not that you can really ever have too many copies).
This, of course, is ridiculous. True, the psychology behind selecting a present gives us an opportunity not only to consider our important relationships and why we maintain them but also to think about the recipient's likes and needs. It's a crucial bonding activity, but that is not to say that everyone is very good at it.
This material thing cannot possibly contain all the complexities of a human relationship with its giver, yet we always try to read into how well the chosen object can approximate this. This is the sort of thought process that drives us insane and makes us unhappy.
Ultimately, a gift is just that: an object given to you, whether you like it or not. It should not add or detract in any way from the emotional content of the human relationship from which it stems.
Focus on your thoughts as a gift recipient. Ideally, you want to accept a gift and be able to appreciate the thought and effort that went into its procurement, feel affection for its bearer and be grateful for the relationship that it acknowledges. If the scarf your aunt Mildred knit for you is itchy and a hideous pus green, chances are you don't ever have to wear it. Heck, it can go straight out the door to someone who might love it.
But when you receive it, let the feelings you generate come from your higher self, not your lower, materialistic self, which is full of doubt and insecurity. Your higher self never would ask these questions: "What does this gift mean? Does Aunt Mildred hate me? Why else would she give me such a gross scarf?" Your higher self would recognize gratitude not necessarily for the item, but for the relationship it came from. This sort of spiritual awakening is the true holiday spirit.
Daphne Oz is a co-host of ABC's "The Chew." To find out more about Daphne Oz and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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