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The Challenge of Gift-Giving

--by Nitin Paranjape (Nov 26, 2012)


I am afflicted with a trait which I suppose is common, yet I feel peculiar. Even though I like receiving gifts, I find myself feeling awkward giving them. I suppose at the core is an assumption that the process of gift-giving will raise good feelings about me in the receiver's heart and mind. I tried to evaluate this reason and found that there may be some shades of truth in it, but it is not so straight and simple.

Giving involves thinking about the other person, understanding their universe and their wishes. It shifts our focus from 'us' to 'them', and as it does, it unwittingly bridges the gap between the two with naturalness and warmth. Gifting is that precious means by which entry into other's soul is possible.
 
But in today's consumer-driven life, gifts too have become 'plastic-coated'; we have become dependent on the market to fulfil our wish of giving. And the wide range of available products dazzles us to temporarily forget the reasons for giving. The focus shifts to the product rather than the person.  In the end, the receiver is inundated with "gifts," which have no relation to his/her needs at that moment. The market has also unconsciously slipped in the notion of "price tag." The value of how much it costs has replaced the value of feelings associated with the act of giving. A costly tag means the gift is valuable. I have had both kinds of experiences -- receiving gifts which do not mean anything and choosing ones to complete the formality.
 
In the face of this artificiality, my family and the organisations that I was working with tried something different. We decided to make things with our own hands instead of buying them from the market. This made a lot of difference. The act of creating immediately connects us to our inner world and, at the same time, links us to whom we are making the gift for. Creating something with our own hands requires time, which challenges the market's desire to make us passive consumers. Though my output wasn't a grand
design, it involved my complete attention, and I reckoned it would please the receiver, a colleague in the office. It definitely did, and I felt elated.
 
--Nitin Paranjape


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On Feb 23, 2013 mohna wrote:
 I totally agree. I too have started "making" gifts with my own hands, and find great pleasure in giving...I am sure those who receive my hand-made gifts love them too ;-)

On Nov 29, 2012 beth tilley wrote:

 I live in rural upstate New York and it has always been my forte to give homemade gifts or a gift with meaning.  For me it isn't a gift unless it is meaningful, which sometimes leaves me thinking a long time.  You have to really know the person in order to give a gift that is heartfelt, which is why sometimes it is so hard.  I find myself feeling obligated to give everyone I know something.  It is so overwhelming that I have to admit wishing that we abolish Christmas. In years past I painted a sweatshirt with a picture of the Grinch for my father... He loved it.  I also made him a stain glass of the New York State Conservation emblem, which he was an officer for 25+years.  When my boys were little and were completely enthralled with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles we made a "sewer city" of PVC pipes on a 4'x4' piece of plywood.  I have been a licensed massage therapist for the past eight years and  I have begun giving a g  See full.

 I live in rural upstate New York and it has always been my forte to give homemade gifts or a gift with meaning.  For me it isn't a gift unless it is meaningful, which sometimes leaves me thinking a long time.  You have to really know the person in order to give a gift that is heartfelt, which is why sometimes it is so hard.  I find myself feeling obligated to give everyone I know something.  It is so overwhelming that I have to admit wishing that we abolish Christmas.
In years past I painted a sweatshirt with a picture of the Grinch for my father... He loved it.  I also made him a stain glass of the New York State Conservation emblem, which he was an officer for 25+years.  When my boys were little and were completely enthralled with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles we made a "sewer city" of PVC pipes on a 4'x4' piece of plywood. 
I have been a licensed massage therapist for the past eight years and  I have begun giving a gift to my monthly, loyal patrons.  Twice I have sewn  microwave able neck warmers, given homemade soap, purchased from a local musician his soothing guitar CD, and this year, although not made by me, I am giving a canvas tote bag with my logo, "massage for the health of it" and the favorite mint candy I have in my office.
It is,however, harder and harder for the ideas to come.  I am not sure if it is because of so many consumer products we are faced with throughout this time of year.   I find that my mood and desire for the holiday is less than festive because of the pressure of gift giving.  It's just too much.
This year, however, I feel festive.  It is because I have found the most precious gifts for my loved ones.  Gifts that are personal  things I remembered hearing them mention and remembered.  My heart if full at least one more year with joy for the meaning of Christmas because I have touched on the act of giving with love and meaning once again.
Beth Tilley

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On Nov 29, 2012 Narendra wrote:

 How do you relate to the notion of ready-made gifts leading us to "forget the reasons for giving?" I agree with the author that gift giving is commercialized. It shifts our spiritual emotions to material emotions. Even from a young age, we learn to evaluate our emotion through a price tag. The material exchange as a ‘transaction’ can bring a “closure” to emotional exchange. On the other hand, if the gift is an expression of love, such as creating a unique object with our own hands, as an expression of sharing our life/time, the gift is ‘energized’ by our love and it can be a reminder of never ending flow of love. Time and action can create a depth of emotion. How do you stay mindful of your reasons for giving?  We do not need a reason for giving.   Life and happiness are a collective flow of give and take. After our first responsibility to be independent and not be a burden to any one, all thoughts and actions should be  See full.

 How do you relate to the notion of ready-made gifts leading us to "forget the reasons for giving?" I agree with the author that gift giving is commercialized. It shifts our spiritual emotions to material emotions. Even from a young age, we learn to evaluate our emotion through a price tag. The material exchange as a ‘transaction’ can bring a “closure” to emotional exchange. On the other hand, if the gift is an expression of love, such as creating a unique object with our own hands, as an expression of sharing our life/time, the gift is ‘energized’ by our love and it can be a reminder of never ending flow of love. Time and action can create a depth of emotion. How do you stay mindful of your reasons for giving?  We do not need a reason for giving.   Life and happiness are a collective flow of give and take. After our first responsibility to be independent and not be a burden to any one, all thoughts and actions should be to enhance our environment through individual and collective effort, and sharing. Life itself is divided in to four stages of giving, as Ashrama dharma: 1) Learning to be a productive member of the community 2) Being a contributor through family and friends 3) Being of full time service to the community and 4) Not being a burden on the community. Can you share a personal story of a gift that you chose to make with your own hands?  Of the various things I have experimented with, in my life. The one I am most comfortable with has been an understanding of myself from a global and universal perspective, and promoting such global/universal perception. This has significantly satisfied my need for creative insight and “meaningfulness” in life. “Meaningfulness in life” appears to be closely related to our contribution to the welfare of our environment or community. Each of us appears to have a unique skill (Verna dharma or Svadhrma) to contribute to community, based on our natural tendencies (‘Gunas’).  

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On Nov 28, 2012 Amy wrote:

 I cannot, personally, relate to the notion of "forgetting the reason for giving".  A gift should always meet a request/need/desire of the person receiving.   A gift given, just for the "sake of giving" (going thru the expected motion) can be detected in a heartbeat!  (We've all received gifts that lack . . . any sort of "connection" with who we are/ what we like/ simply "knowing" the need.)   My dad gifts me tomatoes in the Summer/Fall because he knows my family will enjoy them all winter long in soups.  My mom gifts me with her "listening" and in her attention to detail in a multitude tasks/skills.  Today, my son gifted me with a back rub . . . a student, an origami crane . . . my husband, a good day kiss.   What ever "the gift" may be (homemade, personal or store bought) . . . the focus has to be on the "receiver" . . . my reason for giving.         &  See full.

 I cannot, personally, relate to the notion of "forgetting the reason for giving".  A gift should always meet a request/need/desire of the person receiving.   A gift given, just for the "sake of giving" (going thru the expected motion) can be detected in a heartbeat!  (We've all received gifts that lack . . . any sort of "connection" with who we are/ what we like/ simply "knowing" the need.)  
My dad gifts me tomatoes in the Summer/Fall because he knows my family will enjoy them all winter long in soups.  My mom gifts me with her "listening" and in her attention to detail in a multitude tasks/skills.  Today, my son gifted me with a back rub . . . a student, an origami crane . . . my husband, a good day kiss.  
What ever "the gift" may be (homemade, personal or store bought) . . . the focus has to be on the "receiver" . . . my reason for giving.    
         

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On Nov 28, 2012 Manisha wrote:
 With the holiday season right around the corner in many parts of the world, this passage is a much-needed reminder of the joy of gift giving. Last year, around this time, I received a beautiful package in the mail. It was a gift from my best friend -- an album with pictures from our time spent together in her town and beautiful memories and quotes that she had hand-written artistically throughout the album. It had taken her months to put it together as she worked on it a little bit each evening after work. I could feel the love, the deep connection that we share, coming alive as I remembered what it was like to visit her. It was a sincere offering that I cherish.

On Nov 28, 2012 Rekha Garg wrote:

 I believe being able to receive graciously is also an art and a big practice. People in general and mostly people who are givers from the heart ( me included) have very hard time receiving gifts without feeling undeserving or embarrassed and even less powerful. It is important for both the giver and the receiver to go thorough the process in a way where there is a comfort level on both ends to an extent that both feel at peace, happy, deserving of the moment and attention given and received and acceptance. This applies not only to material gift-giving whether store-bought or hand-made, but also to other acts of kindness someone does for you. Personally, in this context, I love doing things for others, cooking being one of my ways to show love for others. And there are days when I'm physically too exhausted to carry on even the basic cooking, but when my husband asks me to sit down so he can cook and feed me, I find it very hard to receive his gift. Mostly, the reason being it  See full.

 I believe being able to receive graciously is also an art and a big practice. People in general and mostly people who are givers from the heart ( me included) have very hard time receiving gifts without feeling undeserving or embarrassed and even less powerful. It is important for both the giver and the receiver to go thorough the process in a way where there is a comfort level on both ends to an extent that both feel at peace, happy, deserving of the moment and attention given and received and acceptance. This applies not only to material gift-giving whether store-bought or hand-made, but also to other acts of kindness someone does for you. Personally, in this context, I love doing things for others, cooking being one of my ways to show love for others. And there are days when I'm physically too exhausted to carry on even the basic cooking, but when my husband asks me to sit down so he can cook and feed me, I find it very hard to receive his gift. Mostly, the reason being it makes me feel less in control and the weaker link. I think the kind of happiness you would like to feel in your heart as a giver , you have to allow others the same by receiving beautifully and without feeling awkward. Without a receiver, there is no giver!

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On Nov 28, 2012 Conrad P. Pritscher wrote:
 Thank you for the inspiration Nina.
Roses are red, violets are blue.
Everything is wonderful and Nina is too
Happy holidays to
everyone.
Warm and kind regards

On Nov 28, 2012 Nina wrote:
I agree that "The focus shifts to the product rather than the person" in most occasions. An exception is the Saint Nicolas celebration we have in the Netherlands. Or at least the way we do it in my family: every year we make something with our hands and write a poem to accompany the gift. The poem reflects on the year that passed by, and preferably also involves some satire or joke about the person, but also appreciation. I really love this celebration and am sorry it's going to be the second year next week that I will miss it due to living abroad. Maybe I can write a poem any way. I think it could be nice if more families celebrate their Christmas in a similar way, to "connects us to [each other's] inner world".

On Nov 26, 2012 Sharad wrote:
 Nice thoughts and effort.According to the VEDAS,the highest act of GIVING is promoting/teaching spirituality and then knowledge.This is much easier to execute comparatively.

On Nov 25, 2012 Kristin Pedemonti wrote:
 Give from the heart, receive from the heart. Agreed, that it is the PERSONAL Connection of the gifter to the receiver that is most important; whether a store bought item, a handmade item or TIME together. Truly, the THOUGHT behind it that matters most; pure intention. And I, too, was hoping to hear more about receiving; I've got GIVING down. Thank you. <3

On Nov 23, 2012 david doane wrote:

 The article is entitled "The Challenge of Receiving Gifts," but it and the questions seem to focus on giving.  Perhaps that suggests that it is not only easier to give than to receive but it is easier to talk about giving than about receiving.  I remember being taught to simply say 'thank you' when given a gift, be it verbal or material, and that advice still seems very valuable.  Ready-made gifts can lead us to "forget the reasons for giving," but not necessarily.  I think the key factor is whether the gift, be it ready-made or personally made, connects with a need or want in the receiver.  The giving of a gift to me is special when the giver paid attention to me and knew me such that the gift is something I truly want.  I do think it is important to stay mindful of my reasons for giving.  I think the purest gift is given freely, out of care, and connects with what the receiver needs or wants.  Such a gift is gi  See full.

 The article is entitled "The Challenge of Receiving Gifts," but it and the questions seem to focus on giving.  Perhaps that suggests that it is not only easier to give than to receive but it is easier to talk about giving than about receiving.  I remember being taught to simply say 'thank you' when given a gift, be it verbal or material, and that advice still seems very valuable.  Ready-made gifts can lead us to "forget the reasons for giving," but not necessarily.  I think the key factor is whether the gift, be it ready-made or personally made, connects with a need or want in the receiver.  The giving of a gift to me is special when the giver paid attention to me and knew me such that the gift is something I truly want.  I do think it is important to stay mindful of my reasons for giving.  I think the purest gift is given freely, out of care, and connects with what the receiver needs or wants.  Such a gift is given for the joy of giving and for the joy of  receiving, with no strings or hidden agendas attached.  When that happens, there is joy for both the giver and the receiver.  When I have created a gift of the written expression of my feelings to a family member or friend, and it has sincerely expressed me and touched the other, that has been special. 

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On Nov 23, 2012 Conrad P Pritscher wrote:

 Thank you for the opportunity to respond.  I move in and out of the: "I know nothing"  framework.  Today I am in it. On two occasions I gave an art piece of welded steel.  The act of creating  is as much for me as it was for them.  Perhaps  we were both "one".  My skin stops here.  Their skin stopped there.   Even though we were, in a sense, one.  I don't know.  Thinking and reasoning can help one give and receive. Giving and receiving precedes logic.  I can give some reasons for it being better to give than receive the reasons as it seems to me to be better to console rather than seek to be consoled yet we don't seem to need reasons for giving and consoling.  Those values exist in one probably through nature and nurture before reason operates.  Yet I don't know.   I do believe attention is very important yet when we are all one, who else is there to attend? I know  See full.

 Thank you for the opportunity to respond.  I move in and out of the: "I know nothing"  framework.  Today I am in it. On two occasions I gave an art piece of welded steel.  The act of creating  is as much for me as it was for them.  Perhaps  we were both "one".  My skin stops here.  Their skin stopped there.   Even though we were, in a sense, one.  I don't know.  Thinking and reasoning can help one give and receive. Giving and receiving precedes logic.  I can give some reasons for it being better to give than receive the reasons as it seems to me to be better to console rather than seek to be consoled yet we don't seem to need reasons for giving and consoling.  Those values exist in one probably through nature and nurture before reason operates.  Yet I don't know.   I do believe attention is very important yet when we are all one, who else is there to attend? I know I wish everyone: "Warm and kind regards."

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On Nov 23, 2012 Kokil wrote:
For many years I had been gifting basis the occasion and the price tag. I chose what I liked, hardly taking into consideration what the person whom I am gifting might need. I believed that my choice of gifts surpassed many others. Slowly and steadily I moved out of that space. On my mother's 60th birthday, I kept wondering what to gift her where my other siblings were gifting her Laptops and other expensive stuff. I organized a surprise party for her wherein her closest friends were invited. I had prepared them earlier to narrate their most memorable incident or interaction with her. I cooked the entire meal and wrote a poem for her. She just loved the experience and was so overwhelmed with joy that she expressed that she was unable to eat as her body was filled with the happiness that the surprise gave her.

On Nov 23, 2012 Ricky wrote:

In the current month’s issue of Yoga Journal, at the beginning of the magazine, several of the contributors were asked “What is the most loving gift you’ve ever received?”  I will quote a couple here. “A friend who knows me well gave me a book of art by a contemporary artist I absolutely love...  When someone is in tune with you like that and takes notice of the details of who you are, it can make the gift very special.” “There have been moments when a friend has taken the time to share their presence with me, to really slow down, make eye contact, and listen to what I needed to talk about.  That kind of presence is the most precious thing you can give.” I find when I give gifts, I am actually paying it forward.  I have been blessed and enriched by someone else so significantly that I am guided to affect someone else’s life in the same way.  Several different thoughts come to mind.  One is, do your w  See full.

In the current month’s issue of Yoga Journal, at the beginning of the magazine, several of the contributors were asked “What is the most loving gift you’ve ever received?”  I will quote a couple here.

“A friend who knows me well gave me a book of art by a contemporary artist I absolutely love...  When someone is in tune with you like that and takes notice of the details of who you are, it can make the gift very special.”

“There have been moments when a friend has taken the time to share their presence with me, to really slow down, make eye contact, and listen to what I needed to talk about.  That kind of presence is the most precious thing you can give.”

I find when I give gifts, I am actually paying it forward.  I have been blessed and enriched by someone else so significantly that I am guided to affect someone else’s life in the same way.  Several different thoughts come to mind.  One is, do your work, and then let it go (the Gita).  The ‘work’ here is not perhaps the definition of work we have been conditioned to accept.  The ‘work’ here is perhaps ‘purpose’, or ‘passion’, and the ‘letting go’ applies to the tyranny of expectation from the assumption the author states as to the reason for giving… to “raise good feelings about me in the receiver’s heart and mind.”

Creating something from my heart is the only focus I have when I feel the urge to give.  Whether it is in a lesson I offer my high school students, or how I interact with my family members and friends, how I address the needs of the homeless or others who cross my path who may have personal ‘wounds’, or how I acknowledge the generosity of community shared with me by my adult yoga students.

My floral design students receive an assignment around Mother’s Day, which I refer to as Significant Female in My Life Day.  The assignment is to choose five flowers whose meanings send a message of how each student views their significant female, just as flowers of a bouquet were chosen in previous centuries to carry actual messages.  Then, they design a hand drawn colored picture of their bouquet to cut out and place on the front of a card.  Inside the cover they list the name of each flower and its meaning.  Then they place a personal message on the opposite page, and on the back they stamp ‘Hand Made By ______________’ and their name.  They get to be as creative as they would like, with scrap booking materials, stamps, embossing stamps, card stocks, markers, color pencils, calligraphy pens, typed font selections for messages and meanings, special paper, and on and on.  After Significant Female in My Life Day, when they return to class, they are invited to submit a reflection about how the card was received, and how they personally felt giving it.  Sometimes students give these to significant males in their lives.  Every year these reflections bring me joy and tears.  How do I not then turn around with this incredible sense of gratitude and pay it forward?!

At our family gatherings, my mother has made it perfectly and legitimately clear that as she ages she has absolutely no need for gifts, so stop it!  However, I usually find something significant to share with her each year her birthday, Mother’s Day, and the holidays come around.  The focus and time spent on creating her gift brings me enormous peace that she is still around so I can continue to tell her how I love her in many different ways.  I am no longer affected by her mild protests anymore.  The gifts range from selecting and planting a large 10 gallon pot of a variety of vegetables and herbs for her to harvest from during the growing season, to a card like the assignment given to my floral students, to a handmade crocheted scarf of alpaca yarn, to an audio book I have found especially inspirational, to a CD mix of favorite songs or inspirational TED talks and KarmaTube selections.  I can’t remember the last time I bought a Hallmark card.  I love to take pictures and create my own.

With available technology, I enjoy texting my grown single sons and husband early in the morning with a quote or saying and to connect with them before they wake up.  It's checking in, thinking of them, and it's also being fully present and focused with the power of words.  It can change my mood immediately.

The gift I find the most touching is time spent with a homeless person/s.  Depending on their needs that day, I may take their clothes home to wash them and bring them back, I may drive them somewhere for services, put them up in a local hotel for a night of complete rest and order food service for them, or listen to them share their story and sit with them at the local co op while eating a sandwich and drinking coconut water with them.  There are many moments when I wonder who really is getting the most out of this interaction! 

We each have people in our lives whose sweet attention and care help mold who we are and how we find our purpose.  I am lifted up to continue to pay it forward.  I am blessed by a community of adult yoga students who are so supportive and emit such significant vibrational light I get to then share this with others in my life.  Sometimes the best way to thank someone else is to share the gift of love they offer you with someone else.  This is the world I prefer to live in.  
 
  
 

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On Nov 23, 2012 Resh wrote:
 I liked the write-up.  It simply gives insight of one more way to look within instead of getting lost in outer world.  It helped me in being more creative then being dependent on readymade things.  I have similar experience with me.. My brother was leaving out of country for work and I wanted to give him Bon Voyage card but getting card and presenting him was a very artificial act so, I prepared it by hand, and I involved all my family members in it, insisting them to write a few words or lines for him and wishing him luck.  I then decorated it with crayon colors, stars, smiley and hearts.  Finally while he was leaving presented him with laminated copy of the card.  He was indeed delighted to see the hand made Good Luck Card.  More so with the wordings handwritten by each of the family member.  Its four years, still he has preserved that and he simply loves it.