#5 - Gift giving expectations
"It's the thought that counts." Really? So if you give your wife a card for her birthday, Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, Christmas Day or Hanukkah, or whatever, she's going to smile and say thanks? For some of these holidays and for some people, it is only the thought that matters and a card is gift enough. For others, maybe not.
At issue here is whether gift giving is based on the joy that comes with seeing your loved one's smile as they open the present or a feeling of obligation that seems to sap all of the joy out of searching, buying and giving the gift. When you hear the statement, "It's the thought that counts," does it sound like just another platitude? If so, your view of gift giving does need some closer inspection.
If you love to give gifts and expect an equal or better gift in return, perhaps you'll want to take a moment to think about your attitude toward gift-giving. If you never think to give a gift at all even though you receive lots of presents yourself, perhaps you might take a moment to think about your attitude toward gift giving. These attitudes can result in some conflict because of the imbalance between the giver and the receiver. Most of the problems related to gift giving and gift receiving come down to communication.
As with many communications problems, at the core of the disagreement is usually a feeling of lack or loss of control. If you receive a gift more expensive than you can give, the difference can make you feel inadequate. Or if you give a gift that wasn't perceived as good enough, the obligation pressed upon you is uncomfortable and annoying. Or maybe you just don't want to give to someone because you don't know them well enough, but you feel trapped in the situation. The combinations of issues can be almost endless.
At the crux of all of these issues is whether you can find a place where giving feels good and receiving leaves you grateful. Perhaps you will have to open up more than you want or maybe you will have to choose between disappointing another or disappointing yourself. There are many social and cultural issues that can layer even more stress on top of the disagreement on how, why, when, how much, how often gift giving/receiving can and should take place.
How do you resolve the conflict that surrounds gift giving/receiving to the satisfaction of all people involved? More than likely, you may have to face decisions that will disappoint someone. Your choice will be whether to choose your beliefs and feelings over the pressures exerted by another. That's not to say that the other person's position is wrong; look at it as just being different. Halfway to the resolution is your accepting that another opinion or belief that differs from yours has its own validity. And you can accept that way of thinking or hold to your own.
This meditation is not about who wins or loses the best gift but rather it is about how you are going to face the issues of gift giving and receiving while still feeling good about the process. Let's begin again by taking a comfortable seat; the spine is straight and relaxed; the muscles are releasing tension as you attend to your breath. Take whatever time you need to find that place of relaxed awareness that you know by now is the point of focus for your meditation.
The focal point of this meditation is about how to communicate on an issue that causes discomfort in a relationship. The relationship can be a loved one, a friend, a parent or sibling, a co-worker or even someone you don't know well. The issue we're going to use (it can be any issue where communications are difficult) is gift giving and receiving. The other aspect of this particular communications issue is that it has social and cultural overtones that can make it especially difficult to resolve.
Think about your gift giving attitude. Is it generous, cautious, careful, reserved, outlandish or do you think it is normal? Think of someone who disagrees with this attitude and for a few moments, see yourself adapting to their way of thinking. Can you make that transformation? Or does changing to their way of thinking give you a feeling of agitation or anger or frustration? Take a deep breath and calm yourself. Now try again, but slower. Can you move toward their thinking just one step at a time?
See yourself from their eyes and using their perspective, imagine how you could adapt your thinking in small ways that would help the two of you come to a mutual agreement where you both compromise enough to make the issue palatable to each of you. Taking just one step at a time, see the other person also willingly to take one step closer to your viewpoint. Be fair in the process. Don't imagine that the other person will just give up their way of thinking to be in total agreement with you. Rather, honestly see each of you fairly and willingly moving toward center.
This process may take several minutes of seeking an adaptive approach that feels workable. The secret is to see yourself willing to adjust enough to find agreement without losing yourself and feeling you have compromised your values or beliefs to the point of feeling oppressed or unbalanced in the outcome. As you create an atmosphere of open-mindedness the agreement will be mutual and satisfying to both of you.
Taking this visualization back to the gift giving arena, now see yourself going out to purchase an appropriate gift for this person, not too much, not too little. See them opening your gift and fully appreciating the thought you have put into it - and there is that smile that brings joy to your heart.
Gift giving is about sharing your heart. If through this exercise you ended up not wanting to give a gift, be okay with that decision. If you cannot give a gift openly, unconditionally, or joyfully, perhaps you should not be giving it in the first place. A gift given without the right attitude leaves both the receiver and the giver negatively impacted.
When you have explored your attitudes about gift giving thoroughly, bring your attention back to the breath and body, slowly and quietly returning to an awareness of the room. How do you feel? This is an exercise that takes a commitment to really exploring your deeper feelings about an uncomfortable situation. We used gift giving and receiving as a focal point; however, this can be used for any situation that you feel causes conflict or discord in your relationships.
The purpose in this type of communication is not to get the other person over to your way of thinking nor is it to change your mind to another's viewpoint. It is to find a way in which you can both extend your comprehension of another perspective and discover a way to operate comfortably where you both find satisfaction. Granted, you are meditating, not discussing these ideas with someone face-to-face. But if you can go through the scenario using this visualization technique, the next logical step would be to communicate directly with that person. Again, you have pre-paved a positive potential. Chances are the outcome will be as you hope and expect it to be.
Copyright ©2007 TAO Consultants, Inc. All rights reserved.
Chesa Keane has taught meditation and self-help for more than 30 years. To learn how to meditate the right way, using guided meditations, go to: www.meditationwarrior.com.