Monday, December 27, 2010

Gifts.

Our community circle expands all over the planet. Recently lots of our community members voiced out that they were feeling “isolated” and wished they could be with us to celebrate the Solstice. Since everyone seemed to be craving for physical connections, I suggested a ritual where we could manifest some material link between us. Sending Christmas cards is a Western tradition that everyone is familiar with. I believe that adopting shamanic ways often means transforming our western habits into new perspectives and attitudes, which consider natural and cosmological law. So, I asked everyone to choose four people from the community. Individuals they felt called to commit to for the rest of the year and send them a Solstice wish.

According to tradition the Winter Solstice was a time of year where people wished for better and brighter days. Our ancestors didn’t have the comfortable commodities that we all live with today. The autumn season, which was the walk towards “longer nights” was difficult and for many it meant never making it to spring. Death was associated to fall and there were countless ceremonies and rituals that were done to insure health, courage, and to keep negative spirits at bay. Like modern people, our ancestors were susceptible to the common cold and flu; but there were also plagues, which we don’t really have to worry about today because of immunization. For example the Iroquois people used to carve masks in living trees to ask the elementals (spirits of nature) to protect them from illness, accidents and death and at the Winter Solstice they tied prayer bundles to the trees with wishes.

Every year we help people to find their Solstice wishes. It’s not just about wishing for health, financial abundance and happiness, it’s about devoting our time and energy to making these wishes come true. In other words, it’s about facing the fact that many of our wishes are born out of fears and that we need to confront these fears and reach beyond them to manifest our wishes. When I suggested the idea of sending wishes to others, I also mentioned that it implied connecting to these people all year through and helping them fill their personal baskets with greatness. It implied learning to be powerful, attentive, and functionally helpful. It meant giving of ourselves which even though it’s considered a Christian attribute it’s also a huge factor in Shamanism.

When my husband, ET received a card from DR, one of our circle members, he solemnly read out his wish. It wasn’t so much about receiving a Christmas card as it was about making a connection. DR sent him laughter and light-hearted moments all year through. Interestingly enough ET wondered how DR would deliver on such a wish when it was attributes that DR obviously struggled with. ET wondered if DR was aware how much this particular wish would demand from him? He would have to be open to the learning and receiving of laughter and light-hearted moments before he could support or share it with ET. I found it impressive how already the circle was binding. ET took the time to sit with the wish before accepting it.

I believe that the best gift I ever gave my children was to teach them about the wisdom and medicine of gift giving. In Western society we are thought to love receiving gifts. It’s bad manners to refuse a gift; speak badly about a gift; and have expectations towards gifts. It’s understood that we give gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, showers, special occasions and of course – Christmas. Some people love to give gifts because it ensures good relations and it pleases others. To be honest there are so many issues wrapped up in gift giving and because we look upon generosity as a kind of virtue we ignore the issues and never resolve them. Unfortunately, in many cases receiving gifts is not a blessing.

I taught my children to never give a gift if they felt forced to give it. If it doesn’t come from the heart it is not a gift. At the beginning I would ask my children to give from their collections of valuables. A gift is something that is intimate, valuable and connects two people. It means committing to another person. I explained to my children that some gifts impose an effort on others and that we have to be cautious with such gifts.

“Make sure that you are willing to devote as much effort as you demand of others,” I expressed to them “this would mean you understand the true meaning of giving.”

For example, when my children were 10 years old they gave me a cactus. They promised to help me “water the plant.” When I was away at workshops they would take up the responsibility of caring for the cactus. It grew so big and so abundant so quickly that we were all impressed with it. I told the kids that it was proof that they carried the medicine of giving. I explained to them that this energy was incredibly powerful and healing. It had the potential of manifesting growth. With the cactus they seemed to understand for the first time what this meant.

Both CT and KT give the most incredible gifts. They choose carefully who they give to and they put a lot of time into finding the right gift. They understand that when you give a gift you need to come from a pure place, which means being able to set aside personal reality and issues. Not too many people understand that giving is a process and an ability that you practice. When you’ve received a gift from someone who masters the skill it feels wonderful. A few months ago KT broke up with a boyfriend. One day he dropped by and returned all of her belongings but kept the only gift she gave to him last Christmas. When he was asked why he didn’t return the gift? He replied that it had no bearing on the relationship. He knew that the gift belonged to him. KT took it as a compliment.

So much about Solstice wishes is about learning the process of giving and receiving. Our ancestors learnt these medicines through surviving and connecting with nature and the stars. Ironically it seems harder to learn these medicines today because we lack certain attitudes attached to natural and cosmological reality.


P.S. This year I've put wishes in some of my beaded balls. I've redefined some Western traditions as Shamanic traditions. People think they have to give up everything they love in the Western world to become shamanic. It's not true. It just means to redefine and change perspectives.

7 comments:

Board Certified Doc said...

It is one prerogative and respect towards the other person weather to give gift or not.

Wheelkeeper said...

Below are the statements that stood out for me.... They really makes me think...


“Make sure that you are willing to devote as much effort as you demand of others,” I expressed to them “this would mean you understand the true meaning of giving.”


"A gift is something that is intimate, valuable and connects two people. It means committing to another person. I explained to my children that some gifts impose an effort on others and that we have to be cautious with such gifts."


Some gifts do seem to contain processes more so than abundance for the one receiving it.
And that fact that we are making a deeper connection to the one we give to that goes beyond the actual object. WOW! That is something to be aware of...

The past few years I have been holding back from giving just because others expect it. I found that I can feel the difference now between giving out of obligation and being inspired to give. Often when I set the intention to find a gift for someone, it usually works out beautifully.. I find something that feeds good to me, something I am happy to give. If it doesn't feel right then I just let it go. When it feels right, I am excited and happy.

This doesn't apply only to objects, giving of my time and talents is something I am also working on - when to give freely and when to make an exchange.

I remember this topic of giving and receiving coming up years ago at a Montreal gathering, It is a huge learning and I still don't get it right every time but am more conscious about it these days.

WampumBlueRaven said...

Gifts come in all forms, this year was the only year I decide not to send my family Christmas Cards, because I usually do it every year.. this year I was in the store just about to buy them - and I was stuck with this sense of annoyance at even the thought of sending them cards. So I didn't.
Now, don't get me wrong I love my family- I just felt like sending them cards would put us in the same dance again which does not service any of us, just upholds the status quo. So I decided to call them at Christmas and that worked much better.

On the other hand, speaking of giving of your time and talents, over the holiday I was invited to a party and at first I accepted thinking to myself- this is great of her to invite me and should go to "socialize"- at first the way she described it -this was going to be an intimate affair with maybe a dozens people over good food and discussion but when she emailed me back it was clear that this Christmas party was more so going to be about drinking. In short I decided not to go, I started getting that same sense of annoyance and even feeling sick over it. That was a gift to myself.( no more putting efforts in things that clearly do not service the whole and the vision of my inner life) but I am sure other benefited because this to me this not time well spend and I have no talents or want to drink like that. So I send Christmas- around a table with wonderful food, friends and a few dogs and cats-where I would be of service and have a laugh.

cheers,
Nathalie

Cougar-D said...

What I most dislike about giving is the expectations that arises. I find that i cringe inside when i feel the expectation. I had never really thought of go ing of your time or talents as a gift. Hmmm...
This is something I am living now. Like MR said how do you know the difference when you should give generously or when you should exchange??

I find that I give my energy to people. I want to help them. I enjoy it. Then somewhere along the way it turns into expectation and I feel trapped. It is only after all is done and said that I realize something didn't feel right.

On the otherhand, I have been told that I have alot of expectations and do not know how to give generously. I can see the mirror.

Good topic!

Wapeyit Malsom said...

Cougar D,

Great question.
How do you define generosity?
Why do you think or feel that you have a hard time with generosity?
When do you do an exchange? In your personal experience what does it mean to have a contract?
What does it take to be generous?
And what does it take to commit to a contract?

LISA

Cougar-D said...

It's taken me a while to come back and respond because I had to live
some experiences first.

How do I define generousity?
So far I am seeing that it is about giving without attachments. Being able to give to others
without expectations and without a basis in what I will get back.

I think I have a hard time with generosity because I have alot of expectations. I notice when I help other that often I am left with a feeling of being used. But when I relook at what happened I see that I didn't just give to help- that there wad a link with what I would get.

I'm not sure about the exchange. I have a hard time
asking for an exchange. Often when I hear people
say - what will you give me in exchange- I feel it is business like. I find myslef wondering why we can't just do what's right and help each other out. Maybe this is romantic.???

Contract take alot of work and clarity. It also involves setting boundaries around the contract. So far I have found contracts to demand presence, commitment and understanding of each other's roles, time frames ....


I find that this hides deep down and only gibes the subtlest clue that I am not giving generously.

Rose said...

The last few years I have made jewellery for all my family for Christmas, with the occasional painted scarf. This year my Wedding took all my creative juice and I just didn't have the time to start this process of making early enough and then after the wedding I was out of energy. So I shopped but I did it with a real desire to buy things that my family would want, that would make them smile. Next year I shall spend less and make more again.

I like the ideas you have for bringing this more into live.