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Yo Yo Ho Ho, Stars of Wonder, Stars of Light!
In case you didn’t know this about me, let me just jingle all the way out of the holiday closet right now (because nobody likes a half-assed jingler) and out myself as a bona-fide Christmas freak. The phrase, “Christmas is too sparkly’ said no one ever” should have originally been said by me, and be tattooed somewhere on my person. I have that jump-up-and-down-hands-clapping reaction seeing Christmas lights up around town, and get misty hearing carols. I know my family tree has a branch of North Pole Clauses, and includes the earliest Whoville settlers, and I’m pretty sure I fell in love with my boyfriend on our first date when he told me he co-owns a Christmas tree farm in Vermont. And yet, as anti- holly-jolly as it seems – for years there was also a dark side to my holiday persona. I had a LOT of anxiety around Christmas gift-giving – specifically, finding the perfect gifts.
So, I’m calling bullshit on Christmas gift-related stress. This blog is about how we can help ourselves not to allow it to adversely affect how we feel during what is truly be a time of light, of love, of peace, of joy, of joining.
If “perfect gift syndrome” is harshing your holiday mellow, please click here to watch the video, and read the rest of the blog.
If you’re already elf’d up, think the term “Christmas stress” is a misspelling of what is known as your holiday outfit, if you’re spreading cheer like a boss, and are down with the whole giving-is-the-same-as-receiving gig… Yuletide on, Bro.
If not, this pudding may have some plums in it just for you.
So, I’m that guy who gets down with my bad self to only holiday music – in the car, at the gym, the grocery store, the mall, the shower, etc. – from late November through New Year’s Day. And after shooting my eye out watching “A Christmas Story” on Thanksgiving night, it’s holiday movie game on – queing up my curated list of faves – in order – for the rest of the season. I’m in love with the bells, the scent of balsam, the lights, the gatherings, the sense of anticipation – I never lost that innocent childhood feeling of magic and wonder, and it sparks up every year.
Having said that, the weird thing is that for years I also had a lot of difficulty with holiday shopping because I had “perfect gift syndrome”.
Even though I have a pretty high Elf DNA percentage, and I love giving gifts, for a long time I struggled with gift-giving anxiety. I would wander around the stores, plagued with self-doubt, fearing my gifts wouldn’t be good enough, overspending, trying to find the magical, perfect gift for everyone – the stress sometimes even made me sick by Christmas Eve. Talk about the ego-mind’s fondest wish – using guilt and fear as gift-giving strategies, and making the body sick in the process – what could be a better distraction from seeing the Christ Light in everyone?
I know as a coach and therapist that for many people this time of year can definitely carry the vibe of heightened anxiety, stress, and depression. This can take different forms – feelings of overwhelm, pressure, obligation, frustration with crowded stores, financial worry, playing chicken over parking spaces, getting pissed off at commercials of perfect families having impossibly wonderful holidays… those old roasted chestnuts.
If you have felt all bah up in your humbug, or found yourself wondering what exactly was so wrong with The Grinch’s plan to steal Christmas, anyway – my hope is that this blog with its focus on what giving really means might help you stay aboard that Polar Express and bypass Crazy Town altogether this season.
In my mind, it isn’t Christmas per se that is stressful. Christmas is a celebration of the human birth of Jesus into the world, which, for students of A Course in Miracles, represents the dawning of the light of Christ consciousness upon our minds – long darkened with the mistaken belief that we are separate from God and one another. What stress is there in that?
What makes the season feel pressured and overwhelming for some is what the ego mind does with it when it gets involved and arm-wrestles control of our minds away from us, putting itself in charge of the meaning we make of Christmas (and basically the meaning the ego makes of everything) which is… altogether now, everyone?
GUILT! Guilt that we are not doing enough, we aren’t giving enough, we aren’t spending enough, because we’re not good enough, and we aren’t enough.
And what form does that guilt take during THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR?
I believe that the majority of holiday stress – and a huge part of it why people are so jacked up – – is related to anxiety about gift-giving.
Now, I’m no biblical scholar, but Ima go out on a limb and guess that when the Magi – the Three Wise Ones who brought gifts to Jesus around the time of His birth – showed up with their Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh, they weren’t all frantically running from store to store on their trek to Bethlehem, being all like, “Oh my God, what do you give the Christ who has everything? What is the perfect gift? How much should we spend? What if He doesn’t like it? Is it good enough? Will He think we’re cheap?”
Probably not. Rather, they were simply honoring Him with symbols of blessing and adoration – as an expression of what He meant to them.
But the ego-mind has done with these expressions what it always does with anything that it suspects might spirit us away from it being the boss of us. It has managed to focus largely on something other and far lesser than the actual meaning of Christmas as “the time of Christ”, which is how Jesus in A Course in Miracles refers to his own earthly birth.
It has fixated on the gifts. The right gifts. The perfect gifts. And enough of them.
So not only has one of the most beautiful symbolic expressions of extending love and generosity been unceremoniously bogarted by the ego and become its central theme of Christmas, but since the ego always sucks the spirit and fun and life out of everything – it has also been turned into a source of fear.
The “perfect gift”. What does that even mean? The perfect gift to do what? Prove to someone that we love them? To make us good enough? To not let people down or disappoint? The perfect gift so that we spend the right amount of money? Or so that our kids won’t compare what they got to what their friends got and think we suck? Who is it that is judging us for all of this bullshit? Gifts are expressions of love.
But I believe that for many of us, the ego has called shotgun and attempted to use our deeply buried sense of unconscious guilt over thinking we are separate from God and one another, to keep our attention focused on the importance of the form these expressions take.
That’s because the ego mind is all about the world, form, and the body – that is its domain. And the truth is, the ego does not want us to heal our belief in separation, because that would be the end of itself – so it’s credo, as I saw played out in my own Christmas shopping anxiety – is “seek and do not find.”
A Course in Miracles teaches us that “To give and receive are one in truth.”
Meaning, there is no difference – they are two sides of the same thing. Jesus instructs us thus, “Today we will attempt to offer peace to everyone, and see how quickly peace returns to us. Light is tranquility, and in that peace is vision given us, and we can see.” He is describing the circular nature of giving and receiving, and teaching us that by offering peace, we gain it – and what more valuable gift is there?
I am not getting all up in my Grinch here, or suggesting that it is wrong to want to give gifts of the world to our loved ones, or that we all should just announce to everyone that from now on all they are getting is light for Christmas because that’s what Jesus says we have to do. (Way to turn everybody against Jesus – Merry Christmas, ego!)
But I am saying that if we align our minds with Spirit around the whole idea of giving, recognizing that as we give we receive, it will completely change our experience – and we actually will give the gift of light in the process.
In A Course in Miracles Jesus is teaching us precisely what to give to our brother. The gift of miracles. It’s not called A Course in Finding the Perfect Gift.
But that’s exactly what it is.
The miracle is a shift in perception, from fear to love, and the two most powerful tools for making that shift happen and bringing about the miracle are forgiveness and prayer.
Some years ago, I used those power tools when I made the decision that all I wanted for Christmas was a miracle healing of my Christmas gift-giving mojo. I wanted to rock my merry and bright and get my gifting groove back. I wanted any stress around it to be dissolved.
I gave it all up to Spirit. I forgave myself and everyone else I could think of that I held in any form of guilt or obligation, or whom I experienced difficulty finding gifts for, or whom I feared would not think my gifts were right or perfect or good enough, or who I wanted to receive certain things from. I went into prayer, and surrendered any stressful thoughts about gift-giving or receiving. I blessed whatever fear I had around it, and asked that it be transformed to a joyful process of expressing love. I asked to be inspired by Spirit with Divine ideas for each person to whom I wished to give a present.
The answer to that prayer was immediate and powerful, and the result was the most calm, relaxed, lovely Christmas gifting experience ever. It was not stressful or hectic – it was fun! I was guided the entire season, with such cool outcomes. Some gifts I was inspired to go to a particular store or online to buy, and it was easy. Some were things I was moved to make, others came right out of my own collection of jewelry and possessions. Still others were intuitive hits, or ideas that came through friends, or things simply placed in my path so obviously, all I could say was, “Oh. Of course. Right. Thank you.”
It was all done with a very deliberate, felt sense of gratitude, peace, love, and joy. Whatever form they took, the gifts came straight from Spirit and out of my heart. I didn’t care whether others gave me anything or not, or what the monetary value was, or whether it was equal. It truly was as if each gift I gave was a gift to me. I was aligned, I was led, and I was in complete de-LIGHT. It all fell into place so gorgeously, in such Divine Order. It was awesome, and totally joyful, and it rocked.
Since then, as I trust Spirit to lead me, my gift giving and receiving experience has continued to be amazing. It feels truly like sacred honoring of the light in my bros, and by extension, in myself.
And isn’t that what A Course in Miracles teaches us: that joining with our brothers, recognizing that their light is a reflection of our light is a reflection of the light of God – remembering our holiness, our oneness, the truth of us – that is the most precious, most perfect gift we could extend to our bros and thus to ourselves.
This is my gift to you. I hope that it may bring you greater peace, love, and joy this holiday season. Thank you for your gift of beaming your radiant Christ light into the world. The God in you is shining brighter than the brightest star.
If you related to anything I discussed in the blog and would like to leave a comment below, please do so. I love them and I read every one.
I love you more than the movie “Love Actually”, white-chocolate peppermint bark, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra tunes cranked up LOUD because, “the best way to spread Christmas cheer is sing it loud for all to hear!” – Buddy the Elf
All things merry, warm, and bright.
Rev Kelly Russell,
Transformational Life Coach, Psychotherapist & Teacher of A Course in Miracles
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