Embrace the spirit behind it: 5 steps to transform Black Friday Blues.
Black Friday is a great example of our culture on a detour that doesn’t take us where we want to go. Originally, the day after Thanksgiving was the annual celebration of the beginning of Christmas shopping season, offering the first “official” opportunity for retailers to display their holiday merchandise. Honoring the non-commercial nature of Thanksgiving, merchants waited until it was over before promoting their Christmas wares. The day represented the transition from a Day of Thanks following the end of the harvest season, to the Countdown to Christmas–the season of giving. Now that the harvest was complete, it was a time to think about giving back to others, those we might want to offer a gift to in the coming holiday season. Somewhere along the way, we took the practice to extremes, and it has become the frenzied, commercialized spectacle we experience today.
Many Black Friday shoppers want to get in on the bargains and snap up those special gifts they need – usually at least one for each member of the family. This, too, gets distorted. Instead of carefully thinking about each individual and creating a genuine act of giving, it becomes a mad rush to grab the first deeply discounted article that falls into the shopping cart and might work for someone, if you think hard enough.
But you can reverse this unfortunate trend, and that is my challenge to you, if you are up for it. STAY OUT OF THE STORES ON FRIDAY, and instead, do this short practice, writing down your answers as you go along. Ready?
STEP 1. Use a body-mind approach. Here’s how: first, begin by engaging your body. Raise your arms above your head, inhale, then let your arms drop to your sides as you exhale with an open mouth. Do that 5 times. Swing your body in a twisting motion, side to side for about a minute, letting out a big exhale on each twist. Move your head neck and shoulders any way that feels good, and let out some sound – anything that comes — and move as fast or as slow as you want to. Then sit down in a comfortable place.
STEP 2. Close your eyes and bring one hand to your chest. Visualize the first person in your family that you will be wanting to give something to this coming holiday. Focus on the person’s face, and feel your heart beating in your chest, just under your palm. Then, imagine a flow of energy between you—a connection from you to that person, and back again.
STEP 3. Let your hand ask your body this question “As I visualize this special person, what service, gift, action, or creation could I offer that might, in some way, enhance their life and bring them joy.? What could I offer that might make a real and genuine difference to their life?” Listen for the answer in any way it comes. (Note: You are going outside the box here – not “thinking” in terms of tangible “things” necessarily, but coming more from the place of doing something or offering something that might enhance the life of that person.)
STEP 4. Write down a few notes about what came to you for that person and then repeat the exercise for each of the people on your list. Some might take a little more time and patience, others will be easy.
STEP 5. Look over your lists and sit with each one more time from an “embodied” place. Hold each item and person in your heart, and visualize yourself making your offering to them. Notice what happens in your feelings, in your body, and in your breath. Make any adjustments that might come to you as a result.
Once you’ve completed this exercise, the next part of the process is to spend as much time on Black Friday preparing your offerings as you would have spent in the big box stores. Maybe it’s writing a poem, or making a craft, or planning an afternoon spending quality time with that special person. Anything goes. Give generously but also be realistic—you needn’t come up with all of your offerings in one day. If you’re still unsure, take the time to try the exercise again, and see if other alternative gift ideas come to you.
For many years, when my close family members were younger, they each got just one “Santa gift,” while the rest of their gifts were chosen using the process above, an exercise in which the children also engaged. Some of the gifts chosen in this way were outstanding in their thoughtfulness. Others were incredibly helpful and served a great need. For example, a gift of “10 hours of baby-sitting” from one older cousin to her aunt with two little ones was better—and more memorable–than any piece of clothing she could have procured on a Black Friday sale rack.
We’ve all heard the expression “it’s the thought that counts.” This year, try taking that expression to heart, and gift your loved ones with things that are brought forth from the inner thoughtfulness and generosity that arise from the purely generous, loving place each one of us accesses through our mind-body connection.