As you know, I usually write these columns once a month, but a friend and I were discussing what kinds of presents have meant the most to us over the years and I thought I'd put out a brief special Christmas edition to share a few of those thoughts with you.
Here are five ideas for gifts you can give this season that cost very little or nothing and that could really mean a lot to someone in your life. (And if it's too late to do these for Christmas, you can use them for birthdays or other occasions when a special present is called for):
1: Six pictures, six stories
If, like most of us, you've switched to digital photography, there's a good chance that you have hundreds of photos from this past year. Why not select the six that mean the most to you, write a little about the story behind each one, and send that as a present to family and friends? You can print it all out, or you can easily insert photos inside a Word document or PDF to send via email.
2. The greatest gift of all: your time
I'm sure there's someone in your life for whom the greatest gift would be some of your undivided attention. You could make up a coupon book with coupons entitling the other person to choose a film you'll both go to, or a walk, or a play or music event, or even a weekend away.
3: A gift to yourself
First, my favorite Zen story: a Zen master and a young disciple were walking in the countryside. They reached a raging river where a frail young woman was hesitating, afraid to cross. The master took her on his shoulders and carried her across, then they went their separate ways. The disciple was shocked but said nothing.
The next day the disciple was still troubled by what had happened. Finally the master asked him what was the matter. The disciple pointed out that they were not supposed to touch a woman, much less carry her so intimately. "Oh, the young woman," the master said. "I put her down yesterday - are you still carrying her?"
Why not give yourself the gift of letting go of something that you can't do anything about but has still been bothering you this past year? What would it be? If you can't let go yet, decide how much longer you're going to let it bother you: a week? A month? A year?
4: A Zensational gift
Is there a quote or poem or story you've encountered this year that someone might like or benefit from, like the Zen story above? If not, you'll probably have a good time looking for one. A great source: www.101zenstories.com , where you can read them by title or click on the "random story" button and see what comes up.
One fun strategy: go down your gift list, on the Zen101 site click the random button for each person, and print out that story for them (assuming that the universe is giving you the story that will most benefit them). Again, you could print it out on fancy paper and send them a hard copy, or make it a Word or PDF file to email. You can tell them the random method you used and ask whether the story resonates with them.
5: And a quote for the season:
"The only gift is a portion of thyself." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
With best wishes for the holidays and a creative New Year.