Tips for Transformational Giving

by Patricia Spadaro

transformational_giving_holidaysToday, more than ever, we are showered with media messages vying to convince us that gift-giving is all about buying more and buying bigger. I’ll never forget the sobs that came from a niece of mine one Christmas morning when she had finished unwrapping the two gifts my husband and I had given her, only to see that her sister had an extra package from us to open. She felt cheated, even though we had carefully spent equal amounts of money on them both.

As adults, we may still pull out the measuring stick when it’s time to exchange gifts. Not only that, but we tend to think that “giving” happens when we hand over something that is wrapped and tied with a bow and ribbon.

Yet take a moment and think about the times, as a child or adult, when you felt most happy, joyful, or at peace. Were those special times in your life really defined by how much money someone spent on you? Or was it the attention you received or the intimacy and connection you experienced that made you feel exuberant?

The gift that matters the most is the gift of your attention, your time—your presence. That’s what can turn holidays and celebrations into feasts of the heart.

Here are a few ideas to help you tap the power of presence as you give your gifts:

The present of presence.
Instead of a material gift, why not devote some time, one on one, with the special people in your life as your gift? Enjoy a musical event together or a long lunch or a fun activity—just the two of you. When you’re with the other person, practice being really present, avoiding distractions that are so easy to succumb to. Be sure to turn off your phone or Blackberry and let yourself be fully engaged.

The gift of listening.
If you’ve had a touchy relationship lately, let your present be this: Don’t talk. Listen. Try asking questions that show you truly want to hear what the other person has to say (like “What do you need from me right now?”), and then resist the urge to interrupt.

The power of the generous heart.
Make a date to do something the other person enjoys, even if you don’t. If you know your friend, partner, parent, child, or spouse likes to listen to choral music or attend a football game or watch a silly movie, even though it absolutely bores you, do it anyway this once. Throw yourself into the experience. After all, it’s a gift. It’s not about what you’re doing; it’s about what you’re experiencing together and how it makes that person in your life feel.

The gift you give yourself will help others.
“What do I want?” That’s not something we often ask ourselves at Christmastime when we’re busy taking care of others. Try giving yourself something in the middle of all the busyness. If you give to yourself—even if it’s just a little precious time alone, permission to say no to attending one more holiday party, treating yourself to a movie no one else wants to see with you, or even wrapping up a gift you buy for yourself and putting it under the tree—you’ll be doing everyone in your life a favor. You’ll be a much happier person to be around when you honor yourself!

Try one or more of these tips and share your results with us . . .

Honor the Signs and Symbols in Your Life

by Patricia Spadaro

Sign_By_God“You must accept the truth from whatever source it comes.” —Maimonides

Have you stumbled upon any signs or symbols in unexpected places lately—messages meant just for you?

I have. I’ve been taking some time this summer to contemplate my next projects and have been working my way through folders and folders of ideas—scraps of paper with ferocious scribbles, printouts of articles, notes, and quotes I slavishly save. In one folder, stuffed between some odds and ends, were what looked like two sheets of scrap paper I had folded in half to take notes on (I’m big on re-using paper).

One of the pages was totally blank, but the other held a surprise—an unexpected message that had waited nine years for me to rediscover.  I could see the date at the bottom of the second sheet, showing me it was one of those extra blank pages you get when you print out an email. When I unfolded it, though, I saw four words at the top staring back at me: “You Are Dearly Loved!”

I drew in a deep breath and let out a big sigh. I needed that reminder. . . thanks. I really had been hard on myself that week, feeling that I wasn’t producing fast enough.

That same week, as I was looking through another stack of papers, I saw that I had mistyped part of the name of a magazine article I had written down. Instead of “Go Ahead” I had written “God Ahead.” Ah—another message, reminding me that I wasn’t alone, I didn’t have to struggle so darn much, and the guidance I was looking for was right there, just ahead.

Of course, I’ve known for a long time that signs, symbols, and messages—like an intricately designed spiritual feedback loop created personally for us—are all around if we watch and listen for them. But in my panic to push myself, I needed a reminder, and there it was. I knew it wasn’t a mistake to see those two messages just a few days apart.

These signs, divine direction, if you will, come in all shapes and sizes. It may be as simple as turning the page of a magazine and having a headline pop out as if it were speaking directly to you. Or waking up with a string of words in your head. Or walking by a message a child scrawled in the sand that answers the very question you’ve been pondering. Or getting a busy signal over and over when you call to make a certain appointment, showing you that this isn’t the right next step.

(By the way, if you’re looking for a good book with an interesting take on working with signs and symbols, check out Decoding the Spiritual Messages of Everyday Life by Dr. Paul DeBell, a New York psychiatrist who shows how to use rational techniques to detect and decipher the feedback we receive from the deeper dimensions of life.)

– What signs or symbols have you stumbled upon in unexpected places?
– Where have they led you?
– Are you watching and listening for them?

Join the conversation and share your thoughts . . .

Is Giving a Gift Always the Best Choice?

by Patricia Spadaro

You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. —Kahlil Gibran Let’s face it—many of us are still rushing around to buy the people we love the most their holiday gifts, huffing and puffing all the way.  Here’s a story that’s a perfect […]

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The Power of Focused Attention

by Patricia Spadaro

One of the most significant gifts we can give in this modern, busy time of ours is our time. With so many demands placed upon us, we often find ourselves talking or listening to someone who needs us while we are also driving, watching TV, answering our cell phones, text messaging, making dinner, going through […]

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