December; the time of year when consumerism peaks as shops are congested with people searching for the perfect gift; too often for people they see once a year, don’t really know or who don’t need anything anyway. I’m all for gift giving, but you wont find me fighting the crowds – I subscribe to a different concept – Gifting. Gifting is a way of living, not an annual event.
The gifting concept came to my attention through my involvement in Modifyre http://www.modifyre.org/about and has had an enormously positive impact on my life. It’s opened my heart, introduced me to people I wouldn’t ordinarily gravitate towards and improved my confidence. Gifting is one of the burning Man Principles – the concept is simple; give without expectation of receiving. “The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value. ” Gifting is not commerce.
Gifting at Modifyre
Since the first event in 2014 – Preconception – my official Modifyre gift has been Yoga. Gifting my skill in Yoga had the effect of removing any personal expectations of self. With no money exchange, I felt less pressure and free to create the programs I wanted to – the program that inspired me, instead of trying to work out what I thought people wanted. On the flip side, everyone has the opportunity to accept my gift or not, with no obligation, loss or hurt feelings. Their investment is their time only, and guess what? Turns out people appreciated my gift, furthermore they indicated a great need for it, which in turn motivated me to continue. Strangely, gifting has improved my business (despite, or maybe because of, being born out of a decommodified event).
Gifting In Society
Western societies dominant paradigm does not easily lend itself to gifting in this manner. The giving of gifts seems connected with some level of expectation, ‘I’d better get them a present, they got me one last year” etc. Xmas is a time when I find myself re-affirming my values and having conversations explaining that I’m not the Grinch, I just feel we can celebrate family, friendship and holidays without unnecessary consumerism. Xmas should not be about “what will they get me? What should I get them? Will they get me anything? They have everything they need, but I can’t get them nothing, can I? I wonder how much they’ve spent on me this year?” etc.
The conversation in my head now goes more along the lines of “Who is in need and what is is my capacity to give right now?” I’m also less likely to link my gifting with a commercial reason like Xmas or Valentine’s Day. Neither do I value gifts received or given, based purely on money. This shift has been good for my self worth (what a gift that has been!). It’s made me feel better about myself remembering that despite living in a society that values money so highly, I still have a lot to give. A well timed hug, ear or shoulder to cry on beats an elaborate annual act offered out of obligation, and costs nothing.
Gifting feels good, it’s almost addictive. Over the years I have developed my own set of rules around the way I gift. Firstly, I always gift from my surplus. Granted, I’ve reduced my actual needs to a discrete set of core requirements but I still remain mindful of my capacity to gift – be it physical, emotional, time or resources. In doing so, I avoid gifting fatigue and ensure my personal and extended families needs are prioritised where necessary. Of course, the beauty of gifting is that you always get back more that you could ever expect or hope for, so sometimes it is a good idea to give away your last.., whatever… (but the trick is in having no expectations and to truly let go of whatever you gift). Which brings me to receiving – this was the most difficult part of gifting for me to come to terms with.
Giving feels great, it certainly felt natural to me from my first exposure to the concept, but I found that receiving was perverted with subsequent feelings of ‘owing’, ‘using people’ or ‘taking advantage’. I’ve pondered these states of mind deeply and, in additional to the obvious societal conditioning, I realised that these feelings were sourced in my tendency to over-gift – to give at the expense of my personal well-being, so I don’t do that any more. I gift only from my surplus so when I say no, know I’m not saying no to you, I’m saying no to the circumstances. Know that when I am capable of gifting, I will do so unreservedly, with no expectations. Also know that I will respect your right not to gift and if you do I will be grateful, knowing that you do so because you can and you want to – and I can’t think of better circumstances in which to gift. I’ve also found a way to be OK with apparently incongruous gift exchanges by remembering how good it feels to give something that is needed and because you choose to, rather than out of obligation. We all have that choice.
In the Modifyre community gifting is balanced by ‘radical self-reliance’. Gifts are not expected or relied upon and I feel this is the crux of the magic. Having no expectations allows gratefulness to enter. Spending time each day finding something to be grateful for contributes to positive wellbeing.
Expect nothing, be grateful for what you receive. Gift of yourself and your personal magic. ‘Stuff’ is over-rated.