Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

material girls: or, how a nice Buddhist girl found happiness giving Christmas presents ~

I love presents. Getting them (of course!), but also buying them, wrapping them, giving them. I like French ribbon in loopy old-fashioned bows. And shiny foil paper. I like looking for tiny ornaments — feathers, vintage tags, a candy cane, maybe — to put in the center of the bow.

And I love stocking stuffers: buying fingertip flashlight guns for the guys in the family. A kaleidescope for one my grand-nieces. Pawning off the many ‘free’ calendars I receive: cramming them into the recycled gift bags we use for the stockings all 15+ of us still exchange.


Yesterday my husband and I went out for breakfast, as we do this time of year, to discuss what we’ll be giving various family members for Christmas. For years I’ve been trying to get everyone to do lists. Initially, there was some resistance (actually, there was ALOT, but I ignored it…). Now? There’s still some resistance… :) But they’re wearing down. I can tell.

Because while I may not buy off the list, it gives me an idea of what you like these days. And as the nieces & nephews and sisters & sons and daughter-in-law and all become increasingly busy, it’s hard to keep up. So I may not buy the cooking gear on my youngest son’s extensive list (then again, his list is sooo good it’s hard to go one better!). I may instead buy something his list suggests to me. A better knife. A slow cooker cookbook to go w/ the slow cooker he asked for.


Much of my life is like this right now, and it feels like good Buddhism. When I play with the dog, he loves it. But so do I. So: is my duty to the dog — all dogs need (heck! they deserve!) love & play — coopted if it brings me joy? If it makes me feel good too, is that wrong? Am I doing it because I enjoy it or because I should? Isn’t a lot of life that way?

I love shopping. I know: most of you reading this don’t. And neither do I when it’s crazy, or I’m tired or hungry or ALL of the above! But I really do love buying presents for the important people in my life. These days, I even enjoy sending holiday cards. The thinking about each person as you address the cards. Isn’t it a kind of loving meditation…?


I didn’t always feel this way. Having more time has softened many of my rougher edges :). Much of what I once saw as a hassle has now become a joy. This year at Thanksgiving we used the china and the crystal (well, except for the folks who thought the Eskimo Joe’s cups for the little ones were the ‘crystal’!), because the effort washing it afterwards became an opportunity for visiting. And besides, it turned out the others washed it up!

That’s how you know you did the right thing (and no, it doesn’t always happen… :)). But when you decide to use all the china, and your sister & husband & nieces clean it all up? That means you are incredibly lucky. And just think: you also gave them a chance to be the good guys!


Seriously — it doesn’t have to be a big gift. I guarantee you that one of the favourite gifts for someone on my list this holiday is one that cost less than $5. And it gave me hundred$$ worth of joy to find it, and wrap it for him.

Just because it brings me joy, too, doesn’t mean it isn’t good Buddhism. So go ahead — indulge in giving. It’s a relatively guiltless pleasure. :)

  • Karen

    I couldn’t agree more with you. It’s always fun to buy gifts for your loved ones. And it really doesn’t matter how expensive they are. Just the thought of letting them know that they are special and very dear to me, making me really happy. And I’m sure they are too.

    • Britton Gildersleeve

      You’re absolutely right! Just the fun of it all!

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