2016-06-30
If you're like us, your mailbox is clogged with catalogues full of gifts that will give you snazzier clothes, better gizmos, and an even more cramped kitchen. As we do each year, we'd like to offer you a few of our favorite spiritual and religious gifts--presents that can help feed the soul and not just fill the house.

23RD PSALM BRACELET MINDFUL STATIONERY JEWISH CALENDAR TIBETAN PHONE BELL NATIVITY SET CHANTING CD BIBLE-BASED CANDLES STAR OF DAVID NECKLACE YOGA DVD HAND-HELD LABYRINTH ASTRONOMY SOFTWARE SINGING BOWL BIRD CALLS SPIRITUAL VIDEO GAME HONEYBEES SPIRITUAL FILM CLUB


23rd Psalm Bracelet

Like many out there, I often forget to say my prayers. So I was excited to come across this Psalm 23 prayer box bracelet from Laura K Designs. Not only is this bracelet pretty enough to be complimented by envious girlfriends, but each bead represents a verse in the psalm. For example, the green bead helps you remember the verse, "He makes me lie down in green pastures." There's a small prayer box attached so that you can slip a tiny note of prayer inside to remind you of special prayer concerns--or maybe just an all-purpose message like, "Remember to Say Your Prayers!" I think I'll be retiring my WWJD bracelet once I get this. --Sherry Huang

Cost: $84.95
Where to buy it: Psalm23 Bracelets




Mindful Stationery
BrushDance has made an art, literally, of pairing thought-provoking spiritual wisdom with awe-inspiring images. The company's beautifully designed cards, calendars, and journals include moving (and potentially life-changing) quotations from such luminaries as Rumi, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Zen masters. I posted this stress-defusing card, with Rumi's words translated by Coleman Barks, near my home computer: "But listen to me: For one moment, quit being sad. Hear blessings dropping their blossoms around you."

At $6.95, their 2005 Thich Nhat Hanh mini-calendar offers some of the loveliest and most cost-effective enlightenment you're likely to find. And BrushDance products are not all deep thoughts. Their Enlighten Up line includes koan-like sayings followed by a zingy punchline: "Take only what is given. Own nothing but your robes and an alms bowl ..unless, of course, you have the closet space." --Laura Sheahen


Cost: Varies
Where to buy it: Brushdance.com

Jewish "Sacred Days" Calendar

Jewish calendars and day planners-which, unlike secular calendars, list all the Jewish holidays, candle-lighting times, and weekly Torah portions-are easy to come by, since many bookstores sell them and synagogues often give them out for free. And while most tend to feature pictures of Jewish art or artifacts, it's rare to find a calendar that pairs those images with quotes from the Bible, as the new Sacred Days planner produced by the nonprofit Jewish group CLAL: The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership does. The 2005 calendar's theme is "vessels"-every other page features a photograph of a unique wooden vase, cup, bowl, platter, or other vessel from a renowned art collection. Interspersed throughout the weeks are short essays by CLAL faculty on everything from what it means to be a vessel for the divine to the meaning of vessels in biblical stories. It's likely to be an inspiring way to plan the year ahead of you. Most Jewish museums sell Jewish calendars as well, such as these beautiful wall calendars available online from The Jewish Museum in New York. --Rebecca Phillips

Cost: $15.00 per copy, $10 for bulk orders
Where to buy it: The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership




Tibetan Phone Bell & Timer

Does the ring of your telephone lift you out of your chair? Do you really need that kind of stress? Here's something that will make you, or the lucky person you give this to, happy when the telemarketers call at 6:00 a.m.! It's a Zen bowl chime that attaches to your phone so it will gong instead of ring. Gong! Now, pause to appreciate all that is, and take a deep breath! Distributed by the creators of the Zen Alarm clock (another fine product), this apparatus works well at your desk or bedside--wherever you don't have to be summoned from too far away. You get gonged instead of knocked sideways by the usual ring. And the resonant gong comes at the same timed interval as the phone. You can also program this device to assist you in timing your meditation sessions. Some aspects of the world are getting better. And we think the Zen phone represents real cultural progress. --Amy Cunningham

Cost: $119.95
Where to buy it: www.now-zen.com




Peruvian Nativity Set

Gentleness and peace emanate from all five figures in this handmade ceramic nativity set from Peru. Mary and Joseph, wearing simple robes and multicolored halos, gaze outward calmly. The Christ child looks to the sky with eyes wide open, as if seeing the angels floating there. A bull and a cow kneel in adoration at his side. Produced in family-owned workshops in a remote area of the central Andes, income from these handcrafts allows more families to return to their rural homes and to make a living there, using traditional artistic techniques and local clays. --Martha Ainsworth

Cost: $29.95
Where to buy it: Gear That Gives




Krishna Das CD

If someone you know has never heard the sacred chants, or kirtans, performed by Krishna Das, or if they have been a fan of this transformative music for a long time, this year's release of his "Greatest Hits of the Kali Yuga" makes a marvelous gift. The tracks on this CD are gathered from K.D.'s five previous albums, and an attached full-length DVD documentary chronicles the spiritual journey of this humble seeker and performing artist who has successfully brought the spiritual music of India to an unparalleled level of popularity in America today. This is a music that intensifies and illuminates whatever you choose to do while listening. It's an excellent gift for anyone who has struggled with or is still recovering from a serious illness. Whether the people on your gift list have never heard the sacred chants, or kirtans, performed by Krishna Das, or have been fans of this transformative music for a long time, this year's release of his "Greatest Hits of the Kali Yuga" makes a marvelous gift (listen to samples from a previous album). --Amy Cunningham

Cost: $19.98
Where to buy it: Karuna Music




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Bible-based Votive Candles
The ritual of candle-lighting is used throughout the world to create sacred space and focus the mind in meditation and prayer. This group of brightly colored votive candles is even more evocative because each candle carries a different fragrance mentioned in the Bible. The scents of frankincense and myrrh recall the precious gifts of the Magi. And haven't you always wondered what spikenard was, the ointment with which Mary Magdelene anointed Jesus' feet? (Turns out it's a wonderfully fragrant type of ginger root.) As the candles glow, the scents transport you to biblical times and places. And there are descriptions and verses from Scripture to go with each one. This set of five votives makes a lovely gift and a great conversation piece, especially for friends from church or Bible study. --Wendy Schuman

Cost: $19.95 for a set of 5
Where to buy it: Washington National Cathedral Museum Store




Star of David Peace Dove Necklace

Looking for a way to say "Happy Hanukkah" that also says "I believe in peace?" Jerusalem-based jewelry designer Victor Barr has created this dove-shaped Star of David necklace in either sterling silver or gold with blue or purple enamel. For me, in these uncertain times, just the sight of the necklace is a welcome reminder of the enduring hope for peace. --Holly Lebowitz Rossi

Cost: $48
Where to buy it: Judaica2000.com




"Yoga Shakti" DVD

When it comes to yoga, we've all heard of controlling our thoughts and controlling our breath, but how about controlling our yoga teacher?! In Shiva Rea's dynamic new DVD "Yoga Shakti" you get to do just that. Through a Yoga Matrix, as Shiva calls it, you can choose from 30 different posture flow sequences to custom tailor a practice that suits your time schedule, energy level, or area of focus, all led by world-renowned vinyasa flow teacher Shiva Rea. Or, simply choose from one of the four pre-programmed posture flows if you'd rather Shiva plan it for you. It's the first of its kind, user-friendly, and you don't even have to leave your own living room.

With a second DVD to boot, toting special features such as interviews with Shiva Rea, John Friend, Angela Farmer and other notable yoga teachers, clips from their travels on location in India where they shot the DVD, and more specific info. about vinyasa techniques, this creative gift is sure to please. FYI: some of the sequences are best suited for intermediate and advanced practitioners, so reading the accompanying booklet will help determine which flows are appropriate. --Cory Schuman


Cost: $29.95
Where to buy it: Sounds True




Labyrinth Fingerboard

For anyone who doesn't live by the Chartres Cathedral near Paris, home to the world's most famous Medieval labyrinth, a Labyrinth Fingerboard would make a lovely gift. Labyrinths have been used for centuries for contemplative exercise and as meditation and prayer tools in various religious traditions. Most labyrinths are meant to be walked, this beautiful one--available from the Washington National Cathedral Museum Store in cherry, oak, or maple--you can hold in your hands. And because they are hand-finished and smooth, you don't have to worry about getting a splinter in the middle of contemplating. For spiritual enlightenment at the office, try the more affordable Sand Labyrinth, a small wooden box with two labyrinth tracing patterns and soft white sand. --Dena Ross

Cost: $199.95 for the wood fingerboards; $44.95 for the Sand Labyrinth
Where to buy it: Washington National Cathedral Museum Store



"Starry Night" Software

For your stargazing friends, this interactive software provides a thorough and stimulating introduction to the celestial realm. After a few intergalactic guided tours your friend should at least be able to point out to you all the cool constellations in the night sky. There are other sky simulators on the market, but this deluxe version seems to be a favorite (read reviews here). For the amateur astronomers in my life, I'd buy this first, and splurge on the fancy telescope later. --Lisa Schneider

Cost: $49.95
Where to buy it: Space.com




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Tibetan Singing Bowl

Someone in your life a little too stressed? Consider giving them this miniature Tibetan singing bowl as an elegant focus for contemplation. Make the carefully tuned bowl "sing" by circling it with the wooden striker (like running your finger around the edge of a crystal glass). The clear, floating sound has definite therapeutic qualities; contemplating the sound is said to lead to the heart of understanding. It takes concentration, though, to keep the sound going, so practicing helps you gather or release energy as you tease out the song of your auspicious destiny. Even kids enjoy learning to make the bowl sing, and musicians will be delighted by the tone. Good karma for you, too, since this "fair trade" purchase helps the community of Tibetan refugees in Nepal by supporting their traditional metalcraft. Packaged in a beautiful handmade paper box. --Martha Ainsworth

Cost: $30
Where to buy it: Tibet Collection



Wooden Bird Calls

Birdwatching--you either get it or you don't. I have to admit, the appeal of this hobby/obsession completely eluded me until I encountered a recently retired and previously-non-birdwatching family member glued to his binoculars as he looked out over the nature preserve that was his new backyard. Soon we were taking turns catching glimpses of a hawk tearing apart a flopping fish on a headless palm tree. Wow! We were transfixed--fascinated by this simple miracle of nature--and sad to see him fly off after finishing his meal. These particular bird calls are handmade and nicely crafted, and could be used to attract owls, blackbirds, or ducks. I'd recommend them for budding birdwatchers or anyone interested in communing with our feathered friends. --Lisa Schneider

Cost: $13.75 each, or $41.25 for all 3
Where to buy it: Garrett Wade




Wild Divine Video

Give the gift of joy and peace this year--literally. I have never found a computer or video game that was worth playing, but this is the one exception. Journey to the Wild Divine is a computer game for PC or Mac that actually uses biofeedback technology to teach skills such as deep breathing, relaxation, and visualization. This is a game anyone can play during a stress-filled day, and feel calmer and more centered after even a few minutes. The Journey comes with sensors that attach to three fingers and measure changes in your autonomic nervous system: it literally makes the mind-body connection visible. It is exhilarating to see balls whirling through the air, spheres levitating, and fires igniting on-screen as you generate the required emotion.

I have found that it's impossible to cheat: if the game asks you to generate joy and you generate peace, the balls will not levitate. I had to sing one of my favorite songs out loud to get them to fly, and fly they did, in huge circles that eventually took them right off the screen. I have never found a computer or video game that was worth playing, but this is the one exception. And here's the best part: my teenage son, who has succeeded at dozens of computer and video games, had to concede that his "hippie" mother has actually learned some skills he has yet to master. --Daphne White


Cost: $159.95
Where to buy it: www.wilddivine.com




Honeybees--Yes, Bees
Here's a gift guaranteed not to wind up in the back of a closet. If you haven't heard of Heifer International via one of their many high-profile endorsers (Ted Danson, Susan Sarandon, Jimmy Carter, and others), the idea behind this unique charity is that you donate things to a community that will help sustain them over the long term. For example, a gift of honey bees provides a source of income for a family in need in say, the Dominican Republic, as well as a way to increase their crop yield (through the pollinating bees do on their honey-making travels). An excellent option for your socially aware friends. --Lisa Schneider

Cost: $30 for package of honeybees
Where to buy it: Heifer.org



A Year of Spiritual Films

A group of film lovers have gotten together to form a company that will send you and your loved ones a new DVD every month containing an ensemble of films (many short, some feature-length) that they hope will make your spirits soar. You'll like their selections, they say, if you liked the films "Field of Dreams," "Whalerider," "Ghost," or "Truly, Madly, Deeply." "I'm not exaggerating when I say that some of the best movies made every year go virtually unseen," says Stephen Simon, one of the organizers and producer of the Robin William's film "What Dreams May Come." Among his advisers and partners are New Age thinkers Kathlyn and Gay Hendricks, Neale Donald Walsch, and Jean Houston. "The major distributors won't touch the most heartful, soul-satisfying movies, because they don't think there's enough money in it," Simon goes on to say. "Remember, big, violent action movies bring in audiences that eat those huge $7 boxes of popcorn and those 32-ounce $4 cups of soft drinks. That's why theater-owners want them." So in giving this particular gift, you're joining a movement, so to speak. Everyone's tastes are different, especially when it comes to the spiritual realm, but it's worth a try. --Amy Cunningham

Cost: The service is $21 a month, or sign up for a year and get 10% off
Where to buy it: The Spiritual Cinema Circle



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