Magpie Moments: Exchange

‘Tis the season of exchanges.

Money across the register.

Gifts in front of the tree.

Items at the return counter.

How does one think soulfully about the exchanging of gifts? How can we be mindful about our giving and our receiving? What exactly is it that we are exchanging?

I would like to suggest that we are exchanging energy. Creative Energy. Emotional Energy. Spiritual Energy. The money you pass to purchase an item is in exchange for the work that went into producing that gift. The gift you extend to another carries all the energy of your affection for them. The donation you make to your favorite non-profit carries the spiritual energy of charity and hope.

In the bustle of the season, we must focus a little if we are to be mindful of this exchange. In his recent post at Shambhala Sun, Daniel Goleman offers this sage advice:

The key step in socially engaged shopping is to be mindful in the moment we’re about to make a decision about whether to buy something, rather than going through the store in our usual trance. At the very point of buying, we need to pay attention, rather than act on impulse. Our mindfulness can then allow us to take in the bigger picture.

As you create your list of purchases, I invite you to consider these questions: What does the person I am shopping for value? Does this purchase reflect those values? As the give-er does this gift reflect enough of my values that I can offer it without hesitation? Taking a moment to consider these will help you experience the sweet richness of a gift well given.

And what about the seller of these gifts? As an Etsy artist, M. of The Creative Beast is wondering about her role in this exchange:

One of my big concerns about this time of year is about being an artist/crafter that sells through Etsy, but I’m just not comfortable with the concept of “cashing in on the holidays” and my Etsy shop is closed at this time because of those concerns. How can an artist that creates lovely and meaningful gifts find a way to sell that doesn’t feel like it’s “cashing in” on what is, for many, a sacred time of year?

It’s easy to get caught up in the fervor and the panic of the holiday sales. It’s important to choose what is right-fit for you in this regards. If you employ resonate pricing throughout the year, then honoring your work might mean not having a holiday sale. If you have a loyal group of supporters, then a holiday discount might be your way of exchanging thanks with your fans, rather than just a grab for more sales. Then again, if your spirituality is asking you to avoid commerce as part of your sacred practice, then closing your shop for the holiday seasons may be right-fit for you.

Whether you are the buyer or the seller, be mindful of the narrative you are telling yourself about these exchanges. You don’t have to be held hostage by the commercialism of our age. I invite you to engage the story you are telling yourself about giving and receiving.

You can tell a different tale.

What about you Magpie? How have you made peace with the exchanging of gifts? We’d love to hear how you practice sanity and soulcare during this busy season. Leave your ideas in the comments below, “Cuz’ there ain’t no where to go but together.”


Magpie Moments is our Monday morning series this Fall, featuring a single shot of soulcare from me, your Magpie Girl. Join us each week and toss back some nurturing goodness. Need a double shot of soulcare? Click here for previous Magpie Moments. Thank you for being here today.

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Sarah November 28, 2011 at 10:34 am

Every year my high school girlfriends get together for a Christmas party. I decided this year to donate a book in each friend’s name to the A Book for Every Child campaign at my local library. I went online and purchased a child or teen book for each friend keeping in mind their personality and values and interests. Then I will make cards with print outs of the cover of the book I chose to give in their name.

I’m excited about this idea because I feel like none of us really needs anything and anything we want, we have the means to get ourselves so why not help a child in need have their very own brand new book to enjoy. Books were and are a huge passion of mine. Books got me through a great deal throughout my life and I want to share that.

Tess Giles Marshall November 28, 2011 at 11:25 am

This year, I’ve made an agreement with family (one exception) and friends that we won’t exchange gifts. Nada. None of us needs anything in terms of more “stuff”.
And that focuses me on what to do instead of the ritual present-opening. I think there’s something around making sure everything around our homes is even more welcoming and warming than usual.
By the way, I’m interested in the Etsy artist who closes her store. I think there’s a big difference between “cashing-in” and allowing potential customers the relief of discovering something individual and meaningful to give to a loved one.

Em November 28, 2011 at 4:18 pm

This is going to turn in to a post over at my place, but oh, how I wish the Etsy artist wasn’t closing her store!

I know some people have religious reasons for doing that and I do respect that. On the other hand, one of the ways, IMHO, to make the holidays more soulful is with gifts that are handmade and helping to support an artist rather than just some chunk of plastic that I can get at a big box store.

The Creative Beast November 28, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Rachelle, thank you so much for addressing the concerns I expressed after reading your post from the 14th, “Rush”. I really appreciate the way of looking at gift exchanges as an exchange of energy and looking at what I have to offer as being part of that exchange.

The previous commenter, Tess, might be interested to know that I did choose to re-open my shop (quietly!) on the chance that the things I create might resonate with someone looking for something special that you won’t find in your usual corporate shopping mall! The idea that my creations could be part of a special (dare I say spiritual?!) exchange of energy is something that resonates for me =-)

I also appreciate the comment left by Sarah and her gift exchange for this year – As a fellow book lover, it’s an inspiring idea that I may just put into action this year!

Susan December 6, 2011 at 9:33 pm

Very interesting to read. I have struggled with the idea one of your quoted people expressed of “cashing in on the holidays” too. As a massage therapist, I have felt torn in the past to highlight gift certificates at this time of lots of gift giving or discounts on gift certificates. But I felt it cheapened the meanings behind what people are celebrating. I’ve chosen, most years, to skip the whole scene and just enjoy the clients who come during the holidays, selling gift certificates if they are requested, and expressing my thanks as part of Thanksgiving, the end of the year or the New Year. This has felt like a right-fit for me in a business sense. Thanks for the discussion Rachelle.

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