Give with grace and love

THERE is a tendency nowadays for me to view festivals with some cynicism and misgivings. All around, rather than seeing joyful celebration, I see invitations to spend money as if my wallet and bank account is a bottomless pit. If only!

So it was with a lot of difficulty that I sat and reflected for a Christmas theme for a yoga class. "Materialism" or "spend bucket-loads of money" are hardly themes one could use for a yoga class, and since the class is multicultural, I wanted to steer away from religious dogma.

After much thought, I came to a realisation that the spirit of Christmas is giving. Notwithstanding the religious viewpoint, or maybe because of it, we see people giving each other presents, giving each other food and meals, giving to those in need: Christmas is the time of generosity and grace.

This spirit should be there throughout the year, but I guess sometimes we need a special reason or time of year to remind us. There are so many reasons to give, and many people who do give feel it is their way of giving thanks for all they have, and possibly will have. Some do it because of the capacity for compassion they possess. Whatever it is, the giving that we do makes a change, a ripple in society or the community.

Dwelling even further on the thought of giving that I have experienced, I realise that the gifts are not as important as many people think. Once upon a time, a friend pointed out that I rarely had anything bad to say about my childhood. "You're always talking about the holidays you had with your family or where you went with your parents," he said. Reflecting on this, I realised that often my family holidays would coincide with Christmas. We would prepare for Christmas celebrations in Singapore, or sometimes spend it in Fraser's Hill.

When I was really young, I remember how happy I would be when my parents got me a toy I really wanted and, in hindsight, I realise it is not the toy that is important. It is the memories that I have. So the act of giving that my parents did helps me look back on my childhood with happiness and joy. Hopefully, fond memories from my childhood help me be a better functional adult who wants to give back to the community. As I said, the act of giving creates a ripple in society. And the flip side of giving is receiving. I usually teach tree pose, or vrksasana, during my Christmas yoga classes. Initially, it was because it was the only Christmassy yoga pose I could think of. Then I realised that the tree is very much like nature's gift to us, because the tree does so much for us: it cleanses the air, it provides sustenance and general wellness. We receive these things from trees without even realising it. Perhaps, we should be more mindful in our receiving.

Many times, we receive things we don't even realise that are gifts to us. And sometimes, when we receive something, we take it or the giver for granted, or react in an offensive manner if it is something we don't want to receive. As much as it is important to give, and give with grace rather than reluctant compulsion, it is also important to receive with grace and gratitude.

After all, the giver may be giving you everything they ever had, but to you, it is something small. Or the giver may be giving you something that he or she took extra care in selecting. And most importantly, the giver thought of you. Surely that is the most important thing?

Giving and receiving with grace and love is part of our life. We have all done both actions, whether or not we realise it. As the age-old adage goes: "It's good to be blessed. It's better to be a blessing."

Daniel has a deep passion for health, fitness, sleep and travel. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com