Season’s Greetings

‘Tis the season to be jolly…well it’s almost coming to an end. But December is the month of excitement and festivities – not to mention overspending and overeating! So, I’m putting Christmas under the spotlight…

This year has been monumental for my family. Not only did we celebrate our first Christmas with the new addition to the family, my sister-in-law, but it was the first time it was just my immediate family around the table. For the first time we spent most of the day indulging and relaxing than slaving in the kitchen. Generally, it was a carefree and stress free Christmas and you know what – we loved it!

It seems customary that each year I’m asked by someone or another whether I celebrate Christmas. At first I used to say no because I assumed celebrating the birth of Christ would be a religious affair involving going to church, praying and centring the day on God. Over the years I’ve come to realise that everyone I know (Christian or not) celebrate Christmas in almost the same way.

We all put up a tree and decorations, exchange cards and gifts (even if they’re just chocolates!), cook up a huge Christmas feast and spend the day eating our way to paralysis and watching films we wouldn’t otherwise pay attention to.

Most of us look forward to the prospect of a white Christmas, we’re eager to experience the buzz of the German festive market and romantic air of Christmas songs. We marvel at the extent some people will go to wash over their homes with outrageous light displays. We enjoy the relaxed atmosphere at work and looming time off over the holidays. Overall, as a nation we look forward to the festive season for all reasons other than God – or more specifically the birth of Christ.

As a British Asian, our family has adopted the festival as a way to embrace British culture. You can’t escape the buzz of Christmas if you live in the Western World. Many people interpret this widespread excitement as a manufactured commercial gimmick to cash in on all things festive. The belief in Santa is reinforced to pressure parents into buying presents for their children – regardless of whether they’ve been a good little boy or girl! Each year the demand and expectations of gifts are rising to foolishness. From accepting a board game as a fun present, there is now a demand for hi-tech gadgets like Wii consoles or iPads…for children who have barely entered their teens.

The oldie in me is screaming out in frustration when I say youngsters today have been blinded by advertising and consumerism. They haven’t worked for their money so they don’t appreciate the value of it. It’s easy to blame the retail sector for plugging extravagant gifts as necessities to a modern lifestyle. But aren’t parents also to blame? Isn’t it part of their job description to explain to their child what is acceptable as a Christmas gift at their age? Parents who barely make ends meet during the recession are forking out hundreds of pounds on gifts that will be deemed as insufficient once a newer model is released. Surely this is adding pressure on how spectacular the birthday present should be, which is meant to be the “child’s” day, thus elaborate spending is somewhat more suitable. If a 10-year-old is bought an Xbox for Christmas, by the time they’re 15, what could be as exciting a gift for them?

I hate to admit it at risk of imitating Scrooge’s bah humbug, but the commercial side of Christmas is verging on ridiculous. To avoid the crazy cost and sky-high expectation of expansive gifts, my cousins and I decided to do Secret Santa with a twist. We had a £3 budget and could only shop from Poundland. You’d be surprised at how creative people could be once set a challenge. Although the gifts weren’t exactly worth keeping for a lifetime, the process was fun and money wasn’t an issue.

I don’t mean to come across as a Christmas scrounge – I did buy other presents besides the Secret Santa! But Christmas is so much more than that for me. It’s symbolic of keeping faith in the future and being optimistic for the New Year ahead. It’s a time to let go of the past and be thankful that the year’s done and dusted. It’s the dawn of a new year that brings with it new opportunities and adventures. The holiday season is a chance to spend quality time with the family, socialise and be happy. Christmas is so much more than competing against flamboyant gifts and hoping you give as good or bad as you receive. It’s my favourite time of the year because of the hustle and bustle in town, the sense of excitement, the merriment, the soulful romantic Christmas jingles, the smiles and planning for the big day. Alongside this, the underlying thought that new starts are just around the corner.

Happy Holidays!

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The best secret of all time

“The Secret”…ever heard of it? It’s a whole new universe of opportunities, dreams and happiness if you focus your energy on it. Confused? Read on as I put “The Secret” under the spotlight…

I discovered The Secret after my aunt mentioned how it had transformed her friend’s life. A middle-aged woman, who was unhappy with how her life had taken shape, doubted her husband’s fidelity and couldn’t afford the finer things in life. After putting The Secret in practice, she transformed into a happy, confident woman whose husband was obsessed with her and their business had grown from zilch to prosperity.

So I bought the book and read it. Just reading the first chapter put me on such a high! I felt overwhelmed with happiness and empowered with the notion that I could steer my life to navigate wherever I desired. Okay so you’re probably thinking it’s just a load of modern-day-self-help nonsense. In fact it’s a philosophy that has been adopted for thousands of years by geniuses like Albert Einstein and even preached in faiths like Buddhism and Sikhism.

To put it briefly, The Secret works on the law of attraction, which is a basic principle of physics! However you’re feeling, be it happy or sad, you’re omitting relative thoughts to the universe and everything around you. By the rule of attraction, whatever thoughts you omit, you will attract things on a similar wavelength.

It’s a lot simpler than it sounds. If you’re happy, you’re undoubtedly having happy thoughts and the universe will bring back happiness in the form of situations and experiences in your life. I didn’t realise that my religion, Sikhism, preaches exactly that – the more you speak/believe in something, the more it will happen.

Have you ever wondered why the worlds richest make up only around 1% of the entire global population? Ever thought how some millionaires go from riches to rags and then from rags to riches again? Simon Cowell is an example – he became a millionaire in the 80s but towards the end of the decade became bankrupt and had to move back home with his mum! And now look at him…he breathes, talks and probably reeks of money! It’s not just luck. It’s not just talent. It’s about thought process. If you believe you’re abundant with wealth; eventually the universe brings it to you. Conversely, someone struggling to get by on a low-income and drowning in debt becomes so convinced that they’ll never live the high life, that their entire life is stagnated in debt and financial struggle.

So if you’re always doubting your luck and think of your life as a failure, you’re inadvertently attracting misery your way. I’ve seen it happen to certain people. They never count their lucky stars for what they have. Instead, they look onto others and compare their lives with jealousy, highlighting all the things others have that they don’t themselves. They drain themselves with self-pity and envy – negative emotions, and as expected, the universe throws negativity back their way.

What you need to remember about The Secret is that you need to learn how to be grateful. Rather than consuming thoughts of greed and moaning about what you’re lacking, be thankful for what you DO have, because there is always someone less fortunate. Wake up each morning and just say thank you. Whether you believe in God, a superior power or just speak out to the universe; be grateful for all that you’ve been blessed with. It’s the most positive way to start your day, which helps to maintain a happy feeling throughout the day. Consequently, you’re attracting happiness to you!

The second most important thing is that the more you think/say something, eventually you’ll start believing it and it will happen. Ever heard of people who are terminally ill and then miraculously cure without medical intervention? It’s no miracle; its faith and conviction in positive attitude. It’s The Secret in action.

My mum was very ill earlier this year and it was an illness that was difficult to understand or cure. I had almost come to breaking point after 4 months and thought there was no end to this hell. I was so full of negativity, anger, bitterness, edgy and just plain miserable. Thus, everything around me started to break down and immerse me deeper into misery because I had a one-dimensional perspective to everything – negative. That’s when I decided to adopt The Secret because things could not get any worse.

I began each day by thanking God for the good people, opportunities and experiences in life that had shaped me to be who I am. I began to believe with conviction that mum was going to bounce back to herself in no time. I began feeling more relaxed, saw the positive in everything and was generally pleasant. In just two weeks my mum transformed to a new person. Her doctor was amazed with her rapid recovery. It wasn’t just mum who changed. Everything around me began to alter to benefit me somehow. Unexpected opportunities were finding their way to me. I began noticing that even if it feels unfair or unbearable, I’m not being put through anything I can’t cope with. It all happens for a reason but we have to realise what reason and learn from it. It’s not WHAT we go through that matters but HOW we get through it.

I’m so grateful for this year – 2011. I’ve been through lows that I wouldn’t even wish my worst enemy to experience. Equally, I’ve been blessed with an amazing sister-in-law and niece who both have inert qualities to bring about peace and happiness. This year has challenged my relationship with friends and family. It’s made me realise who/what is right for me. It’s brought families together, made us stronger and united. This year has been downright fabulous! And you know what; next year’s going to be even better! I’m damn sure of it!

(Wow that was a long rant!)