“You give but little when you give of your possessions, it is when you give of yourself that you truly give”~Khalil Gibran, The Profit.
The loving Flow
There is a wonderful flow in giving and being able to receive which is very enriching. Everybody has experienced the heart warming feeling that you get when somebody has been extremely generous, purely out of the goodness of their heart and not because they want to be a do gooder. There is a relief that you can feel in knowing that someone wants to help and support you. And on the other hand there is that heart warming feeling of being generous to another person,the glow that you feel in knowing that the energy you have put into giving to them is being appreciated. Giving can also be taken as an appreciation of a persons worth, even a little gesture can be enormously appreciated, if there is kindness behind it.
“For it is in giving that we receive”~Francis of Assisi
Generosity is like a flowing river that connects people. As it passes through you (whether you are giving or receiving), you are likely to experience the beauty of its energy. It reminds us of the interconnectedness of everything. It is important however, to try to maintain a balance. Just as it is important not to drain yourself, it is also important not to be too greedy, because either way the flow will be stopped. If you drain yourself through giving too much, you may no longer be able to give, or may stop giving with love.
Although giving can be a lovely gift to oneself, some people are always giving and do not allow the flow to come back to them, they resist receiving and just give. Often, this kind of giving can have its roots in self neglect because of a lack of self worth and continuous giving without appreciation reinforces lack of self worth.
At the other end of the scale, if you become greedy and have more than you need and perhaps more than it is comfortable for others to give you; then you might start to take the giving for granted, or perhaps become too focused on the object and not on the love and effort gone into the giving. You may also cause resentment.
The best way to be is part of the flow, the cycle of giving and receiving, to keep it flowing not to damn it up, or drain it dry and then we can really feel that we are all part of the great ocean of abundance.
Generosity and Mindfulness
But how can cultivating generosity relate to mindfulness? This quote from Ravi Ravindra's book The wisdom of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras illustrates a way in which it can:
“As spiritual searchers we need to become freer and freer of the attachment to our own smallness in which we get occupied with me-me-me. Pondering on large ideas or standing in front of things which remind us of a vast scale can free us from acquisitiveness and competitiveness and from our likes and dislikes. If we sit with an increasing stillness of the body, and attune our mind to the sky or to the ocean or to the myriad stars at night, or any other indicators of vastness, the mind gradually stills and the heart is filled with quiet joy. Also recalling our own experiences in which we acted generously or with compassion for the simple delight of it without expectation of any gain can give us more confidence in the existence of a deeper goodness from which we may deviate.”
When we are are not practising mindfulness, our thoughts can spiral into being judgemental, obsessive, or self-critical. This is not kind to ourselves or to anybody else whom we might be judging, or criticising. By just observing our thoughts and trying not to judge them, by keeping a distance from our thoughts and becoming aware of the sensations within and around our body feeling them and taking a step back, reminding ourselves that the thoughts and physical sensations we are experiencing are momentary experiences passing through us, they are not us.
Through giving yourself the time to nurture yourself in this way and learning to be generous enough to accept the gift of this time for yourself, even if it is only five minutes a day, you can experience the flow of giving and receiving, giving yourself the time to nurture yourself. Because if you feel loved and cherished, even if it is only by yourself, then you will have more love to give to others too. In learning to accept that you deserve this time and attention, you can begin to open yourself up to receive the wonderful benefits that mindfulness and meditation can bring. This will improve your sense of self-worth.
This is a form of generosity to oneself, because through doing this you are creating a spacious environment for your deepest feelings to be, without judgement. From the massive amount of scientific evidence available, we can see that the small act of generosity to yourself (in practising mindfulness) will benefit us hugely over time, both physically and emotionally. As a result of mindfulness we can become more accepting of ourselves and more forgiving. Then as we begin to change and become more tolerant and less judgemental towards other people and situations, we will also be benefiting the people around us.
There is scientific evidence to support the idea that generosity can reduce stress, improve physical health, enhance ones sense of purpose and alleviate depression. Volunteering was shown to improve depression amongst the elderly. Elderly people in the UK are particularly vulnerable to feeling that they have nothing to offer society and that other people are increasingly helping them. This can give some elderly people a feeling of powerlessness.
Matthew Norton has been studying generosity for ten years, he has observed that:
“Time and time again we see this basic relationship between giving and happiness that just doesn't seem to be there when we spend on ourselves”
What is the scientific reason for this?
Social Psychologist Liz Dunn discovered that when people behave in a selfish way and feel shame, they have higher levels of the stress hormone cortizol. So by being selfish, we may have the object or outcome which we thought we wanted, but at the cost of feeling shame and having a blast of Cortisol.
By practising mindfulness we can learn to open ourselves up more fully to being part of the wonderful flow of giving and receiving with compassion. And reap the benefits not only for others, but for ourselves.