“A true spiritual life is not possible without a generous heart.”
~ The Buddha
Around this time of year we hear a lot about generosity. ‘Tis the season to give, right?
Nothing says I love you like vying for a parking space at the mall and maxing out your credit card.
What would it mean right now to start a generosity revolution?
How could thinking differently about what it means to give and be generous create more harmony, peace and love in our relationships with our partners, children, co-workers, friends and family members?
I first started contemplating the word generosity when I became a Buddhist and was given the name Jinpa, which means, Generosity. At first I was having a hard time connecting to my name.
Every time I saw someone running a sign would I have to hand him or her dollar through my window?
Would I have to give to every charity and nonprofit that sent me a letter in the mail asking for a donation?
What about those people ringing the bell outside of the grocery store for the Salvation Army?
If I didn’t, would I be living this sham of a life and literally not living up to my name?
It was really stressing me out and I began to wish that I had been given a different name—any other name.
Of course going to the Acharya that named me and asking for a new name wasn’t really an option. I would have to honor my new vow and ‘sit with it.’
And so, my exploration of generosity began.
I do not claim to fully understand generosity, however, I’ve come to see it as a daily practice where deeper understanding can arise.
What if every holiday season, instead of giving a sweater or iPhone, we all gave the gift of the practice of generosity?
We could all write letters to our loved ones, sealed in colorful envelopes that read:
Dear loved one,
This year, I am giving you the gift of generosity. This is what I mean:
1) When I am angry or hurt, or feeling any kind of emotional discomfort, I will feel those emotions moving like wildfire through my veins and breathe and offer compassion for myself.
“How is this generous?” You may ask.
It is generous because it allows me to pause and not react out of my childhood conditioning or lash out at you in attempt to lessen my own pain. If, by chance, my ego has decided that you are in fact the cause of my suffering, it will allow me to see this as false and to offer a more compassionate response to you.
I cannot truly feel compassion for you if I am cut off from compassion for myself.
2) When I am convinced I am right and you are wrong, I will feel the urge to convince you of this and practice deep listening and compassion instead.
My ability to do this is directly related to number one.
This is an act of generosity because I am putting my own ego aside and making space for an alternate truth, your truth, to exist.
I am placing listening, understanding, compassion and our relationship above being right.
3) When I have failed miserably at both one and two, I will go back and practice number one again.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Assistant Editor: Sanja Cloete-Jones/ Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Bart Everson, Flickr