“The belief that freedom is possible and that having it does not depend on having things, keeping or holding onto things. Having faith is giving.”
This is the time of year when most of us think about gifts, presents, shopping, and how we will squeeze in the time and space to accomplish all this. The days approaching the holiday season are filled with untold busyness, as we try to fulfill the needs and obligations of family, friends, and co-workers. Most of rush around in a driven state, trying to check another item off the never ending “to do” list and are left feeling exhausted and unfulfilled.
There is a reason for these behaviors often done in automatic and obligatory ways lacking mindful awareness: to make a good impression, expectation, because we never thought we had another choice, and the belief based on what others will think of me if I don’t go on a shopping frenzy? If we can take a moment to pause and look below the surface we can ask ourselves what is the real, authentic meaning of this season and what does it really mean to me? Then an answer comes: what are the joys and benefits of giving, of true generosity. Why am I giving?
Generosity is called dana (Pali) in the Buddhist tradition and it simply means the willingness, thoughtfulness, and wholeheartedness to share and give without an expectation of getting anything back in return. It was one of the foundational teachings of the Buddha. Generosity is often born from gratitude and appreciation, when we feel the abundance of what life provides. Then our heart is opened and the urge to give back and share comes naturally from ease, and a peaceful place.
In our family we take pictures throughout the year of the natural world. Then as the holiday season approaches we look through them and begin to choose our favorites. It is a slow process of sorting, sensing and feeling which photos would capture a broad representation of nature’s bountiful mountains, canyons, oceans, animals, and people. As we slowly determine the 12 favorite cards for the year we are aware of all those we will be sending them to. Then we go about developing the photos, buying the cards, envelopes, paste and begin to glue them together. My husband and I do this together — a labor of love of about 50-60 hours. A time spent together, usually listening to music, in an evening or on weekend days. We feel fulfilled and enriched by our joint project and have been often told that the cards are loved and have so many practical applications they are used for.
There are many ways to practice generosity: giving time and energy to help another, the gift of attention and listening, and the traditional giving of material gifts. The important components are that we connect with an intention to give, our motivation; that we give without attachment (given freely with no strings); and that the generosity is memorable, nourishing others and ourselves; and that our love and sincerity is in the giving.
“Acts of generosity inspired by loving kindness live long in human memory, generating love and respect among humankind thus laying the foundations for the unity of the whole world.” —Mahasi Sayadaw
Please allow the richness and fullness of openhearted, caring generosity connect you with others and the world. There are so many people and places in need and good causes to contribute to. Be mindful, discerning, and wise as you contemplate how you can share in this great gift of humanity- generosity.