The act of giving releases us temporarily from thoughts that focus on ourselves. Thoughts of how we are, of how we were yesterday, of how we will be later today or tomorrow, of how other people see us, of how we could be, how we should be in order to conform with our or others’ expectations of us, and so on. Most of us have this inner voice that keeps on playing in our mind.
When we give with an open heart, however, we remember that we’re not alone.
You might be thinking, “What? Of course I’m not alone! – I know that” True. But let’s try a simple experiment. In order for this to work, you need to be stressed about something. If nothing that’s happening currently springs to mind, think of something that has stressed you recently.
Most of us have stressors in our daily lives. Some act on us immediately. Others have a more cumulative effect. Pressures of work, of having to buy groceries, attending frustrating work meetings, organising schedules, planning celebrations, contact family and friends, clean the home, acting as taxi driver to our children especially at weekends when we should be etc. – and time always seems to be in short supply!
So, my question is:
When you are stressed, how much time do you spend thinking of yourself and your life?
Most of us in that situation think about thoughts our work, the things we need to do, about the past, ideas about the future, thoughts and feelings about relationships with other people. The higher the degree of stress, the more we focus our attention on our own lives.
And when we’re focusing on our own lives, we become oblivious to the other people ‘out there’, and that they have troubles and needs too.
That’s where the miracle of giving comes out. When we give with an open heart, we lift our gaze from ourselves and see other people. Sometimes, just that act is enough to help us to get a sense of perspective on our own lives.
I find it interesting that in the Buddhist tradition, the first of the ten Perfections is Dana, the path of unselfishness. Dana means being able to embrace a state where we freely give of ourselves to others, whether the giving is of your material goods, time, skills or wisdom to others.
This clearly demonstrates that unselfishness is the fundamental source from which all spirituality flows. For instance, unselfishness is the root of kindness and compassion. Unselfishness can even lead us to a feeling of elation, particularly if we give with no expectation of receiving anything in return.
Unfortunately, many people’s motives for giving are often tinted with ‘unclean’ motives: perhaps we feel bullied or shamed into giving; or we give to receive a something in return; or we give in order to feel good about ourselves.
At the core, however, I believe that each act of giving comes from a place of goodness, even if our personal needs cloud our natural goodness and generosity.
Giving moves us because it frees us as well as allowing us to share our abundance with others.