Welcome to the first of a two-part conversation about essential pillars of happiness that are often glossed over as sort of “spiritual practice 101.”
This week we’re going to talk about generosity, and why it’s so important to us feeling content, and even joy.
The first place I bought on my own was a cute little cottage in Ashland with an amazing backyard and a little sauna tucked away in the trees. At the time, the guy I was dating noticed that people were cutting through my backyard, and he was kind of freaked out about it.I told him that they were friends who I had invited over to use the sauna any time – without having to ask me beforehand. Being a very private person, he thought that was weird.
And often, when I would see my friends in my yard, I’d holler an invite to stay for dinner..
I really miss those times, when I had the time to double a recipe for a spontaneous dinner party, or to walk by a friend’s house and stop by for some tea. Having this space of time and energy also meant I had more for helping others, noticing others, and showing up in a way I was proud of.
It seems that these days we all need more of that – the time and patience to be kind and generous. But when we’re caught up in our own busy-ness, just trying to get shit done, we aren’t as available to those who need us. To opportunities to be kind and generous.
Ideally, when we’re generous, it’s because we find joy in it, not because we’re “supposed” to be generous. When we do this, it helps us not be so caught in a separate sense of self, and gives us so much freedom.
Some of us might think that generosity is something we learn as we age, but cultivating generosity isn’t a new skill. We’re actually nourishing something that’s there in us as children, where there’s the root of generosity and inner abundamce that later gets pushed aside..
I remember when my daughter first realized that the people around our town in Alaska who were begging at intersections in FREEZING cold weather were homeless. Her first response was for us to open our home to them and let them live with us. SO generous!
Now, we have to be mindful of injustice and the large gap between rich and poor. But scarcity itself is a misperception in many arenas, such as with food supply. We often don’t think we have the time, money, or energy to share, but if we prioritized it, we would.
While there are tens of millions of hungry children in the world, did you know that there are huge grain elevators full of food that no one knows what to do with? So it’s less about how much food the Earth can provide for us and more about the greed and fear that suppresses generosity, stemming from a false sense of separation that then leads to this maldistribution of the abundance we do have..
Love and kindness are available to us, and generosity is the way we have to express this in our lives with one another from a place of abundance (which can arise from the gratitude of what we have – which is what we’ll be talking about next week).
Think of somebody who’s been really generous to you and how it feels to remember them in that spirit. Think of the times of your own generosity and notice the trust that grows from it and the joy in it. It feels amazing!
While there are different levels of generosity, even if we’re a bit hesitant about our offering at first, it is still a good thing when we end up giving something away. As we do this more often, we get to a point where we actually find joy in the happiness of others that our generosity brings.
Generosity is also a practice, and we start wherever we are. It can be as simple as pouring someone else’s drink before yours, or serving someone else first at dinner. It can be something as potent as offering your spot to speak at a conference to someone with less privilege than you. It can be flattering someone, even if you’re a bit jealous of them.
Jack Kornfield talks about how one of the practices he’s had for over 25 years is that if he has a thought of giving something to someone, he almost always goes ahead and gives it away. And he doesn’t regret it. I’m really happy for him, because to this day I sometimes think about things I gave away when I was living out of my car that I wish I still had (but really, am just still attached to, so it was probably wise that I gave it away).
Now we have to remember that we don’t want to be idealistic about it, either. We don’t want become codependent. We need to be generous to ourselves as well. This is one of the reasons why, even if we want to open our homes to someone, we may not do so in order to care for ourselves.
So what gets in the way of our generosity? There’s a conditioning that takes place over time that blocks that impulse to give. There’s busyness in modern industrialized society that gives us the perception that we don’t have the capacity to be more generous. There’s a story we are fed that we need to be better than, faster than, earlier than everyone else. These things cost us our generosity.
Generosity is who we are – it’s a natural expression when we’re in our wholeness and our heart is awakening. Our limbic system – that reptilian part of our brains – may want to hold on to what’s “ours.” But we can override it and discover that it really does feel … delightful.
Check out the full podcast for more ways we can practice generosity in our lives, but one thing you can do now is ask yourself every morning “Today, what will help me remember to be kind?” And then check each evening, reviewing the day with self-compassion, and thinking about where you were kind, and when you had maybe wished that you had opened up a bit more. This supports the awakening of our hearts.
In this episode, you will learn:
// How busy lives can stop us from being generous
// The truth about scarcity vs abundance
// 3 levels of generosity
// Ways we can practice generosity in our everyday life
// Reasons we may hold back in our generosity and ways we can overcome them
// Want to do a deep dive into this work on your own time? To study it and practice it together with a group of people with the same goals of freedom, adventure and purpose? Check out Freedom School – the community for ALL things related to freedom, inside and out.
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// If you’re new to the squad, grab the Rebel Buddhist Toolkit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll also get access to the Rebel Buddhist FB group, and tune in weekly when I go live on new topics.