Generating Generosity of Spirit with 2 Small Practices and 4 Suggestions
Isn’t it great – the holiday season is here again. AHHHHHHHHHHH!!
I actually started writing this piece a year ago but found I hadn’t enough experience with my subject to write about it. So, these past twelve months, I’ve been playing with the experience of generosity. What it is; what it feels like in my body; what allows me to act generously or withhold it. It’s been a fun exercise and the outcome is I’m far more generous than I ever imagined. Who would have guessed that being generous could create such an awakening to some new sensations or qualities of being me? I’m not a philanthropist by any means, but perhaps I am – not with money but with my heart.
This muscle called generosity has always been with me. It just hasn’t had a whole lot of intentional exercise. With this new workout comes an entirely new level of kindness and sharing that goes beyond my history.
I grew up in a Catholic home where we were to act charitably toward one-another. Charity and generosity are very different entities. What that looked like in my family felt more like sacrifice and forfeiture, not generosity. I looked to my mom to model what charity was supposed to be like. Far too often she demonstrated a martyrdom. This didn’t feel generous, and in fact, left me feeling guilty and anxious that I was more of a burden than a gift in her life. My dad had far more generosity of spirit, which made him far more fun to be around, though in the evenings this turned into a mean spirited humor that would annihilate any sense of personal worth and value.
There was so much strife, so much hunger and competition for love and affection between my siblings, it was difficult to be willing to be generous. With the evidence that someone was going to take advantage of you, each of the nine of us decided it was safer to withhold. Yes, there were times we shared and gave openly; however, my sense is that if we had learned true generosity I, for one, would have had a very different life. I wouldn’t need to consciously practice cultivating awareness of being generous.
Over this last year, what I’ve been cultivating through this practice is a level of generosity that brings with it the qualities of abundance, fearless abandon, openness and allowing, gratitude and playful joy. Scrooge found this place after his journey with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. He came to see that he had nothing to lose and had so much to gain in discarding his lengthy practice of greed.
Scrooge’s greed really had nothing to do with money. He was greedy with his heart. I would say he was greedy with love, but it appeared that he had no love with which to be greedy. We find out why, as we’re given the opportunity to witness events in his life that created devastating loneliness, isolation and heart break. He tucked his love so far away, he himself was oblivious to its disappearance.
Like Scrooge, every one of us has experienced, to some degree, loneliness, isolation, heartbreak and love-less-ness. The course of every human life is fraught with events that are murderous to our souls. We experience, like Scrooge, the inevitability of abandonment, betrayal and rejection. We bury the consequential wounds of these events deep inside, distancing ourselves from any potential of that pain surfacing, and wreaking havoc with the façade that “I’m okay and you’re okay.” Through this practice we limit opportunities to share ourselves so as to avoid further potential hurt. However, we also limit a depth of connection and fulfillment that we truly desire. All of us – the Human Race – have the capacity to overcome the adversities of our pasts. Hiding our hearts in a scrooge-like fashion, though, is not the way to do it. Exercising muscles of generosity can be.
Here is Just Two Small Practice that will Begin an Amazing Journey:
Just for one day I want you to try something (maybe for some of us, it will be just an hour or a minute.): Notice opportunities to share a smile. Notice who you are willing to share a smile with and from whom you withhold a smile. That’s it! That’s the practice.
You’re probably asking: “What’s a smile got to do with generosity?” Good question. I could explain it to you, but it wouldn’t be the same as having you experience what happens when you smile. Plus, this practice isn’t about whether you smile more or less. It’s about noticing when you choose to allow yourself to smile and when you choose to withhold a smile. It’s about noticing what happens to your heart when you smile. It is our choice-making process that we want to get to know, because that’s where we can make changes.
Here’s the other practice: Notice when you drop coins in the Salvation Army kettle, do you make eye contact with Santa? Notice the thoughts you are having. Are they thoughts of resentment and frustration that again you are being asked to give, give, give; or are your thoughts about how grateful you feel for having more than enough to share? Just notice what it feels like inside you, without judging or assessing yourself. Our actions can be so automatic sometimes that we aren’t even aware of the thoughts or feelings we’re having underneath.
Generosity is not about the money or the gifts. It’s not about the decorations and the cookies or turkey with all the special fixings. All of that stuff looks like “generosity” but a lot of time it’s just a façade. Most of us go home to our families hoping to experience and share that generosity of spirit, and far too often come away disappointed, upset and saddened. How can we make a difference for ourselves and others? How can we be the generosity we so wish to experience?
I have only three suggestions: 1) Smile from your heart more often, even when you are challenged by your circumstances – store clerks, late guests, children making messes. 2) Notice your desire to complain about anything and everything – the store clerks, late guests and children making messes. 3) Notice if what you are doing inspires generosity of spirit in your own heart. If it doesn’t inspire generosity of spirit in your own heart, consider doing something else that does. 4) (Okay, so I have one more suggestion), Know that each and every one of us comes into this Holiday Season anticipating and hoping that we will experience generosity of spirit from those we love most. Like Scrooge, many of us don’t have the capacity to even share a smile. Even though it may be disappointing, see if you can share compassion to those who have less capacity to be giving of their hearts. Your compassion may be the most generous gift of the season.
I’d love it if you’d share this with others who you think might find value in this blog. And, of course LIKE IT, if you do, so others can see what is important to you.
Who is Dr. Rosie? Dr. Rosie Kuhn is a preeminent thought leader in the field of Transformational Coaching and Leadership Development. She is available for Speaking Engagements, Coaching Sessions for Individuals, Organizations and Executives, as well as Trainings. Her books can be found at Amazon.com. And, be sure to check out many of her other blogs as www.theparadigmshifts.com.
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