Since my last entry, my life has been very full. This morning is my first opportunity for some space to reflect and to write. I’ve been wondering about the impact on my life of setting up this website and blog and I find that I have been thinking about generosity. Just a few minutes ago I had the luxury of enjoying a swim in the empty swimming pool provided by the caravan park we are staying in for a couple of days. Following the swim, I lay back on a sun lounge, still on my own, under a shady tree. In a meditative state, I raised question about generosity.
Is there anybody out there to share my thoughts with?
Generosity – the flow of giving and receiving – arguably, the flow of life supporting life!
My thoughts today are on generosity, for three reasons:
1. Generosity is the prime quality to develop in order to support a spiritual life. A mean spirit will strangle or distort spirituality – just as lack of food and water will stunt a plant and cause it to drop its leaves, fail to flower or fruit, or it may even die.
2. Generosity is the first of the six Parami, or six Perfections, favoured in the short list of Mahayana scriptures. I will leave till later the larger list of ten parami – or paramita – outlined in Buddhadharma – the spiritual and philosophical Buddhist path that I follow and wish to explore on this website.
3. On a current and more personal level, I am grateful for the generosity of a small group of internet marketers whose ideas have prompted a huge tidal wave of change in my life over the past two weeks!
Within the context of Buddhadharma, generosity (dana, in Sanskrit) is a necessary prerequisite for productive practice of meditation and the development of ‘non-clinging awareness’: the ability to be in the present moment with an open mind state that makes no claim to ‘know’ but is interested and bright. Generosity requires an open (as opposed to closed) mind, motivated by the wish to benefit others.
One of the stickiest teachings I received many years ago was the observation that ‘the greatest gift you can give anyone is your interest’! So, even in the direst of circumstances, we can be generous.
Giving and receiving
Generosity is a two-way process, both giving and receiving. How can anyone give without there being an ‘other’ to give to?
Sometimes the receiving may require more generosity than the giving! An example of this might be when someone is passionately describing, in great detail, a hobby – such as football – that you have little interest in (apologies if this is your special interest), but you make effort to generate that interest and listen to their enthusiasm with an open, friendly mind state that supports the connection flowing between you.
Generosity is necessary to develop in order for meditation to bear fruit because of this open, compassionate quality. As meditation is a technique to explore the mind and the nature of phenomena, it is necessary to be attentive, receptive and fully present.
Generosity in unexpected places
And so now to the more personal. Two weeks ago, Alan, my adult daughter and I went on a four day workshop on internet marketing. I was probably the most sceptical of the three of us, and also the most concerned that I would be drowned in a sea of sales talk, alien to my background as a counsellor and meditator. Fortunately, I was wrong. Instead, I found myself sitting amongst a spellbound audience, listening to a series of bright, smiling, enthusiastic presenters who seemed to genuinely want to share with us the good fortune they had discovered when communicating and selling products on the internet. The atmosphere radiated goodwill and generosity. The experience was of being educated and inspired. Energised!
By the end of the first day the three of us had formed a company, pooling our various skills, experience and interests. It was exciting to formalise the merging of older and younger wisdoms and energies (us in our early sixties and daughter in early thirties). While daughter specialises in healing work on both humans and horses – and the relationship between them – and my interest spans human psychology and Buddhist philosophy and practices, Alan provides the technological, administrative, photographic and creative skills to weave us together in a joint venture. Now, only two weeks down the track from that memorable weekend, we have this website, daughter’s horse therapies website and heads full of tasks and plans!
And all because of the generosity – mixed with skill and good ideas – of a small group of people sharing with a much larger group: Giving and Receiving!
More noticings of generosity
Yesterday, I was given a free book: A biography of Michelle Obama. I got the winning (free) raffle ticket when I attended a local non-fiction writers’ group. OK, maybe the book was originally given as a free marketing ploy by the publishers to the editor of Honestly Woman, a businesswomen’s magazine. The editor is the live wire who initiated and runs this well attended group. But then everything about how this woman (the editor) runs the group is also marked by generosity. Generosity in her warm, welcoming manner; generosity in her free exchange of helpful writing and publishing information; and generosity in her give-aways. And then there is the generous sharing of writing and presenting hints and tips by guest speakers and the twenty, or so, very bright, lively women who attend this group with me.
And let’s not leave out ‘Nature’! This corner of the globe has recently received rather over-generous amounts of water, falling from the sky, filling the rivers and dams and causing widespread flooding. The flooding caused damage, loss and heartache but it also seems to foster community spirit and many examples of people reaching out to generously help those endangered or stricken individuals amongst us.
Just over two weeks ago, life was relatively quiet. We had an interesting five week retreat to look forward to and a pleasant bit of camping as we travelled the necessary 1,000 km to get there. Now I find myself multi-tasking with a vengeance! Part of the newly born East West Wisdoms project is to collect interviews; gain access to relevant books and products to put on the site; set up a membership list and offer teachings – not to mention write blogs! And I had barely heard of the existence of ‘blogs’ before attending this life-changing workshop!
In the last day or two we’ve been madly gathering together everything for the retreat; plus sorting the material for my planned interviews with high ranking Tibetan Sakya Lamas; plus gathering the gear for travelling and camping for the next week and, finally, trying to leave the house clean. I wonder: is the extra activity of the last two weeks, motivated by the desire to gather and share spiritual teachings, prompted by generosity?
The scurrying about of Alan and I, gathering computers, papers, files, books, meditation gear, camping gear and food, was mirrored by the endless journeying over every surface of our house by miriads of tiny ants as they gathered their goodies to take back to headquarters for the good of all. Is this generosity?
And is it generosity, or mere decency, to resist the temptation to squash or spray the ants as one finds they have moved into yet another area of ‘my’ space?
I could list many more examples of generosity, but now it’s over to you. Does anyone out there have reflections on generosity and examples of generosity to share? The comments box is waiting!