There are 5 practices for living life wisely. The first of these is the gift of generosity. True generosity is giving everything you have to every moment without expecting any sort of return. But how can you seriously do that in a competitive, materialistic, narcissistic, me-first culture? Here's how:
Once you overcome an inbuilt protectiveness about your own survival and material wealth it's relatively easy to be generous. You can begin right now, where you are, to be more compassionate and giving to others in your thoughts, words, and deeds. If you continue this process, it quickly becomes apparent how good it feels and how valuable it is.
The Remedy of Generosity
When you look at it much of our life is dominated by desire for what we don't have, aversion to what we don't want, and attachment to what is "mine". This can mean we are never truly satisfied. Even when we get that promotion, buy that new house, accumulate that wealth, there's always the anxiety of not having as much as our contemporaries, or the risk of losing it all. By giving up your own private agenda and possessions to help others, you can break free of your dependence on transitory things to define who you are. Only then can you realise the true wealth and value that comes from your deepest identity and the wellspring of your happiness and fulfilment.
The Paradox of Generosity
Through the cultivation of generosity - an open-handed and open-hearted giving of ourselves - we can realise the virtue and freedom of letting go of our attachments. Relax your grip, and instead of losing control, you will feel a new power, flow of energy, and flexibility. This is the paradox of generosity. The more you give away, the more you receive.
How to be Generous
There are three kinds of generosity:
- The giving of material things like food, clothing, medicine, money.
- Gifts of the spirit such as giving someone encouragement, inspiration, reassurance, love, protection, fearlessness, or hope.
- The gift of timeless truths that help recipients to help themselves. Like the old Chinese saying: "If you give a man a fish, he has lunch and maybe dinner today. But if you teach him how to fish, he has meals for himself, his family, and his village forever".
- Giving out of fear ("Will I be disliked or suffer negative consequences if I don't give?").
- Giving mechanically in accordance with tradition ("I have to get them something for Christmas!").
- Giving with expectation ("If I help her in this way, then she will feel obligated to help me when I need it").
- Giving to secure our reputation ("I'll donate because they'll put my name on a plaque on the wall").
- Giving out of guilt ("I guess I owe this person a favour").
- Giving to get rid of stuff ("I can't use it anyway so I might as well give it away").
- Giving for the sheer joy it creates for everyone involved, without much concern for what we might receive in return.