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How Generosity Blossoms Into Meditation

--by Sharon Salzberg (Aug 09, 2011)


The cultivation of generosity is the beginning of the path. [...] The path begins there because of the joy that arises from a generous heart. Pure, unhindered delight flows freely when we practice generosity. We experience joy in forming the intention to give, in the act of giving, and in recollecting the fact that we've given.
 
If we practice joyful giving, we grow in self-esteem, self-respect and well-being, because we continually test our limits. Our attachments say, "I will give this much and no more," or "I will give this article or object if I am appreciated enough for doing so." In the practice of generosity, we learn to see through our attachments. We see they are transparent, that they have no solidity. They don’t need to hold us back, so we can go beyond them.
 
Therefore, the practice of generosity is about creating space. We see our limits and we extend them continuously, which creates a deep expansiveness and spaciousness of mind. This happiness, self-respect, and spaciousness is the appropriate ground for meditation practice to flourish. It is the ideal place from which to undertake deep investigation, because with this kind of inner happiness and spaciousness, we have the strength and flexibility to look at everything that arises in our experience. 
 
The aim of giving is twofold. The first is to free our minds from the conditioned forces that bind and limit us. Craving, clinging, and attachment bring confinement and lack of self-esteem. If we’re always looking for some person or thing to complete us, we miss the degree to which we are complete in every moment. It’s a bit like leaning on a mirage only to find that it can’t hold us; there’s nothing there. The second purpose is to free others, to extend welfare and happiness to all beings, to lessen the suffering in this world. When our practice of generosity is genuine, we realize inner spaciousness and peace, and we also extend boundless caring to all living beings. 
 
The movement of the heart in practicing generosity mirrors the movement of the heart that inwardly lets go. So the external training of giving deeply influences the internal feeling-tone of the meditation practice, and vice versa. If we cultivate a generous heart, then we can more easily allow things to be the way they are. 
 
--Sharon Salzberg, in Generosity's Perfection


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15 Previous Reflections:

 
On Dec 10, 2011 Makeda samuel wrote:

this story brought a self awareness too me inwardly.



On Aug 18, 2011 sekaran wrote:

Cultivating gerneous heart only to do good things in the life



On Aug 12, 2011 Dinesh wrote:

Some audio clips from this week's circle on generosity:



On Aug 11, 2011 Ricky wrote:

Perhaps I could share an example of a more obscure way to share generosity.  Be generous with your time.  To do this, when working through the list of things to be accomplished by the time you return home, leave at least one/half hour earlier.  This will help you be more at ease during the errands.  Then, just as you begin, reflect for a moment to prepare for being present and open to the person-the 'teacher'-you are about to come in contact with, and be the 'student'- be receptive.  Stop.  Give complete eye contact with the person you encounter, and truly listen to their story, if there is a story to be told.  You will be forever changed by seeing someone using all your senses.  The stillness you offer in the ease with which you open your heart will help them notice Love reflected back, like a still lake or a mirror.  Make a plan to do this every day you move about your life.  The opportunities to be generous with your time c  See full.

Perhaps I could share an example of a more obscure way to share generosity.  Be generous with your time.  To do this, when working through the list of things to be accomplished by the time you return home, leave at least one/half hour earlier.  This will help you be more at ease during the errands.  Then, just as you begin, reflect for a moment to prepare for being present and open to the person-the 'teacher'-you are about to come in contact with, and be the 'student'- be receptive.  Stop.  Give complete eye contact with the person you encounter, and truly listen to their story, if there is a story to be told.  You will be forever changed by seeing someone using all your senses.  The stillness you offer in the ease with which you open your heart will help them notice Love reflected back, like a still lake or a mirror.  Make a plan to do this every day you move about your life.  The opportunities to be generous with your time can be as plentiful as each full deep breath. 

This tiny experiment may be impractical by nature, but then why else are we really here, if not to interact, be present, and give to one another of our own abundance...time, in this case.  Slow down and pause.  This can help you reach a mindful meditative state.

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On Aug 9, 2011 John Anderson wrote:

 Yes you are correct Ganoba, the life processes are not linear, but western thinking tends to be linear, based purely on simple cause and effect, delineated by intellect.  When we are able to hold presence and not react, whilst things arise in the real world, through dependant co-arising of karmic events, we can expiate our personal and collective karma.  Perception influences experiencing of external events and perpetuates karma, when our expression is based upon past events and trauma.  Direct perception - seeing truly, comes from the transformation of our traumas and the realisation of an objective reality, that abides.  Hermes said: 'As within so without, as without so within.' - there is dynamic flow between the internal and external realities, they are not one or the other, they inter-are.  John Anderson - The Art of Being Human. 



On Aug 9, 2011 Ganoba wrote:

The universe is not a highway. The life processes do not operate in a linear way, moving back and forth. The principle of cause and effect or the ancient principle of Karma does not flow from the past to the present to the future. Like light or sound or all forms of energy it oscillates in all directions. In practical terms it means that when I think or feel or do anything the energy will reverberate in all directions and will influence all including me. thus expression influences experiencing. If we give our ability to give increases. It is like a spring. As the spring flows/overflows, its link to the source is kept open. It does not have to be replenished from outside.



On Aug 9, 2011 John Anderson wrote:

 It is very nice to quote theories of how linterconnected life is, and substantiate with stories of monks that walk through crowds of vagabonds and villains without being harmed, but is that your reality? Because it wasn't the reality of Paramahansa Yogananda, the Hindu Sage, who got mugged whilst walking in New York!  It is momentarily exciting to hear of great deeds by a few, fleeting moments of illumination of some, but as Mother Theresa says: 'we can do no great things, only small things with great love'.  Great love may be felt in Zazen, but can it be transported into reality, when people refuse to listen to your words of love and actions of generosity, because they don't trust anyone?  Do we have the humility to admit we are wrong in front of others?  Do we have the strength to hold our child's head in our arms as they enter their sixth epileptic seizure,and hold the faith to believe that God will be there for them if they die? Can we remain present with  See full.

 It is very nice to quote theories of how linterconnected life is, and substantiate with stories of monks that walk through crowds of vagabonds and villains without being harmed, but is that your reality? Because it wasn't the reality of Paramahansa Yogananda, the Hindu Sage, who got mugged whilst walking in New York!  It is momentarily exciting to hear of great deeds by a few, fleeting moments of illumination of some, but as Mother Theresa says: 'we can do no great things, only small things with great love'.  Great love may be felt in Zazen, but can it be transported into reality, when people refuse to listen to your words of love and actions of generosity, because they don't trust anyone?  Do we have the humility to admit we are wrong in front of others?  Do we have the strength to hold our child's head in our arms as they enter their sixth epileptic seizure,and hold the faith to believe that God will be there for them if they die? Can we remain present with our mother and love her, whilst she denies our abusive childhood and not say a word to her in retribution?  Can we understand the actions of our abuser and forgive him?  Do we really think that sitting doing Tonglen meditation, imagining that we are absorbing the world's suffering, will prepare us for real suffering?  There is a vast difference in imagining something and experiencing something.

Yes, all these techniques have their place; however, the way of the monk is more than Zazen, it is also about abstinence, discipline, training, hard beds, cold showers, meagre food, no alcohol, no coffee or drugs - is this the way of the average westerner?  We cannot cherry-pick the bits we want and expect the same outcome as the true disciple.

I am not a kill-joy, I have experienced all of these things that I talk about and I remain resolute in life; I believe that if we are to move through the difficult times we are going through, and keep the faith, we need to face our fears and develop the presence of awareness to transform the trauma of our apparent separation through the practice of dynamic mindfulness.  It will not happen in Zazen alone, it requires dedication to the path of conscious living and a process that allows one to flow with life, even when life isn't flowing the way we want it to flow - that is my definition of generosity.  It is through our real experiences, particulalry the difficult ones, that we can develop meaning, purpose and value for life and test the veracity of our beliefs about who we are and why we are here.  John Anderson - The Art of Being Human:  http://www.beinghumanfoundation.co/.

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On Aug 9, 2011 Ricky wrote:

Generosity…giving…creating space…Each of us is enough and can show generosity in our own wonderful way.  From the depths of this realization, through the Light within our hearts, springs this generosity.  We connect with this Light by becoming still through meditation.  This stillness is not just physical, per se.  This stillness arrives when we slow our ‘doing’ so that we can listen to the whisper of our heart’s desire.  From this calm space within us, and the trust we cultivate from quieting our human selves, we recognize how interconnected and interwoven this existence is.  Each of us has gifts we have been given, the desire to live our lives sharing these gifts, and it is through this desire we recognize how interconnected and interwoven this existence is.  These gifts cultivate responsibility.  Some examples of these gifts can be the expression of the Truth (satya) through language by speaking or writin  See full.

Generosity…giving…creating space…

Each of us is enough and can show generosity in our own wonderful way.  From the depths of this realization, through the Light within our hearts, springs this generosity.  We connect with this Light by becoming still through meditation.  This stillness is not just physical, per se.  This stillness arrives when we slow our ‘doing’ so that we can listen to the whisper of our heart’s desire.  From this calm space within us, and the trust we cultivate from quieting our human selves, we recognize how interconnected and interwoven this existence is.  Each of us has gifts we have been given, the desire to live our lives sharing these gifts, and it is through this desire we recognize how interconnected and interwoven this existence is.  These gifts cultivate responsibility. 

Some examples of these gifts can be the expression of the Truth (satya) through language by speaking or writing, perhaps inspiring others through action and example, or even always being there-to be counted on by family and friends-with a wellspring of energy and open arms.  Another example can be showing compassion and empathy toward others, as well as ourselves, creating a circle of Love from which generosity rises.  Generosity can be expressed through actual giving; of time, of physical or emotional rest, of food, of money, of shelter, of unique and well as ‘mundane’ skills…

This is the Divine intention of sharing our heart’s desire, our deepest expression of love through the generous giving of who we really are and why we are here at all.   

 

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On Aug 9, 2011 Deepening & Serving wrote:

@John Anderson, interesting perspective, but perhaps it's not an either-or. Maybe we need to do both -- ensure that we continue to internally deepen, and then keep serving externally with increased alignment and strength. And while we are serving, we can still be deepening, and the cycle continues. An article called "Becoming a Presence Activist" that starts to get at this.



On Aug 9, 2011 Vishal wrote:

Generosity seriously satisfied our inner part. It gives soothness to myself. When we are on this path a shine reflects in our eyes which comes directly from the other person whom you are helping by any means. It is the right way to use one's monetary wealth.



On Aug 9, 2011 John Anderson wrote:

 Nice words, but out of touch with reality: try meditating whilst all around you are losing their heads and blaming it on you, to paraphrase Rudyard Kipling.  We need to wake up to what is going on around us, meditation has its value, but compassion, understanding and generosity do not come from traditionally-educated, molly-coddled, middle class, do-gooders, sitting around in groups pontifacting their navels.  It is forged in the cauldron of life, by facing our fears, dealing with our demons, by developing the courage to come face to face with our own shadow nature - reflected in those that we judge and condemn, because they are less fortunate than ourselves.My message is to get off our well-padded backsides, take responsibility for those that cannot do it for themselves and  be accounatble for the sum total of modern-day society's problems - because we are all in this together.  John Anderson: http://www.beinghumanfoundation.co/  See full.

 Nice words, but out of touch with reality: try meditating whilst all around you are losing their heads and blaming it on you, to paraphrase Rudyard Kipling.  We need to wake up to what is going on around us, meditation has its value, but compassion, understanding and generosity do not come from traditionally-educated, molly-coddled, middle class, do-gooders, sitting around in groups pontifacting their navels.  It is forged in the cauldron of life, by facing our fears, dealing with our demons, by developing the courage to come face to face with our own shadow nature - reflected in those that we judge and condemn, because they are less fortunate than ourselves.

My message is to get off our well-padded backsides, take responsibility for those that cannot do it for themselves and  be accounatble for the sum total of modern-day society's problems - because we are all in this together.  John Anderson: http://www.beinghumanfoundation.co/

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On Aug 9, 2011 kishorekumar wrote:

it is other way to find god in allbeings and to be near hin 



On Aug 8, 2011 farzane wrote:

the life is blend of joy a sorrow,and let us leave us alone.the transitory joys of life  passed quickly.



On Aug 6, 2011 Conrad wrote:

Somik, thanks much for the opportunity to respond to Sharon Salzberg's brief article. After reading her article, I think of the 10th stage of the ox-herding story and pictures where one's whole  life becomes a meditation .  The meditator (during  waking hours) brings joy to everyone around him or her, as well as herself.    Meditation is both brought about by generosity and the generosity brings about the meditation while the meditator is detached and may be seen as no one going, nowhere.

Let us each forgive ourselves again, and again, and again when we are not at that tenth stage.  Lets each of us give ourselves permission to be where we are and then there'll be a greater likelihood of growth. Warm and kind regards to everyone.



On Aug 6, 2011 Dhara wrote:

The Sun Shines On Everyone, it makes no choices.  As it shines naturally, it ends up giving to so many people.  Giving is like that, you just give without differentiation and without thinking that you are giving or expecting.  Love this from the Talk on Gita by Vinoba Bhave:  "The sun gives call to no one; yet, when it rises, birds soar in the sky, lambs begin to prance around, cows head for gazing, shopkeepers open their shops, farmers start out towards their farms. The whole world is on the move as it makes its appearance on the horizon. The sun's mere existence is enough; that gives rise to innumerable activities." - Vinoba Bhave  See full.

The Sun Shines On Everyone, it makes no choices.  As it shines naturally, it ends up giving to so many people.  Giving is like that, you just give without differentiation and without thinking that you are giving or expecting.  Love this from the Talk on Gita by Vinoba Bhave: 

"The sun gives call to no one; yet, when it rises, birds soar in the sky, lambs begin to prance around, cows head for gazing, shopkeepers open their shops, farmers start out towards their farms. The whole world is on the move as it makes its appearance on the horizon. The sun's mere existence is enough; that gives rise to innumerable activities." - Vinoba Bhave

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