Giving is Receiving

Elliott Erwitt, "New York City," 1958

It’s the strangest thing. When we meditate, we close our eyes and become still. Something inside us longs to get away from our usual lives, to sink down below the noise and distractions that endlessly pull us away from the simple awareness of being alive in this moment.  So we come to our sangha or sit down alone in our room or in the roots of a tree, as the Buddha recommended to his followers. We sit down and bring the attention back to the body and the breath…and here is what is strange: a sense of connection to life returns. We unplug from our busy, distracting life and rediscover our connection to a deeper and more vibrant life.

An ancient definition of mindfulness is remembering the present moment. One moment at a time, we emerge from the hive of thought and emotion and remember that we are alive and breathing. We may marvel that the life we experience in the moment is so…alive!

When we sit with others, we may also come away with impressions of the people around us—not in the usual social sense, but their presence and or, even via Zoom, their intentions–their wish to be present, which is to say more consciously alive. We may be touched by the basic goodness of this wish and the willingness to try to be present, to be a fully participant in life, which is in us too.

To be alive is to be in a great web of  generosity. We are constantly giving and receiving. Breathing is one clear example. But when we sit, we also remember that we are constantly taking in impressions and responding to those impressions. Sometimes we can feel our heart opening, or even breaking open, our defenses softening. Ot the opposite. Becoming conscious of how we are innately generous–innately responsive–is a way to know the truth of our interconnection with life.

Entering the present moment is in itself as offering. As we offer our bodies and feelings and perceptions to be seen by an attention that is curious and kind, we may experience a shift.

And we can widen the circle of our awareness off the cushion as well. We can begin to notice how our actions–and even our thoughts and inner attitudes–impact the world around us. We begin to see how mindfulness of generosity makes us aware of our own capacity for compassion–our own capacity to come out of isolation and willingly be part of a greater life. At moments, we may surprise ourselves with our capacity for joy and freedom from fear. Who knew?

We begin to discover that giving is a wonderful way to feel supported and accompanied in this life. And we can start start by giving ourselves the gift of our own generous attention. Be lavishly generous with yourself. No mean and stingy self-judging thoughts. Remind yourself with your kind attitude that you are not wrong to feel what you feel.  You just do. And you are welcome here.

“This is the first, wildest, and wisest thing I know, that the soul exists and that it is built entirely out of attention.” — Mary Oliver

“Love doesn’t just sit there like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time.” — Ursula K. Le Guin

6 thoughts on “Giving is Receiving

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