What do you think of when you think of acts of generosity? Things that cross my mind include the generosity of sharing time, money, love, attention, presence, resources, knowledge, gifts, and possessions. Generosity, to me, can also be synonymous with service. How can I be of service to God? How can I be of service to others?
In a recent presentation by Dr. Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as founder and chair of the Center for Healthy Minds, he shared how research has proven that well-being (which he partly defines as happiness) is a skill that can be learned. He detailed four constituents of well-being that have been extensively investigated neuroscientifically. One of these is generosity. He says that acts of generosity activates circuits in the brain that promote well-being.
Dr. Davidson also mentioned that having a mindfulness practice is an act of generosity. Why is this? I decided to explore the connection between generosity and meditation/mindfulness. Here's what I discovered when I began to explore the connection between generosity and meditation/mindfulness.
When I sit down to meditate, my intention is that I’m not just practicing for myself, but instead that my meditation practice is for my community and for the whole world. Research has shown that meditation has a spillover effect. By meditating I am able to not only have a positive effect on my own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing, but also on the overall wellbeing of my community. In this way, my meditation practice is an act of generosity to my community.
Meditation helps me to be less reactive, to stay centered and be calmer and wiser and this doesn’t just help me, but it helps everyone I come into contact with. When we work on creating inner peace through meditation, we are giving a gift out to the world...change your mind, change the world. This is an act of generosity.
Meditation helps me to practice being present, living in the present, giving my attention and focus to this moment. Being able to give your presence to another person is one of the greatest, most generous, gifts you can give. Especially in a day and age where our attention is being pulled in many different directions by the constant pull of electronic devices.
Last week's post discussed the practice of holding space. Allowing others to be as they are without trying to change them is an act of kindness, which some say is the highest act of all. To allow others to simply be in your space is generous and kind. It helps others to relax and be themselves. Holding an open non-judgemental presence is giving space, generously accepting people as you find them. This is something that I practice through meditation.
The act of giving creates a spacious world. A world where your belief is that there is enough. A person who has more than enough to share. An abundance of time, money, love and attention to share with others versus the fear of scarcity. These are also things that I work on in my meditation practice.
Meditation helps to cultivate loving kindness, compassion and detachment from negative thoughts, beliefs, feelings. The practice of generosity also develops loving kindness and compassion, deepens awareness of our interconnectedness and encourages non-attachment.
Remember my post a while back titled Put Your Mask On First? In it I shared the importance of taking care of ourselves first. We can be more generous with others when we are generous with ourselves first. Begin by being generous with yourself, so your cup overflows, that way you are better able to practice generosity with others.
Acts of generosity open our heart and bring joy to our mind. The feelings that arise while planning a generous act, persist during the act, and perpetuate long after the act itself, especially when we practice savoring it. In this way, practicing generosity cultivates a positive mindset and an open, loving heart leading to more wellbeing and more happiness.
The practice of generosity is an intentional practice and a spiritual practice. Having a meditation practice cultivates generosity and is an act of generosity. It does my heart good to know that something that feels selfish is actually generous and selfless...selfishly selfless is awesome!
I would love to hear your thoughts on this post. Please drop me a comment or send me an email!